Friday, 29 April 2016

Huge Congrats to Nicki Thornton for making the Chicken House Longlist!

It is a badly kept secret that all of the blog authors at Space on the Bookshelf are also writers, all undergoing the quest as we desperately navigate the slushpile searching for the Writers Holy Grail, a publishing contract, (or at the very least a sniff of interest).

Over the years the four main contributors to the blog, Clare, Jo, Nicki and me have been happy to accrue a bundle of long-listings, shortlisting and the occasional win.

Usually we don’t shout from the rooftops about any writing milestones we may make on Space on The Bookshelf, but today we have received some great news that warrants a little bit of a shelfie celebration.

Our Lovely Nicki, has made it on to the The Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition Short List!

It Is an amazing accomplishment, and we are all totally thrilled, and we hope you will all join us in celebrating Nicki’s achievement and wishing her luck in the next stage of the competition.

Congratulations Nicki!

On and Finger Crossed!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Carnegie 2016 Shadowing: Review - The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

After storming its way to win the title of overall best book of 2015 in the Costa Book awards, it's a delight that Frances Hardinge's 'The Lie Tree' is on the shortlist for the  CLIP Carnegie Medal, awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. Because this is a book that deserves to be read and enjoyed widely.

The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

One of the best and cleverest things about 'The Lie Tree' is that it has the pace and page-turning absotbtion of a thriller, but Frances Hardinge cleverly uses the murder-mystery platform to weave in truly complex themes - scientific jealousy, how lies can damage small communities, and the role of women in Victorian society. And deals with these big issues in a really gripping way

The main character is a feisty heroine, courageous, intelligent and stubborn. Faith would love to be a scientist and serious, like her father. She rather despises her mother's fripparies and choice of pursuits. But in Victorian times, this is definitely a man's world and Faith may know a lot about science, but she has much to learn about society.

Faith can be more intelligent than most of the people around her and know and learn plenty, but she's encouraged to keep these talents a secret. It's a real challenge to be taken seriously, particularly when she becomes convinced her father has been murdered. 

But as she starts to investigate on the sly, she learns what women can be good at - manipulating and working behind the scenes and secretly doing things no-one would expect a woman to do. She sets about covertly trying to find out what her father was really working on and who might have guessed his secret.  Because, as a woman, no-one really suspects what she is up to.

Without any of her growing number of enemies knowing, she gets closer to bringing her father's secretive scientific studies to fruition, while also plotting how to reveal what really happened to her father.

This is a page-turner with a serious heart. It's a thought-provoking and imaginative tale that manages to weave a historical scientific adventure with a thread of feminism and fantasy. Not an easy thing to pull off, but Frances Hardinge does it with lashings of style.

There is much discussion about the elusive 'cross-over' novel - one that can be read and enjoyed by both children and adults. But these are more rare than you might think. It is not an easy path to walk to write something that can be enjoyed on so many levels - being both simple and complex at the same time, but 'The Lie Tree', in its complexity and ambition, moves writing for children definitely into an adult sphere, yet bringing also a page-turning quality. 

So can Frances pull it off - 'The Lie Tree' being the best novel of the year and being the best novel for children?

We will wait and see, but whatever happens it should bring many new readers to Frances Hardinge's tremendous writing. She is well worth discovering.

Really enjoyable, very clever, and a seriously impressive read.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Carnegie 2016 Shadowing: Review - One - Sarah Crossan

Spring time is here, and that means it's the season for awards, most notably the CLIP Carnegie Award, and so we commence our annual shadowing of the shortlist.

Our first Carnegie shortlist reviews is the adptly name ONE by Sarah Crossan. I’ve been a fan of Sarah Crossan’s work since I reviewed ‘The Weight of Water’ for our 2013 Carnegie coverage [to read press here]. I’m not the only one, as she made it on to the Carnegie shortlist again this year with Apple and Rain which Claire reviewed a few weeks ago [press here to read].

One of the things I love about Sarah’s work is that she tells her story through verse, initially I was concerned that it may make the novels stodgy and difficult to read but I could not be more wrong. As the poems are short they minimise description therefore getting to the action, story and emotional heart of book without long wordy passages making them easy to read.  Each poem tells an extract of the story, together building up to deliver the whole story. Using this unique form of storytelling, Sarah Crossan tackles subjects which become dark and gritty in a little and engaging way.
Sarah’s latest book, ‘One’ is told in this way, it brings you into the mind of teenager Grace, displaying her insecurities and all her teenage anxieties  as she deals with her complicated family life and her twin sister Tippi. Being sisters and twins, Grace and Tippi have a strong bond, they have all the issues any other siblings face, and a good few more besides as they are conjoined. One, shows Graces inner feelings as she and Tippi venture to school for the first time, and as her family’s situation spirals when her mum is made redundant, and with medical bills piling up her Dads drinking problem worsens, even their younger sister Dragon has to work.

Seeing her family struggle, Grace persuades Tippi to allow a journalist to make a documentary about them, but as the camera’s begin to roll Graces secret is unveiled, and her health begins to fail, jeopardising both her and Tippi’s life.

One, is a moving story, it depicts the complications that life brings being conjoined, but it also explores the themes of family, love and individuality.