CKG Review: The Song From Somewhere Else illustrated by Levi Pinfold

The reviews are coming thick and fast today as we prepare for tomorrow’s medal ceremony. Here Lizzie tells us her thoughts on The Song From Somewhere Else….

What the publisher says:

A poignant, darkly comic and deeply moving story about the power of the extraordinary, and finding friendship where you least expect it. Written by the author of the critically acclaimed The Imaginary and illustrated by award-winning illustrator Levi Pinfold,

The Song From Somewhere Else

What we say: 

‘Dark, eerie and beautiful’ and ‘magical, earth-like and majestic’ both apt summations of this atmospheric book from my shadowers.

Indeed, it’s a book that’s captured a lot of attention within our shadowing group with lots of them clamouring to read it after looking at just the first few pages of illustrations (we used the Session 1 outline from the wonderful CLPE teaching sequence). For me it’s a book that I’ve continued to think about long after putting it down – and I think that the illustrations have a huge part to play in the way it’s lingered with me. The slightly smaller format, subtly gleaming front cover, nettle covered endpapers (even nettled covered boards if you have the hardback edition) and swirling title pages all tell you that you are reading something very special.

Immersive and atmospheric double page spreads communicate both the sense of wonder and dark menace that the story pivots on. There’s a filmic quality to the composition of many of the illustrations with pools of light and dark adding a frisson of danger and a use of scale which positions Frank so that she looks swamped by her surroundings – this is a town where the very sky looks like it could fall down and engulf you. Shadowy threats leach onto page edges and roll across the page – details which all sustain the atmosphere and tension.

My favourite illustrations, however, are those that depict Nick’s mother and her Troll music – she is both otherworldly and yet graceful – mountainous and delicate – and all the while surrounded by the wisps of her beautiful music. A beautiful depiction, regardless of her strangeness, of a mother.

All in all a perfect blending of words and pictures.


See Levi Pinfold talk about The Song From Somewhere Else here:

View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:






CKG Review: Thornhill by Pam Smy

As we near the end of our series of Carngeie and Greenaway reviews, Ann warns us of the perils of reading Greenaway shortlisted Thornhill just before bed!

What the publisher says: 

As she unpacks in her new bedroom, Ella is irresistibly drawn to the big old house that she can see out of her window. Surrounded by overgrown gardens, barbed wire fences and ‘keep out’ signs, it looks derelict.

But that night, a light goes on in one of the windows. And the next day she sees a girl in the grounds.

Ella is hooked. The house has a story to tell. She is sure of it.

Thornhill Pam SmyWhat we say:

I read this last night just before I went to bed, big mistake !

Using a hybrid format of diary entries and illustrated sequences, Thornhill tells the story of two lonely girls across dual timelines. Full of ‘bullies, ghosts and creepy dolls’ (as one newspaper put it) – this contemporary Gothic tale leaves you with much to think about.

The  illustrated sequences have an eerie quality: As Mary’s story is revealed in heartbreaking diary entries, Ella’s exploration of the modern day Thornhill is told in silent monochromatic freeze frame. The effect can be deeply disturbing.

Empty black pages separate the written and illustrated sequences and divide the past from the present. They create a nice pause in between the two narratives, preventing the reader from rushing too quickly through the developing mystery – as with all good creepy tales pacing is everything!

Smy’s bold illustrative style combines observational drawing with a strong design aesthetic. Her imposing facades and lingering images of overgrown gardens (particularly the images used on the front cover and the endpapers) sit comfortably alongside incredibly detailed interiors and expressive character studies.

The overall feeling is cinematic and ominous. The atmospheric and emotional illustrations ooze tension and reward the reader with a suitably ambiguous climax and chilling denouement.

I’ve never read a book like it – totally absorbing!


Watch Pam Smy speaking about Thornhill on the CKG shadowing site:

You can view the full Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2018 shortlists here:

CKG Review: King of the Sky illustrated by Laura Carlin

Next in our Greenaway reviews is King of the Sky by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Laura Carlin. Look out for our thoughts on Thornhill later today….

What the publishers say:

Starting a new life in a new country, a young boy feels lost and alone – until he meets an old man who keeps racing pigeons. Together they pin their hopes on a race across Europe and the special bird they believe can win it: King of the Sky. Nicola Davies’ beautiful story – an immigrant’s tale with a powerful resonance in our troubled times – is illustrated by an artist who makes the world anew with every picture.

King of The Sky Laura Carlin

What we say:

If you’d have told me that I’d be raving about a book on racing pigeons before I started shadowing the CKG medals I’d have never have believed you – what on earth would I want with a book about pigeons and Welsh mining towns?! Well – lots as it turns out. This thoughtful and moving book combines Nicola Davies’ superb words with Carlin’s nuanced illustrations to great effect.

I first came across Laura Carlin’s work in her illustrated version of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man and was utterly bowled over by how she could take something so familiar and look at it from a completely new perspective. The illustration where she shows the Iron Man’s eyes glowing like red headlamps may have elicited a genuine gasp of admiration – it’s like the reader is the Iron Man and we’re looking out through his eyes, amazing!

Carlin brings all that ability to look at things from a different perspective to bear in King of the Sky – utilising shifts in tone and scale as well as sketchy pencil lines and bold colour washes, she communicates a visual narrative of great emotional depth.

For the boy lost in reveries of “sunlight, fountains and vanilla smell of ice cream”, Carlin’s muted colours, industrial landscape and Lowry-esque figures could not appear more forbidding and strange. And yet the soft smudgy illustrations offer small details of optimism: the boy’s yellow sweater and the red scarf of next-door neighbour Mr Evans both positively glow within these grey, watery landscapes.

