Tag Archives: G R Gemin

The 2016 best

Yes, there were good books, even in a year like 2016. Let’s not lose [all] hope, shall we? In fact, after careful consideration, there were more serious contenders than I could allow through to the final round. Sorry about that.

During 2016 I seem to have read and reviewed 154 books. Before you gasp with admiration, I should mention that 40 of those were picture books.

2016 books

And here, without me even peeping at other best of lists, are my favourites, in alphabetical order:

Beck, by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff

Broken Sky + Darkness Follows, by L A Weatherly

Crongton Knights, by Alex Wheatle

Five Hundred Miles, by Kevin Brooks

Front Lines, by Michael Grant

Knights of the Borrowed Dark, by Dave Rudden

More of Me, by Kathryn Evans

The White Fox, by Jackie Morris

I believe it’s a good list, and I’m glad that two of the books are dyslexia friendly; one at either end of the age spectrum.

And, you are human after all, so you want to know who just missed this list. I’m human enough to want to mention them. They were Hilary McKay, J K Rowling, Malcolm McNeill, G R Gemin, Jonathan Stroud, Kate DiCamillo and Philip Caveney.

Two dozen more on my longlist, and we mustn’t forget; if a book has been reviewed on Bookwitch at all, it has passed quite a few quality tests. So there. You’re all winners. But some are more winners than others.

I love you.

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Sweet Pizza

This Guardian prize longlisted book is the kind of story where everything falls nicely into place as you read. I’m quite fond of that kind of development, so have to say I really loved G R Gemin’s Sweet Pizza. (I probably would enjoy the actual sweet pizza, too.)

G R Gemin, Sweet Pizza

Set in a small town (or is it a village?) in South Wales, with an Italian café at the centre of the plot, we meet teenager Joe who loves being Italian. His poor mother not so much, as she’s saddled with working in their slowly failing family eatery. Joe just wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

His Nonno is frail and becomes ill, but manages to share some of his and the family’s past with Joe, and this only confirms Joe’s wishes to make something of the café.

And then his glamorous – Italian – cousin Mimi shows up, turning everything on its head. All the males are besotted, and nothing is the same again. At least Joe makes something out of this, by studying Italian cookbooks and trying out the language, while also attempting to keep all his rivals away.

With Mimi’s help he slowly comes up with a plan for what he wants to do, for the café, for his his mum, for the village and everyone in it. It becomes a bit of a shared quest, which is good for the little community.

This is all slightly crazy, but also quite sensible and something you wish more people would do in more places. There’s a lot of quiet humour and lots of love in this book. (I do love Italians.)

And the sweet pizza doesn’t sound bad.

Life-changing longlists

Immediately on reading through the Guardian’s longlist for its children’s fiction prize, I felt grumpy.

Yes, as people said on social media, it’s a really good list. They would say that, of course, and you noticed that I did too. That’s with only having read two of the longlisted novels; Malorie Blackman’s and Tanya Landman’s. And they are award material.

But I liked the description of most of the other books. And I did come across one of them at Yay!YA+ in April, where I heard Martin Stewart read the first chapter of Riverkeep about three or four times. It wasn’t out yet, at that time, and whereas it was available to buy early that day, you know me; I don’t buy books. And Penguin haven’t offered it to me. If I was Martin I’d want my first book to be mentioned to people.

Perhaps some of the other books are also only just out in the shops. That was certainly the case with my life-changing book, How I Live Now, in 2004. I read about it on the longlist, and then found I couldn’t buy it just yet, so had to wait. That turned out quite well for both me and Meg Rosoff.

Brian Selznick seems to have another book out, which is promising. Then there are two authors – Alex Wheatle and Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock – whom I have only heard of because they are in the Edinburgh programme this summer. The remaining two are completely unknown to me, and one of them has a book with a cover so tempting it’s all I can do to stay calm. That’s G R Gemin with Sweet Pizza, along with Zana Fraillon who’s written about refugees, which I also like the look of.

G R Gemin, Sweet Pizza

Hopefully one or two of these will find their way to me, and hopefully they will inspire me, and lead to great things for the authors. Just like in 2004. And hopefully I’m grumping now because no one has done publicity yet, and it’s all to come…