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.
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: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=13
View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:
Continuing with our series of reviews of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2018 shortlisted titles, today Amanda shares her thoughts on Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk, from the Carnegie list.
What the publisher says…
Vivid and heartfelt, Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted, gripping tale of buried treasure and belonging.
What we say…
As a lover of Lauren Wolk’s debut novel, Wolf Hollow, I was really looking forward to reading this book. A historical read which had me wanting to learn more about this part of the world.
Crow, the hero and narrator is a young girl who was saved by Osh – a loner who we as the reader want to know more about. The relationships between, Osh, Crow and Miss Maggie are beautifully crafted and you as the reader are really invested in these characters lives.
This book will stay in my memory forever as it uses the most beautiful sentence I ever remembering reading – “It was hard for me to believe that this man, who was as strong as February and August combined – and smart, besides – would be afraid of something like that.” The language really is beautiful throughout, as descriptive you can imagine yourself on the island with Crow and Osh – but the description does not overtake the storyline which is equally strong.
Crow has to deal with being an outcast – and is not content with this so tries to find out if she truly should be shunned. All this and the prospect of finding treasure keeps the reader completely gripped throughout.
I was enthralled with the events told and felt the author did a brilliant job of not tying up all the parts in a predictable ‘happy ever after’.
One of my Carnegie Shadowing Group was left feeling unsatisfied with the ending as she wanted to know more about Osh – I may encourage her to write to the author to find out!
See Lauren Wolk talk about Beyond the Bright Sea on the CKG shadowing site: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=22
Check out the full CKG shortlists here:
What the Judges Say:
‘A haunting and beautiful novel that breathes life into one of World War II’s most terrifying and little-known tragedies’ – Judging panel
What We Say:
Ruta Sepetys has form with the Carnegie: Between Shades of Gray, her debut novel telling the little known history of Lithuanians during the Second World War, was shortlisted for the award back in 2012. Salt To the Sea tells a similarly little known yet deadly narrative.
I read it in one breathy gulp of a sitting – totally swept away but genuinely aghast that I knew so little about the historical events depicted in it. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is one of the worst maritime disasters in history with a greater loss of life than that of the Titanic and the Lusitania disasters put together and yet various historical and geopolitical factors have ensured that the tragedy remains largely unknown. The book is a testament to the power of story and its ability to give the dispossessed a voice and identity.
Indeed, the success of this ‘hidden history’ doesn’t simply rest with an already poignant historical fact or the accuracy with which it is related (no pilfered tears here) – it is through the powerful voices of her characters and the ‘human story’ that they tell that the novel really sings.
The narrative is shared between the four main characters, masterfully switching between voices as their stories intertwine. The chapters are rapid fire, ramping up the tension but also offering an exploration of the chilling realities of war from multiple perspectives. There’s an added resonance to one voice in particular – readers of Sepetys’ earlier novel will recognise that Joana is in fact the cousin of Lina, the protagonist in Between Shades of Gray. It’s a nice touch that speaks eloquently to the guilt and grief experienced by families torn apart by conflict.
It’s emotional, thought provoking and pacey.
What our Shadowers Say:
Salt To The Sea is a beautifully written book. The characters are well rounded and the plot is brilliantly crafted – Emily (15)
From The Horse’s Mouth:
“Every nation has hidden history, countless stories preserved only by those who experienced them. Stories of war are often read and discussed worldwide by readers whose nations stood on opposite sides during battle. History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance. Books join us together as a global reading community, but more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past”. – Author’s Note from Salt To The Sea.
You can find out more about Salt to The Sea in the shadowing site’s video here: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=16
What the Judges say:
‘Engaging and fast-paced with clever use of humour. The book explores what it is to be human with some harsh criticisms of society in subtle ways’ – Judging panel
What We Say:
Often reading the Carnegie shortlist can be a challenge – the best sort of challenge – but one that requires a degree of stamina nonetheless. I’ve just finished reading Wolf Hollow and The Smell of Other People’s Houses – two outstanding works of fiction that immersed me in times and places that I’d never even thought to think about before. Reading Railhead hot on their heels was no less thought provoking – it certainly took me to a time and place I’d no conception of before – but when I tried to think of a word to describe it, rather than thinking in terms of immersion, it felt to me that the act of reading was that of taking flight. It was effortless and wondrous.
