2008 Carnegie Medal for children's books
With the announcement of the 2008 Carnegie Medal we review the winning book and take a look at the shortlist
Philip Reeve has been awarded the 2008 Carnegie Medal, the most prestigious of the children's book prizes, which is longlisted and judged by children's librarians who know their audience, care passionately about books – and tend not to hang out at publishing launch parties.
‘Here lies Arthur’ (Scholastic, age 12+) is sensitive and cynical, bloody and beautiful, humorous and lyrical. These apparent contradictions add up to a novel which was an entirely unexpected pleasure. Not another version of the King Arthur and Merlin story, I thought, and read everything else on the shortlist first. But ‘Here lies Arthur’ seduced me completely. What makes Reeve's book exceptional is the way he simultaneously lays bare the smoke and mirrors of the not-so-noble art of spindoctoring and delivers his own, utterly convincing and hauntingly atmospheric version of events. Reeve’s novel – which, refreshingly, has a female protagonist – is an exploration of mythmaking that more sophisticated readers will enjoy for the quality of the writing and the bite of its political overtones while younger ones will be captivated by a well-told, gripping adventure.
The other books on the short list are:‘Gatty’s Tale’ by Kevin Crossley-Holland (Orion) Age 10+An impressionistic picture of medieval life, set in 1203, as nine companions leave their Welsh home to make the pilgrimage across Europe to Jerusalem. The events are seen through the eyes of Gatty, a field-girl – and a heroine with a gutsy appeal that will put you in mind of Philip Pullman’s Lyra – who discovers that it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.‘Ruby Red’ by Linzi Glass (Penguin) Age 12+Ruby’s white, the painter being sheltered by her parents in their luxurious Johannesburg home is black – but her liberal parents are ambivalent about their daughter’s new Afrikaans friends. A sledgehammer condemnation of apartheid in a novel that is otherwise otherwise very readable.
‘Crusade’ by Elizabeth Laird (Macmillan) Age 10+The siege of Acre provides the setting for an adventure that brings together two boys, one Muslim, the other Christian. A gripping plot is combined with a thoughtful exploration of two religious perspectives (Laird finds more to admire in that of the Muslims).
‘Apache’ by Tanya Landman (Walker) Age 12+The engrossing story of a 14-year-old Apache Indian girl warrior who sets out to avenge the murder of her little brother .So beautifully written you don’t simple arrive at an understanding of a previously unimaginable way of life , you start to think like an Apache. Disconcertingly powerful, with a lasting emotional impact.
‘What I Was’ by Meg Rosoff (Penguin) Age 12+An exceptional coming-of-age novel with a particularly atmospheric setting: a seedy boarding school on the East Anglian coast. Rosoff’s book looks at the experience being an outsider and the universal adolescent quest for an authentic and comfortable identity in a powerfully original way .
‘Finding Violet Park’ by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins) Age 12+Lucas Swain, almost 16, has an absent father and a mother who is disconcertingly frank about the trials of life for woman whose husband has disappeared. Lucas’ discovery of the ashes of an old lady is the starting point for a story that negotiates the painful experience that family life can be for some adolescents with humour and sensitivity.
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