Friday 20 June 2014

Heartwarming, heart-thumping or thought-provoking? Which will take the Carnegie Medal?

Again this year’s crop of shortlisted titles are all so good and diverse that it tricky to see which will be awarded the medal.

Sometimes a runaway winner emerges and sometimes a runaway popular favourite emerges, but, this year the list appears all of the titles have intrigued or been loved in equal measure.

We always love reading the reviews posted on the shadowing site – where children are not afraid to say they failed to engage with a book or how, despite initial trepidation, could not put it down.

But it is great to see books inspiring and challenging, sparking debate and a love of reading – and all of this before the winner has even been announced.

But with the winner announcement imminent who does Space on the Bookshelf think will win? Or should win?

Sally: I for one, loved all three of the shortlisted books that I reviewed, each one unique and up-put-downable. ‘The Child’s Elephant’, has moments of writing perfection, so strong and proactive, that it makes any want-to-be-writers stunned in awe and then want to cry, it also has the most amazing story, which made even more poignant by recent events.

Nicki: ‘Liar & Spy’, with its gentle, unmelodramatic story about bullying has to be a contender. It won the Guardian fiction prize and manages to be an accessible, intriguing middle-grade story with appeal for children of all ages, but also cleverly tackles some serious issues in a non-heavy way. Masterful subtle writing and a lesson in the most powerful thing in a book being the connections the readers make themselves.

Sally: ‘All the Truth that’s in  Me’, one of the few historical titles on this year’s list, takes a totally unique stance to delivering the story, with a voice that’s strong and totally refusing to be defined by other perceptions, it’s full of hope.

Nicki: ‘The Wall’ is another great example of the increasingly blurry line between children’s and adult fiction. It was published both as an adult’s and a children’s title and very cleverly uses a child’s eyes to explore a sensitive, political subject that’s not easy to grasp, but it is done through a boy’s adventure story, full of daring and danger.  

What is does incredibly well is being a novel that informs as well as entertains and manages to be a really exciting novel for children first, while also being about serious issues with a bigger picture woven in. This is my pick for the one the judges will be awarding the prize to.

Nicki: Anne Fine’s ‘Blood Family’ is another book that could just as easily sit on adult shelves. The ability of Anne Fine to get under the skin of a damaged child is a seriously impressive piece of writing that could keep many adult book groups talking. As she has won the Carnegie Medal twice before must make her a serious contender. But I do have my doubts that it is the sort of books that children will really adore and take to their hearts.

Sally: ‘The Bunker Dairy’ is a jolt. It is an uncompromising read that deals with some truly grim and disturbing themes, yet has a character voice which is so intoxicating that you find your knuckles going white whilst you reading veraciously to see what happens next.  I think of the three that I read, the book that really stood apart and in both feel, concept and voice has to be ‘The Bunker Diary’, to deliver such a dark tale and make it so readable is no mean feat, and I believe it to be a real contender for the medal.

Claire: 'Ghost Hawk' has a beautiful sense of place and use of imagery. Susan Cooper has had books nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times during her long career, and I'd love to see her finally win with this wonderful book. However, she has attracted a small amount of criticism, ranging right from colonialism for her portrayal of the Native American culture, through to a prejudiced view on the motives of the European settlers. I felt she'd dealt with these issues in a very balanced way, but perhaps the difficult politics of her subject might stop the judges awarding her the ultimate accolade - this time.

Nicki: ‘Rooftoppers’ seems to be the story that many children have taken to their hearts. The idea of never having known your mother is something that can make all children think and wonder. To what lengths would you go to if you felt their mother was out there, if only she could be found?

The most outstanding thing about Katherine’s writing is definitely her metaphors – and if the Carnegie was awarded on metaphor alone, she would win hands down, no doubt. If it was awarded for a heart-warming, thumping good read it would also be the outright winner in my opinion. 

All of them together make for an inspiring selection that will surely help to encourage a whole range of young readers to engage with books and take new and different things from stories.

I think this year we have all decided that we long for 'Rooftoppers' to win. It is in the marvellous tradition of previous winners such as Philippa Pearce, Eleanor Farjeon and Frank Cottrell Boyce in being a story that is all about possibility, which is such a tremendously inspiring thing for a children's book to be about.

We can't wait for the final result next week!

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