Indeed, Carlin’s illustrations are not just about contrast but about hope for the future: the yellow used for the sun drenched St Peters Square is reprised in the soft glow emitted from the rows of ‘little houses’ in the boy’s new town. Similarly, as the friendship between the two grows we see subtle shifts in the landscape: no longer merely populated with ‘clanking towers’ and ‘smoking chimneys’, we see the farmer in his wagon, glimpse the snatches of blue sky as the pigeons are set free and notice the busy back yards of the houses next door. Despite first impressions, this is a place teeming with life and its own kind of beauty. It’s not such a bad place to be.

Aided by bold use of double page spreads with little or no text we have a great sense of this place – the reader is given time to breathe and soak in their surroundings. It’s a technique which also gives the book a beautiful sense of pace – ably communicating the boys initial isolation as well as the enormity of the journey King of the Sky makes and what this means to those left at home awaiting his return.

Though so much of Carlin’s work is expansive, with large landscapes and street scenes, it is underpinned by deft use of body language ensuring that the developing friendship between Mr Evans and the boy is at the centre of the story telling. Minute changes – hands buried in pockets, an outstretched arm, a gap closed, a linked arm, a giddy rush down the stairs and a final whoop of joy – all chart the impact of feeling unwelcome and the transformative power of finding a connection that makes you feel like you can belong.

I cannot think of a better or more subtle picture book to interrogate ideas of home and belonging.


Watch Laura Carlin speaking about King Of The Sky on the CKG shadowing site: 

You can view the full Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2018 shortlists here:

CKG Review: Release by Patrick Ness

The clock is ticking – it’s a mere five days until we find out the winner of this years’ Carnegie and Greenaway Medals and here at YLG North West we’re still busily beavering away to review all of the shortlisted titles before the announcement on the 18th June.

Today we bring you Lizzie’s thoughts on Patrick Ness’s Release from the Carnegie shortlist…

What the publisher says…

The most personal and tender novel yet from Patrick Ness, the twice Carnegie Medal-winning author of A Monster Calls. It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedom from the release. Time is running out though, because way across town, a ghost has risen from the lake… This uplifting coming-of-age novel will remind you what it’s like to fall in love.

Release Patrick NessWhat we say…

Taking its literary inspiration from Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway with a healthy dose of Judy Blume’s Forever thrown into the mix, this is the story of Adam Thorn. Trapped in rural small town America, son of preacher parents and weighed down by their expectations, the novel’s title looms large over the narrative.

Interwoven with Adam’s story is the otherworldly tale of a murdered girl and a mythical Queen who move through our reality seeking answers, revenge and their own particular brand of ‘release’. I really loved this element of the narrative – though the connection between Adam and the Queen is glancing, the two narratives accelerate in harmony, propelling one another towards the day’s final denouement.

It’s genius plotting and pacing and ultimately allows for a more nuanced reading of Adam’s situation: In Adam’s world the belief that a particular revelation might bring your world crashing down around you has additional edge given that we see it being played out alongside a story of truly mythical proportions. Read in tandem the two narratives allow us a glimpse of the extraordinary undercurrents which underpin the everyday – a way of appreciating the world stopping or world just beginning possibilities of a single day.

So, I’ve nailed my colours to the mast: I loved this otherworldly element to the writing! However…. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this with readers both as part of shadowing groups and at the issue desk and I’m aware that not everyone might feel the same….in fact it’s turned out to be a bit of a marmite situation: you either love it or you hate it. As I began writing this piece, I asked some of our shadowers again what they made of the secondary story line and was met a chorus of ‘meh’ noises and murmurs of ‘I didn’t get it’. They didn’t object to it per se but for the most part failed to see the relevance to Adam’s story (with which they were all completely engrossed).

In amongst the ‘mehs’, however, one girl did say ‘it’s very Patrick Ness’ – and it’s true, it is! Actually, that comment somehow encapsulates so much – love it or hate it, the fact that my shadowers stuck with and ultimately loved what is a pretty ambitious and literary novel is testament to the quality of writing and the sensitivity with which Ness handles his subjects. Patrick Ness novels make you sit up and pay attention – devastating, optimistic and above all truthful you always know just how good the writing is. In fact, in a recent poll (part of a local book award which had also shortlisted Release), our shadowers voted it the one readers were ‘most likely to read again’. That really told me something – even if they ‘don’t get it’ it still spoke to them; it still held meaning that they wanted to go back and decipher.

That is surely a sign of truly outstanding writing.


Watch Patrick Ness speaking about Release on the CKG shadowing site:

You can view the full Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2018 shortlists here:

CKG Review: Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

Continuing with our series of reviews of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2018 shortlisted titles, today our newest Committee member Alex shares her thoughts on Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans, from the Carnegie list.

What the publisher says…

Wed Wabbit is an adventure story about friendship, danger and the terror of never being able to get back home again.

And it’s funny. It’s really, really funny.

Wed Wabbit Lissa EvansWhat we say…

Initially I was sceptical about reading Wed Wabbit, as it not ordinarily the kind of book I would choose to read. I was pleasantly surprised, Wed Wabbit is fantastical and funny. After her sister Minnie is injured in an accident, Fidge finds herself trapped in an imaginary world of the Wimbley Woos, the characters from Minnie’s favourite book. She must solve a series of clues and overcome the tyrannical dictator, Minnie’s favourite toy Wed Wabbit, all with the help of a giant plastic carrot, a toy elephant and her strange cousin Graham. More than being fantastical and funny, Wed Wabbit is also a story about a young girl moving on and growing up in life too, as the experience positively alters her outlook on life.



See Lissa Evans talk about Wed Wabbit on the CKG shadowing site:

Check out the full CKG shortlists here: