CKG Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

What the Judges Say:

“Simply and innocently told from a child’s perspective this important and timely novel brings to life the risks people are willing to take to make their voices heard and the resilience of the human spirit…The plot is skilfully executed, blending together the two different narratives of the main characters, allowing both to influence the other’s life and propelling the action forward. Finally the credible and consistent ending offers hope, but no easy happy ending.” – Judges comments

What the Publisher Says:

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The Night Sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.


What We Say:

Subhi is smart and sweet and is a particularly unique narrator, given that he was born in the detention centre and that’s all he’s ever known. He has never seen the world outside but through stories passed down from his mother and his rich imagination he builds a picture of a better, kinder world. There is a maturity in his voice but many childlike elements too – such as his conversations with a rubber duck – these all knit together to make him multi-layered and authentic. Subhi’s friendship with Jimmie is endearing and uplifting and beautifully demonstrates the fact that children don’t judge, that they look for connections not divisions.

Some of the most difficult to read, and yet most important, parts of the story are the parts in which the treatment of the refugees at the hands of the guards (the sinister ‘Jackets’) is described:

Nasir hops on his crutch over to his bed. He’s only got one leg. He used to have a plastic one to go with his real one but the jackets took that away when he got here and never gave it back. Nasir says he doesn’t mind so much about his leg. He says it is worse for people like Fara, who is deaf and had her hearing aid taken, so that now she can’t hear the memories people tell each other to keep themselves alive in here. Or the ones like Remi, who needs medicine every day and had that taken away by the Jackets and even the letter from his doctor was destroyed. Remi has these fits and headaches that make him scream so hard it cuts through your thinking. He says all he needs is his medicine. ‘I thought you would help me.’ He says that over and over again. I don’t know who he’s talking to though.

You find yourself staggered at the fact that innocent people, who have fled persecution and horror, are being subjected to more barbarity at the hands of people who should be helping. And although this story is fictional, the knowledge that real-life refugees are being subjected to similar inhuman treatment in places where they deserve to be safe is particularly sobering and galling.

This book is beautiful, important, heartbreaking and hopeful all in one and is an excellent exploration of empathy, friendship, human rights and the power of stories.

Find out more:

Watch Zana Fraillon talk about The Bone Sparrow on the CKG shadowing site:


CKG Review – What you need to know about the Greenaway Shortlist (Part I)

Just in time for today’s medal ceremony – brush up with our handy visual guides to the eight outstanding titles nominated for this year’s Greenaway Medal. Can you decide who’s going to win the coveted prize?

Harry Potter - Greenaway 17A Great Big Cuddle - Greenaway 17Tidy - Greenaway 17Wild Animals Of The North - Greenaway 17

YATakeover – celebrating 80 Years of the CKG Medals

Today is day two of this amazing celebration over on Twitter – if you missed out yesterday fear not – catch up using the hashtag #YATakeover and throw yourself into the fun today.

Just check out the list of authors and illustrators involved! What better way is there to spend the eve of the Carnegie and Greenaway Medal announcements?!


CKG Review: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

What the Judges Say:

“The language used in this novel exquisitely conveys the atmosphere of the 1940s American rural setting…Every character is believable, well developed and fully rounded, combined with well observed small domestic details. This is a truthful exploration of small-time attitudes and injustice without being overly sentimental, and exploring questions of morality within the confines of the story.”

What We Say:

“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.”

From the moment I read that gripping first line, I was absolutely hooked on Wolf Hollow. There aren’t many books that I read in one day but I swallowed this one whole. 

Compelling is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. It’s not a cheerful story and it takes you to some pretty dark places but, from that first line onwards, you’re completely drawn in and have no choice but to go there.

The book tells the story of twelve year-old Annabelle, whose unremarkable life in sleepy, rural Wolf Hollow is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a new girl at school, Betty Glengarry. Betty’s reputation precedes her (she has been sent to live with her grandparents in the country because she is “incorrigible”) and she very soon reveals herself to be a cruel and manipulative bully.

Before long Betty is bullying Annabelle and making threats against her brothers. But Annabelle has an ally in Toby, a First World War veteran who lives on the edges of Wolf Hollow’s small community:

He didn’t ask for food or money. He didn’t ask for anything at all. But instead of drifting through on his way to somewhere else like the others, he circled endlessly, and I confess that I had been nervous about him in the beginning.

When Toby challenges Betty, she soon sets out to get revenge in startling and very disturbing fashion. And Annabelle is forced to tackle questions such as, when is doing wrong actually right? And what if lying is sometimes actually in the best interests of the truth? 

This book has been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s easy to understand why such comparisons have been made – a rural American setting; a small community; a lying antagonist; the “mockingbird” character, wrongfully accused of something terrible and left facing the wrath of the townsfolk; and a girl approaching adolescence being confronted by some very grown-up dilemmas. 

Wolf Hollow is a really well-crafted novel, a challenging read that explores some pretty big concepts and really makes you think about human capability, motivation and morality.


Wolf Hollow is published by Corgi Books

Find out more: listen to Lauren Wolk talk about Wolf Hollow here: