Archive for the ‘Carnegie and Greenaway awards’ Category

Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Slog’s Dad

Author: David Almond and Dave McKean (illustrator)

Do you believe there’s life after death? Slog does. He reckons that the scruffy bloke sitting outside the pork shop is his dad come back to visit him for one last time- just like he’d said he would, just before he died. Slog’s mate Davie isn’t convinced. But how does this man know everything Slog’s dad would know? Because Slog says it really is his dad, that’s how.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Visually it is superb, the style very similar to ‘The Savage’, another Almond and McKean collaboration and I book that I adored. I love that some pictures look almost photographic until you look at the faces. I love the mainly green undertones that make the other colours stand out all the more. For once I also like that the pictures stand alone, with the story they tell told in an almost storyboard fashion. It is through these pictures that you see Slog’s pain at the death of his Dad, his hopes and dreams that one day he will return. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that the actual story is told by Davie, Slog’s best friend. The story told in words, is slightly more detached, it’s the pictures that give you an emotional context to the book.

It’s the story I have mixed feelings about. I think I understand the intention, but I found certain element quite creepy. This man looks nothing like Slog’s Dad and parts of Davie’s story seem to imply he is just indeed a random man. I think that the intention is just to show how someone can do something nice for a grieving small boy. That they can give them the comfort of knowing that there is something better out there. But I found the notion that someone could pretend in that way quite disturbing. This is a book set around 50 years ago however so maybe I placing my own more modern conception of mistrust unfairly in this case.

This shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is a very moving story that speaks very eloquently of love and loss.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 64
Genre: Graphic Novel, Death
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Midnight Zoo

Sonya Hartnett

World War II, Eastern Europe: Tomas and his younger brother, Andrej, have fled their Romany encampment which has been besieged by the Germans; they carry Wilma, their baby sister, in a sack. In an abandoned, bombed-out town, the children discover a zoo. In it are a wolf and an eagle, a monkey, bear, lioness, seal, chamois and llama. The animals tell their stories to the children as they try to begin to understand what has become of their lives and, when they try to figure out a way to release the animals, what it means to be free.

Tomas and Andrej are brothers. Hiding in the forest they watched the Romany camp they live in be pulled apart and dragged off by Nazi soldiers. They carry with them their baby sister Wilma. They are lost and confused not understanding the world that they live in. Then they come across a zoo on the outskirts of a destroyed village, but this isn’t any old zoo, in this zoo the animals can talk.

I really struggled with this book. Had it not been on the Carnegie shortlist I’m not sure I would have finished it. It took me three weeks to read, an incredibly long time for me, especially as at 192 pages this is a really short book. I’m not sure why I struggled so much. This is a beautifully written, thought provoking book, from a distance I can tell that it is incredibly well written. That, however, I think may be the problem, I view this book from a distance. All through the book I felt emotionally detached; I didn’t ‘feel’ the storyline or the characters. I kept waiting for it to suddenly click, but it never did. It shouldn’t be a problem with the writing, this is a book that has been crafted rather than written so I’m assuming it’s the subject matter. I am not an animal lover so maybe it is that. I also found the idea of two young boys, at the ages of 10 and 12, looking after a baby fairly unbelievable. But then this may well appeal to the intended audience and after all this is a book where animals can talk so is based it a world out of the realms of the ordinary anyway.

The story does have a magical, almost dreamlike quality and this is highlighted by the very simple but beautiful illustrations. The copy that I read was in hardback (another thing I usually dislike!) but I can’t imagine how this would translate to a paperback. I’m assuming the publishers feel the same given the time lapse between the publication of the hardback and now. Visually this is a stunningly striking book.

Verdict: Beautifully written and visually stunning. A magical, dreamlike story that I just didn’t quite connect with emotionally.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: November 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 192
Genre: War
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Small Change For Stuart

Lissa Evans

Stuart Horten – ten years old and small for his age – moves to the dreary town of Beeton, far away from all his friends. And then he meets his new next-door neighbours, the unbearable Kingley triplets, and things get even worse.
But in Beeton begins the strangest adventure of Stuart’s life as he is swept up in quest to find his great-uncle’s lost workshop – a workshop stuffed with trickery and magic. There are clues to follow and puzzles to solve, but what starts as fun ends up as danger, and Stuart begins to realize that he can’t finish the task by himself . . .

