Tag Archives: Carnegie Medal

Shortlisted, and short in general

The Carnegie Medal shortlist turned up on ‘our doorsteps’ last week. Perhaps it didn’t get as much attention as it usually does, or deserves, due to other things in the news.

It’s a good one, though. And I say that having only read three of the eight; Anthony McGowan, Angie Thomas and Annet Schaap. (Clearly I went for the As.)

What is sad, is that whoever wins the medal, there won’t – in all likelihood – be an awards ceremony. I’ve never been, and regret it. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to know that even though you’re on the shortlist, you won’t be experiencing the celebration of the Carnegie.

On a more general basis, it’s the way it is for those students, who are now not taking GCSEs, A-Levels or a university degree this spring/summer. Students on other levels, will presumably, hopefully, be able to celebrate theirs next year or the year after, with only a longish pause in the studying.

I’m not sure I believe they should try to be a school at home. In my last year of compulsory education, we had a five week hiatus after our teachers were locked out in a strike action scenario. I have a horrible suspicion I was the only one who tried to study at home. And for what? Anything of importance had to be covered by teachers when we returned to school.

Missing your prom, or graduation, or anything else, is disappointing. But so is being dead.

The long Carnegie

Well, I have read four of the books on the Carnegie Medal longlist for 2020. They were all excellent. As I’m sure the others on there are as well. Just wish I’d had the opportunity to read a few more. (I know. I could have kept myself properly informed and gone out and got them.)

The list for the 2020 Kate Greenaway Medal is far worse, when it comes to me. Not a single book. But presumably twenty really good ones, nevertheless.

Speaking Up

Elizabeth Acevedo and Dean Atta

Dean Atta loved ‘Elizabeth Acevedo’s brother,’ and she in turn loved ‘his uncle.’ That’s their fictional family members. I reckon these two could easily have chatted to/interviewed each other in the Speaking Up event on Thursday. As Elizabeth said when her awards were listed, ‘this isn’t awkward at all!’

They are both debut authors, writing in verse. Elizabeth won the Carnegie Medal this year for Poet X, while Dean’s first book has only been in the shops a week. I’d like to think that’s why I’d not heard of it, or him.

I like the sound of it, though, and The Black Flamingo looks fantastic in pink. It features a black, gay character, who never got that Barbie he wanted at six. And when he’s an adult he starts doing drag, just like Dean. The idea behind the black flamingo is that colour doesn’t matter. Dean read short extracts from the book, covering several age stages of his character. Elizabeth kept nodding and murmuring her approval throughout, which proves how differently a novel in verse comes across.

Elizabeth Acevedo

In Elizabeth’s reading she gave her character Xiomara a rather different accent than I’d been expecting. Done like this it would make for a great audiobook. She said she’d had no choice about writing poetry, having been ‘forced to sing to plants’ at the age of five, and realising the following day that she didn’t remember what she’d made up, because she couldn’t write. ‘Poetry is being aware of your thoughts.’

She said she used to be so nervous reading in front of people that her hands shook and she couldn’t see what was on the paper, which led her to learning the words by heart. This made her confidence grow. Elizabeth pointed out that you can look at global leaders and see if they read poetry. Or read at all. Empathy makes us human.

Dean Atta

Dean said it was important for him to have a gay main character. He had read books featuring black characters before, but felt that Poet X was special. His next books are two picture books, written for his nieces. And he’s been inspired by his mother, and by Maya Angelou. Teachers can help with confidence boosting by sharing their own problems, such as dyslexia.

Elizabeth’s inspiration comes from hiphop; people who don’t conform. Her next book will actually be in prose, as it was written before Poet X. ‘Big prose,’ she calls it. Reading a lot could help make boys softer [in a good way].

The final question from someone in the audience was a request for Dean to come to her school and do a workshop. Let’s hope he does!

(Photos by Helen Giles)

The 2019 Carnegie and Greenaway medalists

Carnegie/Greenaway 2019

Congratulations to Elizabeth Acevedo and Jackie Morris for their new medals! Much deserved.

Jackie Morris and Elizabeth Acevedo

Bookwitch bites #145

Books for teens? Not as popular as they were?