What a joy it was to be swept away on a tide of such imagination. The plot is propulsive; we join the action literally mid chase as we follow petty thief Zen Starling fleeing the scene of his latest crime. Before we know it we’re embroiled in an intrigue plot to steal a piece of art and wrestling with concepts of artificial intelligence, the power of corporations and the logistics of interstellar train travel.
The world building of Reeve’s ‘Great Network’ is linguistically beautiful and richly imaginative. The blending of different cultures and languages effortlessly creates a distinct and unique universe: Zen’s industrial hometown, the solid sounding Cleve, sits in contrast to the faded grandeur of the plaintively named Desdemor and a seemingly inexhaustible list of other worlds and places. Worlds are described in rich detail – I delighted in the idea of living in a bio-building grown from modified baobab dna which, if left to run to seed, might sprout ‘random balconies and bulbous little pointless extensions’. And oh the trains! ‘Barracuda beautiful’ and named with an appositeness akin to Anglo-Saxon kenning: the dangerous and unpredictable Thought Fox, the two lovers Wildfire and the Time of Gifts who ‘fill the fog-lit night with trainsong’ and the brusque but honourable Damask Rose who together create a cast of enchanting and believable characters all of their own.
Uncle Bugs – one of the Hive Monks. Art by Ian McQue
There’s challenge in the text too. Reeve’s descriptions create a visual uneasiness about many of the characters: the Motorik Nova with her freckles, the mythical remoteness of the Guardians and the squirming unpleasantness of the Hive Monks. All raise questions about sentience and the rights of the individual which the reader must somehow reconcile. There’s really a lot going on underneath the fast paced and often gently humorous plot.
To surmise: a rip roaring read, that ticks all the Carnegie ‘s boxes: linguistically sophisticated with a thriller of a plot and a raft of convincing characters. I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to read it. The sequel is already on order!
From the Horse’s Mouth:
You can hear more about the creation of Railhead and the enduring appeal of children’s books in Philip’s interview on the CKG shadowing site: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=2
What makes an outstanding book for children? Rich in language, holding a compelling plot and utterly convincing characters, Beck is at the upper end of the ability and interest level for this year’s Carnegie shortlisted titles. This has led to some criticism as has its uncompromising glimpse into an age of racial prejudice and power hierarchies. In spite of these facts, Beck, offers its readers an intensely poignant and thought-provoking experience that they will return to time and again.
Beck is a rites of passage novel set in Liverpool, Canada and the United States. Ignatius Beck is born out of wedlock, the lovechild from a dalliance between his mother and an African soldier. Orphaned and growing up in an age of prejudice, Beck’s early childhood is a struggle. His plight becomes harder still when he is taken in by the Catholic Brothers. Suffering physical and sexual abuse, Beck is sold into a life of servitude. Disgusted by the maltreatment he experiences, he escapes and becomes embroiled in bootlegging forging a friendship and close alliance with Irma and Bone, but things turn sour when gang rivalries manifest themselves resulting in Beck needing to take to the road again.
Through an almost mystical encounter, Beck meets with Grace McAllister and forms an uneasy relationship, one scarred by the cruelty and rejection he has suffered formerly. In spite of this a difficult form of spiritual, emotional and sexual awakening occurs for Beck, although bonds remain hard for him to form and maintain. A story of resilience in extreme adversity, it is hard not to champion Beck through the harsh landscape and life that he journeys through.
The story behind its creation is itself fascinating and quite beguiling – written by Mal Peet, a past winner of the Carnegie Medal with his novel Tamar, the book was incomplete upon his death in 2015. Friend and peer author, Meg Rosoff, also a past Carnegie winner with her novel Just in Case, completed the novel. An extraordinary story of identity, prejudice and attachment this is a book that makes profound and humane comment that readers will ponder upon long after the final pages are completed.
Beck is published by Walker Books