Stuart Horten is a very short boy with very tall parents who has just moved far away to the place where his father grew up. There he finds that his family have a long history. His great-uncle, the fabulous magician Teeny Tiny Tony Horton and his glamorous assistant Lily disappeared years ago and Stuart is convinced there was something mysterious about their vanishing. He becomes convinced that finding his great-uncles long lost workshop holds the key and starts on adventure, joined by his ten year old neighbour and a blind elderly woman, to find it.

This is a truly lovely book. It’s perfect for children of Junior School age, but there is also an innocence to it that should charm adults. Lissa Evans has done a fantastic job at getting into the head of a ten year old boy who feels slightly outside of the world of ‘normal’ ten year olds because he is small and has slightly odd parents. Stuart has a naiveté that should appeal to both adults and children. The story enters the realm of magic and fantasy based in the normal human world, but is never totally unbelievable. More you get swept along with the story and want to believe when you reach the only part of the story that delves into the fantastical.

This is a fairly short book at 288 pages, unsurprising given who it is aimed at. It’s written in such a way that makes it an incredibly easy read and I finished it in less than two hours. It is very definitely a children’s book, but it’s the kind of book that you want to be able to read to your children, just so you are able to share in the magic too. Still not my favourite Carnegie shortlisted book so far, that remains ‘Between Shades of Grey’, ‘Small Change for Stuart’ currently comes in as a very close second.

Verdict: Innocent and charming, a book that will take both children and adults on a magical adventure.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: April 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Magic, Fantasy
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: Debut Author
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Carnegie and Greenaway Award: Wolf Won’t Bite

Emily Gravett

Take your seat in the front row and watch in wonder as three cheeky little circus pigs make a wild wolf jump through hoops (literally), endure feats of astounding derring-do, and even withstand perilous games of dress-up. Safe in the thought that “Wolf Won’t Bite!” they even put their heads between his jaws…but can you push a wolf too far? Sure to strike a chord with anyone who has both a pet and a young child, this is a very funny and playful story with a snappy ending!
Some pigs from a circus seem to have managed to get hold of a wolf, watch them tame the wolf in their circus act. Because of course Wolf Won’t Bite…Will it?

This is a picture book perfect in it’s simplicity. The illustrations are set against a stark white background using a colour scheme of black, pink and red. The colours that you may well associate with the circus. This makes the pictures very clear and they tell the story alone.

This is a picture book where the words are there to add to the pictures rather than the other way round. Child or adult you know how the story will end but you still want to carry on to see just how far the pigs can push the wolf. Its simplicity means that this could be read to a fairly young child and they could understand and enjoy it, but it’s also perfect for children a bit older too, the repetition of lines within the story should appeal to them. his is another one that will be coming home to read to the four year old when shadowing is finished.

Verdict: Simple yet stunning.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: MacMillian Children’s Books
Publication Date: February 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age:Picture book
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece

Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a’Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory.
Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago.
When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

Five years ago Rose died. One moment that tore Jamie’s family apart. Now his Mum has left them, his Dad is an alcoholic and the only person there for him is his sister Jas, who was Rose’s twin. But nobody understands why he doesn’t cry for Rose, why he doesn’t miss her, because they remember her and he doesn’t, he was too young when she died. Now they have moved to the Lake District for a new start, to make things better, only it doesn’t seem to be working. Jamie still has deal with school bullies and his mother’s indifference. And just how does he explain to his father that his only friend is a Muslim, especially after Islamic terrorists killed his sister.

People have been telling me that I should read this book for months, that it is a heartbreaking, moving story that just deserves to be read. Yet I’d been putting it off because I hated the cover. Yep that’s right, me, a school librarian that tells kids daily that they shouldn’t judge a book by a cover was put off by a cover. I was so relieved when the Carnegie books were delivered and I found that they had changed the cover for the paperback. One I could get excited about reading it now and two the cover actually matches the story that I’d been told about.

And the story. I’m beginning to wonder if the Carnegie judges have shares in Kleenex this year as this is yet another shortlisted book that can’t help but move you to tears. I keep wondering if all the Year 7’s shadowing the Awards will give up due to the bleakness of some of the books but they are just so well written that they keep coming back for more. This is no exception. The book is written from Jamie’s point of view and by the end you feel as though you know him inside out. However this doesn’t stop you from getting to know other characters in the book just as well. Jamie is an incredibly perceptive character so you get to know characters close to him really well too. This book is about how death can tear a family apart and using a younger brother who barely even knew his dead older sister is a very effective way of adding enough distance to see the subtleties in characters behaviour yet keeping close enough to show the devastation that an event like this can cause.

Without going into details I loved the ending to this book. It had such an element of hope to it yet at the same time nothing was perfect, it wasn’t a happy ever after, as after all life isn’t like that. I may have been reluctant to read this book but I’m glad I did, it may have made me cry but it left me feeling that life may not be perfect, but it really isn’t all that bad.

Verdict: At time a laugh out loud story, a times a total tearjerker, a book that deals with the devastation of loss, but reminds you of all you have to live for.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Family, Relationships
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Puffin Peter

Petr Horacek

Peter and Paul are the best of friends, but when Peter gets lost in a terrible storm he can’t find Paul anywhere. With the help of a big blue whale Puffin Peter set off to find him. They find all kinds of birds that match Peter’s description but none of them is quite like Paul.

This is a heart warming story of two puffins called Peter and Paul who are separated by a terrible storm. Peter finds a big blue whale who wants to help, so Peter describes Paul to him, but he just can’t quite seem to get the description right and they find lots of birds but none of them are Paul. Just as Peter is about to give up he spies an island and on it is his friend. So the big blue whale wants to know why didn’t Peter tell him that Paul was a Puffin?

The pictures in this book are really colourful with lots of detail that really adds to the story. This makes it easy to discuss the story with little one’s when you are reading to them. The theme of friendship is strong throughout as Peter travels the seas in search of his friend. He describes his friend in detail to the big blue whale but they still aren’t successful in finding him, the issue could however have been solved by saying that Paul was a puffin in the first place. This is an effective way of showing a preschooler that sometimes it’s the simplest way of explaining things that count.

Verdict: This isn’t my favourite of the Greenaway books but I’ll still be borrowing this when shadowing is finished to read to my preschooler.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Book
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Everybody Jam

Ali Lewis

Danny Dawson lives in the middle of the Australian outback. His older brother Jonny was killed in an accident last year but no-one ever talks about it.
And now it’s time for the annual muster. The biggest event of the year on the cattle station, and a time to sort the men from the boys. But this year things will be different: because Jonny’s gone and Danny’s determined to prove he can fill his brother’s shoes; because their fourteen-year-old sister is pregnant; because it’s getting hotter and hotter and the rains won’t come; because cracks are beginning to show . . .

When Danny’s mum admits she can’t cope, the family hires a housegirl to help out – a wide-eyed English backpacker. She doesn’t have a clue what she’s let herself in for. And neither do they.

Danny is thirteen and still trying to cope after the death of his older brother last year. He has an older sister Sissy who is pregnant at fourteen. Its summer in Australia and the rains aren’t coming. The annual muster at the cattle station at which Danny lives is about to happen and Danny is determined to show his Dad that he is growing up and that he can live up to the shadow of Jonny, his older brother. Amongst all of this enters an English housegirl, she hasn’t got a clue how an Australian cattle ranch his run. But maybe she is what Danny needs to help both him and his family heal.

I really struggled to get into this book. It took me over a week to get to page 50 which is most unlike me. In fact had it not been on the Carnegie shortlist I probably would have given up. I am however glad I didn’t, although slow to start Everybody Jam turned into a poignant coming of age tale that grew and grew on me. I found the language hard to start with, Ali Lewis seems determined to get as much Australian slang in there as possible, you won’t forget where the book is set, but after a while this ceased to matter.

Danny is a very strong protagonist and a typical young boy. Lewis has captured the confused nature of his emotions incredibly well and whilst he isn’t always likeable, he is an incredibly real character. Everything is told from his point of view, so the story comes out in stages, I think this did contribute to the slow start but was effective by the end. In spite of this supporting characters are also drawn very well. Lewis uses the drought at the ranch to show the state of Danny’s family. As the cracks show in the earth, so they do in the household. It is only when the family starts to heal that the rain comes too.

