Sunday, 22 June 2014

Which book will win the CILIP Carnegie medal 2014?

I don't know! But I'm going to take a punt.

First off, while we've read and reviewed all of the Carnegie shortlist, neither of us has independently read all of them so we couldn't have a proper 'judging chat' this year. But here's my comparative recap and the heavily subjective approach I've taken this year.

We have reviewed each of the shortlisted titles and you can find links to all of them on our dedicated CILIP Carnegie page.We'd read and reviewed four of the shortlisted books before the nominations were announced in November 2013 and we haven't reread any of them - so there's some hazy memory recall going on (most definitely not what the actual judges will be relying on).

Back in May 2013, I read the first few chapters of The Child's Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston. I have a thing when I start reading middle grade or YA review books: if the first few pages (or chapters) read like a book that Little M will fall in love with more than me, I pass it on to her. Sometimes, it just feels like she should be the first one to read it and rave about it to me and anyone else, rather than the other way around. And she did. She still raves about The Child's Elephant. I haven't finished reading it primarily because I know it's not my personal winner, and the poignant relationship between a village boy and a baby elephant keeps making me cry. But, everything about The Child's Elephant is beautiful. It could well be someone else's winner.

Next up was Rebecca Stead's Liar & Spy. Both of us started reading this but stopped after a few chapters because of a slow pace. However, I picked it up again and the rest (and the whole of the book) is extraordinarily good.

Then to Blood Family by Anne Fine where I found I was skipping large sections of the final part, was unconvinced by the plot twist (though that could have been a marketing issue), and the writing wasn't as smooth as some of the other shortlisted titles. I did not enjoy the subject matter but Little M thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

The last novel I read before the nominations were announced was Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper. I loved it, it was one of the best stories I'd read in a while and at that point, it was top of my pick for the Carnegie (despite preferring the first part a lot more than the second).

After the nominations, the first title I sought out was Julie Berry's All the Truth That's in Me. I was captivated from start to finish. It was incredibly intense and stirring, the structure of the novel added an almost intrinsic element to it, and I loved it very much. There were some aspects that made the plot a little full at times but, oh, that voice.....Ghost Hawk slipped a spot on my list and All the Truth That's in Me was the one to beat.

Then came Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. Most definitely, this is the novel that I imagine becoming a modern children's classic: it has probably every element that I love in children's fiction (although I was unconvinced by the fight scene).

From the warmth and brightness of Rooftoppers, I ventured onto The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks. I was very afraid and I should have been! But, I was also incredibly surprised. As with Blood Family, I really disliked the subject matter but the writing's changing structure and form were very clever and took the novel to another level for me. However, the ending was flat with many unanswered questions. I liked to see the novel as metaphysical but I don't think it was intended to be interpreted that way. An accessible but challenging read for all sorts of reasons, not least of which are linked to literary questions.

And finally, The Wall by William Sutcliffe: an important story, eloquently and beautifully told but for me, some of the plot elements were distracting.

I think it's wide open this year. I woulkd highly recommend seven of the eight novels to different readers. But, "Throw your heart out in front of you and run to catch it" says Bat's grandmother in The Child's Elephant. I'm doing just that. If I'm throwing my heart out, I'll almost always go with the 'voice'. So for me, it's All the Truth That's In Me (but with Sophie and all Charles' Maxim's possibles chasing close behind).

What are your favourites?


  1. All the truth that's in me was a really brilliant book! I would be happy if that one, definitely. Ghost Hawk, I also really enjoyed.
    At the start of the year I told myself I'd find all of the Carnegie nommed books and try and read them all, but I've completely failed trying to do that! xD I have Rooftoppers on my to-read pile, though, and I'm hoping to get around to that soon - because I've seen a lot of people who've said that's bound to win, or come very close, too.

    1. I bet, bet, bet that you love Rooftoppers. And good on you to have given the shadowing a go. Following set reading lists is difficult, especially if you haven't got a really good group around you for chats about the same books. I missed having mine and Little M's judging chat this year - though she's read Rooftoppers and All the Truth and loved both of those too.


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