Monday, 22 June 2015

Carnegie fever - and the most likely winner is . . .

Who would envy the judges of the Carnegie Medal, trying to decide which one single title is the outstanding book of the year?

We have enjoyed reading and discussing the books on this year’s shortlist – all of which are successful examples of authors striving to achieve something different and worthwhile in their writing.

The very best books are more than simply entertainment. They can be glimpses into other people’s lives and a chance to be gripped by how someone handles a situation you might never experience yourself. Which criteria do you use to say which is the best?

Whoever wins will be joining an illustrious list of past winners, starting with Arthur Ransome in 1936 and including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Anne Fine, Neil Gaiman, CS Lewis, Penelope Lively, Terry Pratchett, and Noel Streatfeild – authors who continue to delight and entertain and who keep children reading to this day and you hope will never go out of print.

What can you read into the state of the book market for children looking at the shortlist?

This year’s list is dominated by female writers. And with only one title being for younger readers there are three aimed at ‘older teens’, and four aimed at 11+ (which seems to be increasingly called ‘tween’ readership). Half are contemporary stories, two historical and three set in a fantasy version of the world. So it is not easy at all to compare them as they are all trying to achieve different things.

Several on the list are familiar names associated with Carnegie – past winners, some having been nominated before. Only one really fresh name in there.

So – without further ado – who would we like to win and who do we think will win?

Sally says: “I love shadowing the Carnegie, as it makes me read out of my usual comfort zone, and thereby discover amazing books and brilliant writers. Every year the Carnegie short-list is packed with really gripping, exquisitely written books that make you think. This obviously makes backing a single book a very difficult endeavour. 

“This year I read and reviewed 2013 winning author Sally Gardner’s 11+ picture book ‘Tinder’. Loving fairy tales as I do, and picture books, and being a fan of Sally Gardner’s writing, I was totally gripped by the authentic fairy tale voice, and dark narrative with classic fairy tale and folklore elements woven into a very real and through provoking yarn.

“I believe Sally has a real chance of scooping up the award and that Tinder may even become a double winner as it is also shortlisted for the Greenaway picture book award.

“Tanya Landman’s shortlisted book, Buffalo Solider, is an utterly absorbing read, a historical adventure of a young newly freed slave girl in the aftermath of the US civil war, who takes extraordinary measures to survive by posing as a man and becoming a Buffalo Solider. 

“Tanya Landman has written a tale which is so well realised it take you back to the time, opening your eyes to a much neglected aspect of recent history; how freedom affected the newly liberated slaves.  I would really love to see 'Buffalo Solider' take the award, as its clever writing explores not only a period in history which is largely ignored, but also the crueller aspects of humanity.”

Nicki said: “I am a huge fan of Frances Hardinge, who just seems to get better and better and I think ‘Cuckoo Song’ is so strong and imaginative, yet the world building is evenly balanced with brilliant characters. It manages to be creepy yet compelling and the slow-burn tension just kept the pages turning for me; it’s a well-told mystery. I think Frances is a rather brilliant but underrated writer and would love to see her win as I think it would introduce many new readers to her superb work.

“I also loved the heart-warming ‘Apple and Rain’ and this is the one that seems to have successfully reached out to children and have many of them asking for more. If the criteria was to get children devouring books and wanting to read, then ‘Apple and Rain’ would probably win hands down.”

“For me, the stand-out title was ‘More than This’. I loved the fact that it was both an exciting page-turning thriller, but also a philosophical novel. I loved that every aspect of the novel challenged – it wasn’t a straightforward single-thread, linear narrative (as we are so used to seeing in children’s books).

“The baddie was truly terrifying and the backstory heartbreaking. You warmed to all the characters and the friendships. So for me it was without flaws and dealt with big issues in an accessible way, which is really the epitome of writing for young people.”

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