It won’t be my favourite off the list, I’ve already read better. But Everybody Jam is worth getting through a slow start.

Verdict: Slow to start but the effort is worth it. A moving, poignant tale of a boy coming of age and family relationships.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Andersen
Publication Date: March 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: Debut Author
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: There Are No Cats in this Book

Viviane Schwarz

Our furry friends from There Are Cats in This Book – Tiny, Moonpie and André – have returned, and this time they are filled with the spirit of adventure – they are off to see the world! They have their suitcases packed and are ready to set off – but they can’t seem to get out of the book. They try pushing their way out, and jumping their way out but nothing works. Finally they decide to WISH themselves out and they are going to need your help!

I absolutely adore this book; in fact I think it may well end up being my favourite of all the Greenaway books this year. This follows on from ‘There Are Cats in This Book’ which was on the shortlist for the Greenaway Award last year. The title is of course misleading to a degree as there are cats in this book. This time however the cats want to escape and see the world and they need your help.

The pictures in this book are great, simple but tell a story all on their own. There is a very basic storyline, but what is the most important is the way that it is told. The cats in this book talk directly to the reader, something that is bound to appeal to little ones, but again a class full of 11 year old loved it too. In fact when the cats ask them to close their eyes and make a wish they did just that with no cajoling from me! It involves the reader in the story so that they can feel as though they have contributed to how it turns out. It has pop ups and postcards which also will appeal to pre-schoolers.

Verdict: A really lovely simple book that makes the reader feel as though they are part of the story.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: June 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age:Picture books
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Between Shades Of Gray


Ruta Sepetys

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.
An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.
Lina hopes for her family. For her country. For her future. For love – first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose…Will hope keep Lina alive?

Lina lives a happy life in Lithuania, the daughter of a university professor she enjoys life as any teenager her age would at that time. But now Stalin has annexed Lithuania and all people who pose any kind of threat to his regime must be dealt with. Lina, her brother and Mother are woken one night by Soviet Guards, put into cattle cars on a train as their lives as they knew them will never be the same again.

This is a beautifully written story and I defy anyone not too need tissues at the ready by the end. The subject matter is bleak, undeniably, but there is such strength and hope held within the book too. Although the conditions within the work camps in Siberia are horrific and described as such, the focus within the book is on how people will band together and help each other, even when they have very little themselves. A book such as this could have quite easily focused on the darker side of human nature, yet here you are even left feeling some level of sympathy for one of the guards in the camp. The quality of the writing really brings the story alive and it is very obvious that a huge amount of research was done in writing the book, as it feels very real.

Lina is a really strong central character. She is very real and hasn’t been romanticised in any way. She is far from perfect and doesn’t always do the right thing. This only serves to make her more believable.

The only aspect that I found slightly disappointing was the ending. The theme of hope is carried through right to the end and the ending does give the reader hope that there is life at the end of the tunnel for these characters. I don’t feel that the epilogue was needed though. Those two pages on their own raised questions that I wanted answering, questions I wouldn’t have had had it not been included. I don’t know if there are plans for a second book, if there are it could explain the epilogues inclusion.

Verdict: Haunting and beautifully written. A bleak book that at the same time highlights the better side of human nature.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: April 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Solomon Crocodile

Catherine Raynor

Poor Solomon is looking for some fun but no one wants to play. The dragonflies tell him to buzz off, the storks get in a flap, and the hippo? Well, the less said about the hippo, the better! But then somebody else starts causing trouble . . . and for once it is NOT Solomon. Could it be the perfect pal for a lonely crocodile?

Solomon wants to play, but instead he ends up annoying the other animals. Solomon is sad. But then he starts to hear the other animals shouting, and this time it isn’t at him. Has Solomon found the perfect friend? And what will the other animals think of that?

This is a truly lovely picture book; the pictures are very simple but tell the story so well. The story is also very simple, told in very short sentences. This makes it perfect for very young children, yet I had a class full of 12 year olds entranced when this was read to them. The fact that Solomon causes trouble and doesn’t make any apologies for it is very appealing to children of all ages. This doesn’t have a moral message in the same way that some books aimed at children do, but it doesn’t suffer for that and in some ways this approach is quite refreshing.

Verdict: Simple and attractive kids of all ages will love it.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: MacMillan children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Early Readers
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: none
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