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: 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: 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: 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: