Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Carnegie shadowing review - There will be Lies

Imagine a weave of really big themes, Native American mythology, police pursuit, a lost child, dream sequences and a really brilliantly portrayed snarky deaf girl - oh and lies - and you have Nick Lake's US-set thriller ‘There Will be Lies’. Buckle up for a bumpy ride.

The whole story is told from the point of view of Shelby, who is nearly eighteen, but has been brought up living a very sheltered, very routine existence of books, baseball, ice cream dinners; home-schooled by her mum, Shaylene. 

We spend the whole journey in Shelby’s shoes and boy, do we get a great, multi-dimensional heroine. And she needs to be tough for the journey she takes us on.

We are catapulted into action when Shelby has an accident, and immediately the outside world threatens to intrude into their very contained and private existence and she and her mother take off, her mother exhibiting increasingly erratic and violent behaviour and Shelby not really knowing what is going on.

As if that's not enough, Shelby has vivid dreams that taken on greater importance as the story develops. All her life Shelby has had a recurring dream about a child in hospital, crying, and Shelby wanting to save the child, but never being able to get to her and now she is given a quest in the dream world that she must kill the crone and save the child or the world will end.

The twin stories increasingly collide as the story progresses, with Shelby forced to face horrible truths about her life. Soon Shelby won’t know who to trust and there will never be any going back.

The lies Shelby must face would be devastating for anyone, yet she shows amazing resilience, using the journey she is doing in the Dreaming to help her to deal with the truths she must face up to.

The real strength of this book is not even that the twin stories are told with panache and thrills. It's the main character, Shelby that holds the whole thing together. 

She deals with the extraordinary and the tough bravely, particularly for someone who has known so little of the world. 

But what is most impressive, in an already impressive book, is that the main character is profoundly deaf. The way she responds to the world and the world responds to her is so skilfully done, her deafness giving the story yet another dimension, actually sometimes softening the huge emotional rollercoaster she is going through as she has to struggle to understand at all what everyone is trying to communicate and to make herself heard.

There are rich themes explored here – nature versus nurture, how sometimes people can love us and want the best for us, yet still trick us, so that, ultimately, the biggest reward you can achieve is of self-reliance.

But Shelby is a character you are rooting for the whole way.

Shelby may also just be strong enough to run away with the Carnegie Medal this year.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Carnegie Shadowing 2016 review - The rest of us just live here

Patrick Ness’s ‘The Rest of us Just Live here’ has the feel of those very familiar novels very popular just now, where teenagers tackle immortal foes, vampires or paranormal beings threatening to take over the world - and win against impossible odds.

Yes, all of that happens in this story. 

Only, the hero of this story is not that guy. He’s the guy who just wants to get a girlfriend and, if possible, graduate before the school gets blown up again. Because all of that hero-stuff is happening, just not to him.

Siblings Mikey and Melissa have got plenty of problems. Their alcoholic dad stole a ton of money and avoided jail, but it means the family will be repaying the debt forever and family tensions are high. 

Their mother has rolled up her sleeves and has ploughed all her energies into supporting her beliefs that she can change the world in her own adult way and is going for a political career and everyone is pretty tough on Mum for this choice.

It means there is no adult really steering the family and Melissa’s eating disorder got so she would have died. And Mikey has anxiety problems and OCD so bad sometimes it takes the muscle of his best-friend, Jared, to physically get him to stop. 

So how will he cope when they all graduate and Mikey will be on his own at college? This is what worries our hero. But for now, though, Mikey is also focused on whether his feelings are returned by long-time best friend, Henna. 

Oh, and What is happening with the zombie deer? What about the car crash and are the police really doing nothing because they have all been taken over by a mysterious blue light?  Should our hero get involved? Or is that really not his story? 

The whole ‘war with the immortals' story is confined mostly to snippets in a chapter heading, until the action of those kids and the 'rest of us' begins to collide.

The tantalising chapter headings are a smart and sometimes very funny way to keep us up to date with the huge battles the cool ‘indie’ kids are waging, while everyone else just gets on fretting about parties, their love lives and whether they will get to the college they want. I loved the back-story in chapter headings device. 

The end-of-the-world plot never quite wrestles the emotional heart of the story, and the juxtaposition of the weird and the ordinary works really well. It is a sly satire on some of the more predictable teen stories around (everyone is in love with the heroine, but which of them is her true love and how will it be revealed?).

The story has a wide character list, a good bunch of personalities, there is teenage angst as well as the bonkers other-world sub-plot. 

Patrick Ness is a quality writer and he deftly treads a fine line.

It’s well-observed, whether poking sly fun at all those over-the-top-brilliant kids in so many novels, but mostly what it does well is in just saying that ordinary teenagers can have interesting stories too. Because just dealing with real life sometimes takes heroic action, even if you are never called upon to be part of the gang that saves the world, it doesn't mean you have to be a bystander, that you are not grappling with serious things and your victories are not worth celebrating.

We all have our own stories – and that real life is sometimes just about enough for anyone to deal with and a much more messy journey where we really can't see which are the bad guys.

Loved this book. So clever, funny and compassionate. And weird. All of my favourite things.

Will it win? Possibly not going to be the children's shadowing favourite. It's pretty clever and complicated and it's a fine line to tread to not be too complicated. But Patrick Ness's writing is both so original and very fine he has to be in with a shout to take the Medal again.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

3D Review – Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman - Editor Interview with Lucy Rogers of Scholastic UK

Rounding up our 3D review of Sue Wallman's 'Lying about Last Summer', we have an interview with the book's editor,  Lucy Rogers who is an editor at Scholastic UK where she works on a variety of fiction books for 7+ readers right up to teen/crossover.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child? 

Ooh this is a tough one, but I think I’d have to pick Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood for capturing my imagination and making me believe in lands above the clouds. 

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult? 

The books that I’m lucky enough to work on every day! And also Harry Potter – a magical world that I discovered as a child but re-enter regularly as an adult.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational? 

With children’s books, there are no limits in terms of creativity and possibility – worlds can be entered through wardrobes and cats can wear boots. I like too that children bring their own boundless imaginations to the reading process, making these stories even more colourful and exciting. 

What do you love about ‘Lying about Last Summer’ and what makes it stand out? 

I love a lot of things about this book. Firstly, Sue’s beautiful, descriptive writing which brings her characters and the atmospheric setting of the summer camp to life (I could almost smell the chlorine in the swimming pool scene!). Then there’s the story itself, which – from the intriguing opening to the twisty, heart-pounding ending – had me hooked. But, as well as being completely gripping, Lying about Last Summer has an emotional heart at its core, and for me, this really sets it apart from the competition. 

How many people have worked on ‘Lying about Last Summer’ and for how long? 

Quite a few, as publishing is a hugely collaborative process. Another editor, Lena McCauley, worked with me on the text itself, Seam Williams designed a striking cover that really captures the feel of the story, and then there were all the other departments: Production, Publicity, Sales, who helped get the book to print and to an audience. In terms of how long this process took, I first read the manuscript in March 2015 and the book is publishing this week, so just over a year. 

What made you want to work in children’s publishing? 

A job where I got to read every day and work with talented and creative individuals was always the dream. I feel very lucky to be part of this lovely industry, and to have serious business meetings about pirates and unicorns! 

What are the things that changed most from first draft to final draft and is there anything you wish you had done differently? 

There weren’t any drastic changes from first to final draft. Rather, we focused on really bringing out the brilliant twists and turns in the plot – to thrill and surprise the reader – and making Skye’s reaction to the messages from her sister even bigger. Another thing we looked at was making sure the layout of the summer camp was as clear as possible. Sue ended up scribbling lots of home-drawn maps! 

‘Lying about Last Summer’, deals with some very serious, does this effect the editorial advice and support that you gave to Sue? 

Sue made our job very easy in this respect, by writing a story that explores difficult and often distressing subjects in a sensitive and believable way. As an editor, it was my job to ensure that the subject matter was appropriate and relevant for the teen audience, something Sue mastered without ever seeming to talk down to the reader or censor her writing (no easy feat!).

Saturday, 14 May 2016

3D Review – Lying About Last Summer - Author Interview with Sue Wallman

As part of our 3D review of newly published Lying About Last Summer we have an interview with author Sue Wallman.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I read it to my girls when they were little and I was surprised by how convoluted and wordy the sentences were – I didn’t remember that at all. I also binge-read Enid Blyton, The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and frankly anything else I could lay my hands on. I wish there’d been a Young Adult section in the bookshop and library when I was growing up.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardener. Beautiful and devastating. The perfect mix.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

They have the potential to make a huge impact. The ones that resonate stay with you all your life.

Why did you start writing for children?

When I was trying to find my authorial voice, I had several false starts before I realised I really wanted to write Young Adult fiction.

What made you want to write ‘Lying about Last Summer’?

I liked the idea of something bad happening in an idyllic setting. I wasn’t very sure what I was writing at the beginning but I knew it was about loss in some shape or form. I’d written too much character-led stuff before so I worked really hard on the psychological/thriller angle. 

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

Creating a world that teenagers can escape into. It feels exciting. But also daunting because I know that when I meet my readers they won’t hold back on what they thought of the book.

‘Lying about Last Summer’, deals with some very serious issues, was it difficult getting the portrayal and messages of them right?

That aspect didn’t feel difficult. Perhaps because I have teenage daughters and know to a certain extent what their generation has to deal with, and what worries them.

How much research did you do for ‘Lying about Last Summer’?

Bits and pieces along the way. The camp at Morley Hill was created from a mix of various places I’ve stayed at, observing adventurous activities my daughters have done, and some online research. The girls have laughed long and hard about how much I appear to know so much about paintballing and high ropes etc because these are most definitely outside my comfort zone.

Come back tomorrow to read our interview with 'Lying about Last Summer's editor Lucy Rogers!

Friday, 13 May 2016

3D Review – Lying About Last Summer - Sue Wallman

Adults Review:

With the tag line; ‘You can’t hide the truth forever’, and it’s dabble-varnished cover depicting a hand flaying in a tirade of bubbles tinted red, you instantly know without even opening the book, that at the heart of the truth someone drowned. The cover incites intrigue willing you to open up and read to discover the truth, which is testament to both the writing and the stunning cover design.

The story within the beautiful (and tactile) cover is full of intrigue, as the reader is transported into the mind of Skye and a snippet of the day last summer and the source of the lies. It seems innocent enough, two sisters lounging by the family pool, when Skye’s older sister ‘Luisa’ who’s back from university for summer break, tells Skye to hide. Safely concealed in the changing room, Skye hears a man’s voice, arguing, then screams and a splash.

A year later and Skye is packed off to an outwards bound week at ‘Morley Hill Activity and Adventure Centre,’ organised by a charity for bereaved kids. It’s not Skye’s idea of fun, and despite formally being lithe and sporty and an active member of a swimming club, she’s not a fit or as slim as she was last summer. But that’s not the only reason she’s anxious; Morley Hill is close to her old home, Yew Tree Cottage’ where her sister died, stirring up unwanted memories. But the worst part is, being surrounded by other kids who’ve lost love ones. How long will she be able to conceal the truth about Luisa’s dark business affairs, and her own hand in her sister’s demise?

Morley Hill isn’t as bad as Skye feared, she soon discovers that water activities aside, that she enjoys doing the sports, and if she avoids the optional therapy sessions, then things are tolerable. Her fellow group members are a mixed bag, with only one morbid thing in common. Her room mates are the timid, bookish Fay who’s living with the shame of believing she caused her father’s death, and Danielle who seeks dangerous thrills and equally dangerous highs. Then there are the boys, easy going Brandon whose brother died from illness, and Joe a surfer with charm and confidence to spare, whose girlfriend committed suicide.

Life at Morley Hill is more endure that enjoyment, but thing take a sinister turn when she starts to receive messages from her dead sister, Luisa. Skye knows that it can’t be Luisa, but whoever is messaging her knows things, secret stuff that only Luisa would know, unless they’ve read all the archived messages on her sisters secret message account. As the weeks draw on, the messages turn from innocuous to threatening and everyone at Morley Hill is a potential suspect.

As Skye tries to work out who is posing as her sister and why, she becomes suspicious of Joe, whose behaviour towards her becomes erratic and aggressive. At the same time she watches the Too-Perfect-to-be-true Joe forge a relationship with timid Fay.

The text and Joe behaviour has Skye increasingly on edge, when a fortunately timed message from Luisa proves Brandon can’t be the culprit, and together they take a pilgrimage to Yew Tree Cottage, to confront old fears and new threats, uncovering the identity of the fake Luisa.

When Skye and Brandon get back to Morley Hill, they find it’s far from peaceful, as Fay has gone missing, taking Danielle’s drugs with her. It’s a race against time, and a battle of wits against an unlikely foe that Skye must overcome if she is going to save Fay and in doing so finally come to terms with what happened last summer and the part she played in the events that led up to her sister’s death.

Lying about last summer is an intelligent and intricately plotted thriller with an emotional heart, as you follow Skye on her difficult journey of self-forgiveness. Sue Wallman has achieved a compelling and authentic teenage voice and has tackled many difficult subjects such as, suicide, drug-dealing, death and betrayal, in a responsible and empathic way. Lying About last summer is a fantastic read, which will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Child Review by Beatriz aged 12

Summer. A lovely time of year, or so Skye thought, until Luisa (Skye’s sister) tragically died from a misfortunate event, changing Skye’s world forever.

Being sent to a summer camp for bereaved kids, Skye makes new friends, but can she trust anyone? For when she receives messages from someone claiming to be her dead sister, Skye knows it has to be someone at camp, or someone that is silently watching her every movement. Wanting it to be true, Skye replies to the messages but the stalker already knows her secret…

Skye meets new people, including a mysterious boy called Joe, Danielle - a drug taking, smoking roommate, Brandon - someone Skye thinks she can trust, and Fay - someone who won’t forgive herself, sometimes annoying friend…

At rock climbing (inside), Skye just can’t bear to leave her phone in her dorm. Breaking the rules Skye sneaks her phone into her pocket. At the top, Skye faces a moment of fear as her phone drops out of her pocket, onto the crash mat below, leaving her phone with a cracked screen. Brandon offers to help, but can she trust him?

After several days of endless activities Skye’s roommate and friend: Fay disappears, leaving a note behind saying

Mum, I can’t live with the shame.
I’m sorry for everything.

Fay x

As well as this unusual happening, Danielle’s drugs have disappeared. Is Fay in danger?

I love this book because it builds tension as you read, you just can’t put it down! The way that the book is written makes Skye’s emotions stand out. This book is unique because it has a variety of mysterious happenings which are all different and gives you many questions about what will happen next. I really recommend this book because it is amazing, emotional and mysterious!

If you adore this book, then you might like:

ACB with Honora Lee-this relates to the family problems aspect.

I hope you enjoy this book, like I did, and I hope you never want to put it down till you have read it all!!!

We have more 'Lying About Last Summer' features coming up over the next few days, so pop back to read our interviews with Author, Sue Wallman, and her Editor, Lucy Rogers.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Carnegie 2016 Shadowing: Review –Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

Shadowing the Carnegie shortlist pushes me to read books that I wouldn’t pick up myself, and every year I discover a new author whose work really sparks my imagination. This year’s Spark Book for me is the magnificent ‘Fire Colour One’ by Jenny Valentine.   

‘Fire Colour One,’ with its tag line, ‘love is the greatest work of art’, presents itself as a heart-warming family drama, but it is actually a well disguised thriller.  The story is told from the perspective of Iris, who recounts the last weeks of her estranged father, Ernest’s, life.  Iris’s voice is compelling and uncompromising as she brandishes her anger and hurt; at meeting the father she’d never known, losing him within weeks whilst watching him wither as she undercovers lies and truths that rock the foundations of which her life is built.

Iris’s life isn’t a happy one, living in America with her mother Hannah and her step-father, Lowell, to whom she feels no connection and whose outlooks on life are so removed from her own.

‘it’s beyond them that someone would go the whole day without looking in the mirror. They wouldn’t dream of leaving the house with a layer of light-reflecting foundation and an accessory with a three-figure price tag. Looking good is the actual bedrock of their moral code. ‘

Lowell is an aspiring actor and their extravagant lifestyle is on the plastic never-never.  Iris is under no illusion that she’s loved, but is painfully aware that both her Mother and Step-Father blame her for their missed chances and failures. Iris copes with the anger that rages within her, by setting fires, it is her escape and peace. Her only friend is Thurston, a boy she met on the tube, an artist and charlatan in equal measure, whom accepts and embraces her for who she is.