It’s tough for YA authors, and as is pointed out in this Guardian article, they are giving up. It’s no longer enough to have a burning ambition and plenty of ideas. You need to eat and pay the rent, too. With publishers not so active at promoting the books they publish, they sell less well. Not surprising. I practically have to drag both information and books out of their hands.

Kirkland Ciccone isn’t giving up, however. Next month he is back with another YA day in Cumbernauld. He’s lined up six – or seven – authors (it’s hard to know where you are with Philip Caveney and Danny Weston) to come and entertain students from local schools for a day. Yay! YA+

Last night I’d half hoped to attend Noir at the Bar in Edinburgh, had it not been for last minute builder issues. I’ve so far missed every one of these evenings, but am sure one day, evening, I will be there. I had been under the impression it was all noir [crime], but having had coffee with Moira McPartlin the same morning, and learned that she was there to be noir about her Star of Hope where there is a lot of death – cannibals, even? – she reckoned that you could noir pretty much about anything. (And she’s going to be in Cumbernauld for Yay! YA+…)

More good YA news for John Young, who has just won the Scottish Teenage Book Prize for Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist. Very good book.

The Carnegie/Kate Greenaway medal has only got as far as its longlist, but that’s good enough for me. I like seeing how right I was from the nominations, and also to see how many I’ve read. This year, more than expected. And I can’t name one I prefer, which is probably as it should be.

Yesterday’s top ‘news’ was the date for Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust, The Secret Commonwealth, which will be with us in just over seven months! Put October 3rd in your diaries.

While you wait, buy a few YA novels to keep those authors going.

Some Carnegie nominations thoughts

To begin with I suspected it would turn out that I hadn’t read very many of the books on the Carnegie medal nominations list. I am more than aware of how unaware I am these days, not keeping up with developments, and not being kept up on them either.

But from the rather long list of highly thought of books, I’ve read quite a few. 21 to be precise. No, I see it’s 22. Sorry. I have several more on the top layer of my tbr pile. I don’t feel shamed by my ignorance, even if I’d quite like to have got into closer contact with many more nominated novels.

Timing is odd, though. Some of the books feel very recent, while some feel actually surprisingly old. I’m sure it’s still the case that they all fall into a 12-month period, but I tend to think ‘Oh, is that still considered recent?’ and ‘Hmm, that got on the list pretty fast.’ But that will just be me.

And I apologise for my silence on the Kate Greenaway nominations. There is a link on the page, but it doesn’t work. And as happens every year, my Googling techniques seem to get me nowhere.

It’ll be interesting to see who makes it to the longlist. I have several books that I would like to win. I suppose that will turn out to be impossible.

Where the World Ends

Geraldine McCaughrean isn’t kind to her characters. The ones in her Carnegie-winning Where the World Ends are not purely fictional. Something like her story did happen for real. And if you want to know what, I suppose you can look it up. Or you could pay close attention as you read the book, and that might give you useful hints.

That’s what I admire about really good authors; the fact that if it’s in there, however small, it’s probably there for a reason. Or you could be like me and simply plod blindly on and wonder and hope for the best. Will she kill all those boys she has marooned on a faraway sea stac off St Kilda, or will they survive? How many of the nine will still live at the end of the book?

It’s less Lord of the Flies than I’d been afraid, because there are three grown men with the boys. Although being men does not necessarily make them more sensible in times of hardship and struggle.

Geraldine McCaughrean, Where the World Ends

Set nearly three hundred years ago, these boys were already used to a hard life, but as their three weeks on Warrior Stac turns into nine months, life becomes almost impossible at times, even for those used to being cold and wet and hungry.

You learn a lot about sea birds, and not just in the first sentence where Quilliam’s mother gives him a new pair of socks and ‘a puffin to eat on the voyage…’

Quill is a lovely and resourceful and unusually mature older boy, and so special that I found it hard to imagine he would be allowed to live. The other boys are the way boys often are, a little mix of everything, including the one who’s a bully. But they have such strength and so many skills, climbing and hunting for anything in this bird world that might make their survival possible.

It’s a beautiful but harsh place, and I have absolutely no wish to go there. I’ll take Geraldine’s story and that will be quite enough. I know why it won her the Carnegie medal, and so will you when you’ve read it, puffin in hand.