If we had been in school right now all pupils in Years 6-8 would have a talk from the librarian on the Carnegie Medal: the oldest and most prestigious children’s book prize in the world. Their current ‘shortlist’ of eight novels has just been released, whittled down from a ‘longlist’ of 20, with the eventual winner being announced in June.
I usually read most of the novels selected and the purpose of this article is to give my brief thoughts on the current shortlist, and some of the others from the longlist, as if we were in school I would recommend them widely across the third term. We appreciate some books might be hard to locate, but Amazon are still delivering!
Pupils or parents can contact me anytime for recommendations from this list or any of the others on the Library Firefly page.
The Carnegie Medal Short List
The Black Flamingo, Dean Atta
I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s a novel written in poetry about a mixed-race gay teenage boy coming to terms with his identity. It has a great reputation.
Nowhere on Earth, Nick Lake
This was one of my favourites on the list. After a small plane crashes in a remote part of Alaska, two teenagers go on the run as they are being tracked by men out to kill them. The story wonderfully blends action, thriller, fantasy and science fiction. A few kids I spoke to really enjoyed this book and I was delighted to see them recommending it to their friends.
Lark, Anthony McGowan
Lark continues an existing series and is aimed at kids with dyslexia. I haven’t read it yet, but Anthony McGowan has visited Emanuel School twice over the years and I love his teenage fiction.
Patron Saints of Nothing, Randy Ribay (YEAR 8+)
Books about other cultures often do well in the Carnegie Medal and this powerful coming-of-age story is about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder when he visits the country his family originate from.
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black, Marcus Sedgwick
Marcus Sedgwick has probably been shortlisted more times than any other author without winning, but I will be surprised if this book breaks his duck, which blends the Second World War with fantasy and mythology, presenting it (almost) in graphic novel format when a boy’s mind begins to fracture after a bomb seemingly kills his little brother.
On the Come Up, Angie Thomas (YEAR 8+)
I loved this book, Angie Thomas’s brilliant follow-up to the superb Hate That You Give. Race is also a theme in this latest novel: a black teenage girl, Bri, enters a ‘battle of the bands’ style rap competition and soon her song begins to take off on social media and she begins to develop a reputation on the local music scene. Realistic, sweary and absolutely pulsing with music and attitude. Aimed at older readers.
Lampie, Annet Schaap
I haven’t read this one, but it is high up on my ‘To Be Read’ pile as it sounds great. A girl responsible for keeping a lighthouse flame going lets it go out and pays the price after being blamed for the sinking of a boat.
Boy. Girl. Sea. Chris Vick
This was an odd novel with both a cultural and magical feel to it which I enjoyed. A British boy narrowly survives the sinking of his yacht in a huge storm off the coast of Morocco and discovers a little girl clinging to a barrel and an engaging story of friendship and survival follows.
The Carnegie Medal Long List
Sadly, some amazing books were cut from the longlist including some of my favourites. Although they can no longer win the award, there are some amazing books to check out.
No Fixed Address, Susin Nielsen
I adored this book and it might have been my favourite of the entire 20. A thirteen-year-old Canadian boy has a mother with a host of personal problems and as a result they end up homeless and living in a camper van, which he tries to hide from his school friends. Along the way he enters a televised national quiz competition, which if he wins will use the money for a new home. Both moving and fabulous.
Lenny’s Book of Everything, Karen Foxlee
I fell in love with this quirky book and had a tear in my eye by the end. Set in the 1970s, it’s about a boy who has a medical condition in which he does not stop growing. It’s narrated by his sister and is quite beautiful. It’s also about collecting magazine encyclopaedia, which the kids of today might not understand. A brilliant, quite unique, book.
The Skylark’s War, Hilary McKay
The Skylarks’ War, which also won the Children’s Costa Award, is an engrossing story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War One in the south coast of England, after the main character disappears in the trenches of France and is presumed dead. But is he?
Monster: The passion and loss that created Frankenstein, Sharon Dogar
This is a very challenging novel and only the strongest of Year 8 should try it. This very detailed and captivating novel takes you inside the head of the teenager Mary Shelley, before and after she wrote Frankenstein. Historical fiction at its finest from an author who previously did something similar with Anne Frank.
Stepsister, Jennifer Donnelly
This very clever and challenging book, aimed at older kids, turns the Cinderella fairytale on its head and takes up where Cinderella’s tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella’s two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not, but she has other qualities which the novel explores, whilst she comes to terms with how treated her stepsister. Donnelly writes thoughtful and challenging YA fiction and is a previous winner of the Carnegie Medal with A Gathering Light.
Inkling, Kenneth Oppel
Inkling was a funny, gentle and quite easy read about a kid who is rubbish at drawing, but his father is a famous cartoonist. However, one day a magical drawing ink comes to life and 11-year-old Ethan tries to prove he’s just as talented as his dad as he deals with the trials of friendship, school and the ink thing. A very nice easy read for the Hill form.
Paper Avalanche, Lisa Williamson (YEAR 8+)
This is a beautifully realised family/friendship drama about a teenage girl with problems until she meets a former classmate who has recently recovered from cancer, and perhaps has even more problems than her.
A Pocketful of Stars, Aisha Bushby
A Pocketful of Stars was another very appealing family drama which I would recommend. Safiya and her mother have a complex relationship: both fiery women who spark off one another. But when her mother slips into a coma, Safiya is lost… until she discovers the magical perfume her mother wears might be the key to saving her by transporting her back in time to her mother’s homeland. A nice blend of family and fantasy.
Becoming Dinah, Kit de Waal (YEAR 8+)
This is another very quirky read, with a Moby Dick twang, about seventeen-year-old Dinah, who has been bought up in a commune, where she feels she has been restricted and isolated from the outside world. Feeling the pull of the wider world around her and is desperate for her own freedom and goes on the run. Although it’s relatively light, it’s aimed at older pupils and has racial and LGBT themes.
Toffee, Sarah Crossan
Sarah Crossan is one of the most popular authors in the library, with Apple and Rain and One being firm favourites. This latest novel follows Allison, a runaway who ends up alone and penniless in an unknown area after she is let down by a friend. However, she forms a friendship with Marla, who suffers from dementia and doesn’t remember Allison from one day to the next.
Mr Jones (Senior Librarian and Archivist)