CKG Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Here we are at last! The day the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medal winners for 2018 are finally announced, as well as the Amnesty CILIP Honours, and we can’t wait to see which books have been chose to receive the top prizes in children’s literature.

The shortlists this year have been outstanding as always, and we’ve really enjoyed reading and reviewing the shortlisted titles. This morning we round off our reviews with Emma’s thoughts on The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which is shortlisted for the Carnegie award.

What the publisher says…

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

The Hate U Give


What we say…

The Hate U Give gave me bags under my eyes! I just couldn’t stop reading until I finished it (at 3am!). The book addresses some really big issues, such as police shootings of unarmed black people and white privilege, through telling the story of one ordinary girl, Starr Carter, who finds herself in an extraordinary and horrific situation, having witnessed the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend by an officer. 

 It is the characters and the relationships between them that make this a truly exceptional book for me. The balance of the awful things Starr is having to deal with and the everyday teenage-ness of her character is perfect and the strong family dynamic of the Carters is a joy to experience.


See Angie Thomas talk about The Hate U Give here:

View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:


CKG review: A First Book of Animals – illustrated by Petr Horacek

Not one, not two, but three reviews in one day! We’re so close to he CKG winners announcement now – and so close to getting all our reviews of the shortlisted titles posted! Here are Lizzie’s thoughts on A First Book of Animals from the Greenaway list, which sees Petr Horacek shortlisted for his stunning illustrations.

What the publisher says…

Nicola Davies, the award-winning author of A First Book of Nature, presents a spellbinding treasury of poems about the animal world, illustrated in breathtaking detail by Petr Horacek. … From blue whales to bumblebee bats and everything in between, A First Book of Animals takes you all over the planet to visit all kinds of different creatures.


What we say…

It’s impossible to tell which came first here – the text or the illustrations – as both work so perfectly together to create an outstanding work of vivacity and exuberance. Nature bursts from the page in abundance. Petr Horacek’s double page spreads allow Nicola Davies’ poetic text to dance across the page whilst his jewel-like colours and textured collages express the remarkable diversity of the natural world on a grand scale. Clever layout and design, with the occasional nod to works of natural history from yesteryear, make this a book which works on several levels with appeal across a wide age and ability range, A true treasury!” 


See Petr Horacek talk about A First Book of Animals here:

View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:


CKG review: Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

With just 24 hours to go until the winners are announced, we continue our reviews of the CKG 2018 shortlisted titles. Here Emma shares her thoughts on Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick:

What the publisher says…

A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Saint Death


What we say…

Saint Death is absolutely gripping from start to finish. It’s a pulsating narrative and the pace and urgency of the plot, along with the increasing desperation of the main character, Arturo, are perfectly reflected in the structure of the story, in which short chapters are interspersed with newspaper cuttings, quotations and thoughts.

The setting is one of the main things that really stood out for me with this book. Sedgwick is uncompromising in throwing the reader straight into the harsh reality of Arturo’s world.

Just as the city of Juarez (which pulses off the page) has an unceasing hold over Arturo, this book had a hold over me – I read it in a day and continued thinking about it long afterwards. This is a really immersive novel that highlights some big issues around immigration, inequality and hope / desolation; and definitely meets the criteria of “having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.”


See Marcus Sedgwick talk about Saint Death here:

View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:


CKG review: After the Fire by Will Hill

There’s now less than a week to go until the winners of the 2018 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards are finally revealed – as well as the winners of the Amnesty CILIP honour.

Continuing our series of reviews of this year’s shortlisted titles, here’s Amanda’s thoughts about After The Fire by Will Hill, from the Carnegie shortlist.

What the publisher says…

The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She’s starting to see the lies behind Father John’s words. She wants him to be found out.

What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?

What we say…

In my view this is very much an upper YA book, bordering on adult – not only is the length of the book fairly weighty – 476 pages, the subject matter of religious cults I feel needs a little life experience to completely understand. The subject is dealt with well and you soon get to have real empathy for Moonbeam and realise what her life was like growing up in a community very different from the traditional family.

The story is told as Before and After Chapters. As the title suggests the After chapters are After the Fire where we learn the main character Moonbeam is in hospital recovering from being involved in the fire but is being questioned by the FBI who are trying to help her make sense of her time ‘Before’ which are chapters told in flashback where we learn of what Moonbeams’ life was like behind the fence and the rules by which she had to live her life.   

The Before chapters can at times be difficult to read as you want to ask – why would people behave like this, listening to just one person and obeying very extreme rules. Reading the author’s notes at the end of the book may help the younger reader understand the context  of the book and the reasons behind it.

I will be recommending this book to my mature readers who I believe will appreciate this marvellous novel and question the story which I hope will lead to interesting discussions.


See Will Hill talk about After the Fire here:

View the full shortlists here:

CKG Review: Town is by the Sea – Sydney Smith

As we continue with our quest to review all the CKG shortlisted titles before the winners announcement next week, here Lorna gives her take on Sydney Smith’s illustrations in Town is by the Sea, for which he has been shortlisted for the Greenaway medal.

What the publisher says…

Stunning illustrations by Sydney Smith, the award-winning illustrator of Footpath Flowers, show the striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners dig. This beautifully understated and haunting story brings a piece of mining history to life.


town is by the sea

What we say…

I’ve have had mixed feelings about this book, it is both beautiful and haunting, and not a book for a very young audience.

We follow a normal day for a young boy that lives in a mining town by the sea. No matter what the boy does the sea and the mine take centre stage throughout his narrative, this is echoed in the illustration by the heavy use of black shading that runs through the pages.

As the boy describes his day, he parallels what he is doing with his father working in the mines under the sea. The illustration is fantastic in conveying an overwhelming sense of suffocation and claustrophobia in the mines, this is starkly contrasted to the wide open spaces and the sea in the boy’s world. The illustrations of his father’s day tell a story in themselves. I rushed to get to the end to see if he would be ok as we watch the mine slowly cave in. The ending shocked me as I was expecting the worse, but far from it the father returns, as normal, and no enlightenment is given to whatever ordeal he has been through…as this is just a normal day for him.

This book is certainly successful in conveying the perilous work that miners faced every single day and the inevitability of the narrator one day, having to face these same dangers. Yet our narrator is not bitter, or excited, it is just a matter of fact.

This book was more of a challenge than I envisaged, but fantastically written and illustrated. A proud tribute to miners and mining towns.


See Sydney Smith talk about Town is by the Sea here:

Check out the full CKG shortlists here: