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: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

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.
Beyond the Bright Sea
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:

Check out the full CKG shortlists here:

Review: Where Monsters Lie – Polly Ho-Yen

Having tweeted about how much I enjoyed Polly Ho-Yen’s debut novel, The Boy in the Tower, I was very excited when she contacted me a few months later and offered to send me something else to read.

Where Monsters Lie centres around mystery and seemingly inexplicable events. In the tiny village of Mivtown, everybody knows everybody else. And everybody’s heard the legend of the monsters of the loch:

The adults used it to scare us away from the water, but we were hazy about what the monsters actually were or even what would raise them. All we knew was that the monsters were supposed to lead you into the water.

The story opens on the night of “the offering” – an annual ritual designed to keep the monsters at bay. When Effie and her family return from the offering, they find that Effie’s rabbit, Buster, has vanished. Buster is not the only thing to go missing in this book -before long, Effie’s mum also disappears, seemingly without trace.

At this point I feel it’s only fair to offer a friendly word of warning: THERE ARE SLUGS IN THIS BOOK! Having lived in a house a few years ago where slugs were a persistent nuisance (trust me, you’ve never known true ick until you’ve stood barefoot on a slug at 3am whilst carrying your crying baby downstairs for a night feed), it’s safe to say I’m not their biggest fan (then again, who is?). Shortly after Effie’s mum disappears, Effie starts to find slugs around the house on a regular basis. It seems innocuous enough at first but soon the sheer numbers and strange behaviour patterns of the slugs mean they are impossible to ignore:

Slugs atop slugs atop slugs.

Effie and her best friend Finn decide to try to solve the mystery. What has happened to Effie’s mum? What’s going on with the slugs? Why are “the oldies” acting so shiftily? And is any of it linked to the legend of the loch?

This is one seriously atmospheric book. Polly’s descriptions of Mivtown, the landscape and the loch, make the setting feel like an integral character, as crucial to the story as anything else. She has a way of writing that gets right under your skin (and makes your skin crawl, in the case of the slugs!). Effie is sad, angry, bewildered, determined, stubborn and hopeful; and Finn is calm, honest and good; whilst the evasive manner of almost all the adults evokes just the right amount of suspense and uneasiness.

Where Monsters Lie is an intriguing, captivating read and I can’t wait to see what Polly Ho-Yen comes up with next!


2016 Classics Challenge: Stig of the Dump – Clive King

Okay so I’m a bit late posting this but I promise I did read this book in May (or most of it anyway).

The choices for my 2016 Classics Challenge fall mainly into two categories: books I have always wanted to read but never quite got around to, such as Little Women and I Capture the Castle, and books that I’ve never particularly felt a burning desire to read but have always felt that I “should” have done.

Stig of the Dump fell firmly into the latter category, particularly since the Stone Age became prominent in the National Curriculum and we started sending it out lots more to schools. It’s also the only book I have ever lied about reading: when I asked a visiting poet in front of a room full of people what his favourite book as a child had been, he said this one and then asked the audience to put their hand up if they’d read it -not wanting to be shown up as the librarian who hadn’t read the classic children’s book I shamefully raised my hand in the air despite having never read a word and, being a very truthful person in general, have felt supremely guilty about it ever since! 

Now I can finally, truthfully, say I have read it. And actually quite enjoyed it too. Much more than I expected to. Apart from knowing that it was in some way related to the Stone Age and that there was likely to be a dump and somebody called Stig in there, none of which sounded especially appealing to me, I didn’t really know too much about this book before I began. One thing I did expect was that it would be quite hard to read (because it’s a “classic” and, despite doing this challenge, I still equate the word “classic” with “difficult”). 

On that score I was very pleasantly surprised. Because there is something just so readable about this book. The main character, Barney, has such a sense of adventure and King’s pacy narrative sweeps you right into his world. 

The story begins just before something momentous is about to happen:

If you went too near to the edge of the chalk-pit the ground would give way. Barney had been told this often enough…But still, there was a difference between being told and seeing it happen. And today was one of those grey days when there was nothing to do, nothing to play, and nowhere to go. Except the chalk-pit. The dump

Within the first few pages, Barney has fallen into the chalk pit, discovered Stig and started chatting to him as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Barney isn’t afraid of Stig so the reader isn’t afraid. Barney doesn’t spend ages agonising over how Stig came to be there, what he thinks he wants, or whether he is even real, so the reader doesn’t do that either. Instead Barney gets straight to work, sorting out practical solutions to Stig’s problems, such as making his home more comfortable. 

This is a book for anyone that loves action and adventure. Barney and Stig are resourceful, loyal and brave and, despite coming from completely different times in history, they forge a friendship that seems perfectly natural and has real mutual benefit. Antagonists come in many forms, including the troublesome Snarget brothers; two would-be thieves and even a leopard, but together Barney and Stig see them all off. The central theme of friendship is timeless and the cross-hatch illustrations of Edward Ardizzone complement the story beautifully, the black-and-white lines evoking simultaneous thoughts of earlier times and raw craftsmanship (much like the Stone Age).