Iris’s life is uprooted when Hannah and Lowell finally run out of credit, and they drag her across the Atlantic to England where they arrange to meet her father who abandoned them years before.  To Hannah’s delight, Iris’s father, Earnest, is on his death bed, and with them never having been divorced she and Iris are set on inherit everything; his enormous house and its walls full of priceless art. As Hannah marches around the house making infantries and valuing the collection, Iris spends time with Ernest, learning the truth that he never abandoned her and has spent that past twelve years and much of his fortune searching for her. Despite having no memory of her father, Iris believes him implicitly and her empathy is magnified by her futile search for Thurston.

Hannah is no fool and soon realises that the special connection Earnest and Iris shared before they left is resurfacing, and so she starts games, scheming to get the lion’s share of the inheritance. Iris has no interest in the money, and although she despises her mother’s behaviour is happy for her to take it all. Negotiating with the ailing Earnest, Hannah takes everything, the whole art collection with the exception of the new accusation, the unverified (and therefore worthless) ‘Fire Colour One.’

But Earnest has secrets too, brilliant ones, which bear no resemblance to his mild mannered and reserved nature, and he’s been scheming. From beyond the grave Earnest (with a little help from Thurston) sends Iris one last declaration of his love.

‘Fire Colour One,’ is an emotional and riveting read, with a superbly plotted twist. Its description and metaphors are steeped with artist references and leap into the mind in vibrant colour. Jenny Valentine has created a masterpiece, one part family drama, and one part thriller. A, ‘Thomas Crown affair,’ for teenagers.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Carnegie Shadowing - review - Five Children on the Western Front

Flying a solitary Carnegie flag for middle-grade fiction, Kate Saunders' hugely engaging 'Five Children on the Western Front' will have to hold its own if it is to take home the Carnegie Medal as the only book on the list not written with teens or young adults in mind.

This novel about families and wishes is a stunning follow-up to E Nesbit's classic 'Five Children and It' and was published to coincide with hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. Writing a follow-up to such a classic and well-loved story is not a challenge to take up lightly.

Its starting point is to take the original cast of characters, all grown up now and poignantly, of the generation of Edwardian children who would have been at the heart of the fighting, but the narrative cleverly takes up the story of the younger siblings, at first excited by the news of war.  

As a historical novel it is an exiting time very rich with possibility. Change is happening all around - from women's rights to social mobility, it's an exciting time to be a child. One of the girls finds determination not simply to offer charity to the sick, but to become a doctor herself. The tennis court is dug up to plant potatoes as shortages bite. No-one escapes the impact of the war.

But the heart of the story is the arrival in the children's lives of a sand fairy - a magical character taken from the original book, the Psammead, who can move people backwards and forwards in time. 

For years the younger children have been hearing stories about him and the adventures they had when he granted wishes. But when he re-appears it is not to take them on exciting adventures. He is unwell and needs looking after. Perhaps this time he is here with a bigger purpose?

The narrative engagingly entwines the social history of the day and fires up the imagination even more with the magical elements of the sand fairy. Kate Saunders effortlessly juggles a huge cast of characters that you grow to know and love throughout the novel

The fantasy twist lends a lightness and humour and makes it a really accessible and enjoyable book, which is, ultimately, a sad novel about loss and the impact of the War that packs quite an emotional punchSome lives may be short, but where they touch, they touch deeply.

The Psammead himself is undoubtedly the star of the show, prickly, ungracious and often unkind, but managing to grant enough wishes so that the children get to visit their older brother at Christmas in the trenches, and there is just enough magic to allow a few happy endings.

Will it win?

Does this war story with a magical twist pack enough of an emotional punch, deal realistically with historical social issues, yet still be an absorbing story to enthral younger readers? Can a book for younger readers impress the judges enough?

First published in 2014 it has already garnered awards, winning the Costa Children's Book Award of 2014 and going on to be shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2015. So it has already demonstrated it is no lightweight when it comes to prize-winning muscle.
It does all of the above and will be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates thought-provoking and moving children's fiction whatever their age - and is probably one of the best and most accessible books about the First World War, delivering a great sense of the loss and social upheaval, without being grim.

It may also cause children to seek out the original, or some of the other classic E Nesbit stories and may prove to be equally as timeless. Following up a classic and creating a totally new classic? Now that is a seriously impressive achievement.