Helen Pain reports.
The 1986 winners of the Library Association’s Carnegie and Greenaway Awards are Berlie Doherty for Granny was a Buffer Girl (Methuen, 0 416 53590 9, £6.95) and Fiona French for Snow White in New York (Oxford, 0 19 279808 1, £5.95). It was another good year and the panel had a hard task to choose from an excellent shortlist which reflects the exciting range of current publishing for children and teenagers.
The Carnegie Medal is given for ‘an outstanding book for children’. Berlie Doherty’s novel is indeed such a book.
Three generations of one very ordinary family come alive through a series of short highly readable tales, full of warmth and emotional appeal. The reader cannot help but be drawn into these vital and homely stories, with their mix of humour and heartfelt sadness. The characters are excellently portrayed with accuracy and empathy, so is their northern environment not only as it is today, but as it has been across three generations. From a basis of sound social history, here is a highly memorable insight into family life. The main audience is likely to be readers of twelve years and over, but this is a book which also made a lasting impression on the members of the selection panel.
Highly commended is Janni Howker’s Isaac Campion (Julia MacRae, 0 86203 270 9, £5.95). Set at the turn of this century, the young hero of this evocative novel has to come to terms with adulthood, thrust upon him when his older brother is killed in an accident. Seemingly trapped into working for his much-feared father, Isaac sees a chance for escape, but first hard decisions have to he made. Excellent dialogue and characterisation, together with the accurate portrayal of the setting and period, provide a novel of high technical merit, and which has parallels for today’s teenagers.
Three novels are commended. Bernard Ashley’s Running Scared (Julia MacRae, 0 86203 238 5, £7.50; Puffin Plus, 0 14 03.2079 2, £1.95), based upon a successful television script, provides an exciting read as Paula, the tale’s heroine, becomes involved in bringing an East End criminal to book. However, this story is more than a thrilling read. It provides an extremely perceptive portrayal of Paula’s relationship with her best friend, Narinder, and advocates racial harmony in a most positive, and not didactic, way. A book of true child-appeal, which also raises interesting issues.
The heroine of Gillian Cross’ Chartbreak (Oxford, 0 19 271508 9, £6.95), is a 16-year-old with a blossoming career in the pop-music world. Her boyfriend Christie, the founder member of her group, is an aggressive young man who encourages Janice’s own violent behaviour. The unusual relationship between Christie and Janice, which forms the basis of the novel, is particularly well-handled, and the life style of the pop group, earnestly rehearsing and touring the country to perform, is accurately portrayed. Throughout, the reader senses a strong tension as the relationship between Christie and Janice becomes increasingly and realistically aggressive, culminating in an exciting, yet satisfying, climax. A novel which combines popularity with quality.
Andrew Taylor’s The Coal House (Collins, 0 00 184843 7, £5.95) is a first novel. A newly-widowed father and his daughter have to learn to live alone together when they move from the south to their new home, The Coal House, in Durham. This story describes how their relationship develops, and how they come to be accepted by their local community. But there is also a mystery to be solved. At night the grounds of their home are visited by a mysterious cloaked figure. A supernatural apparition? Young teenagers will find this an exciting, enjoyable, as well as thought-provoking, read.
The Kate Greenaway Award is presented each year to an artist who has produced the most distinguished work in illustration of children’s books. Fiona French is no stranger to the picture world for the older child. In Snow White in New York she provides a 1920’s setting for a retelling of this well-known tale, with jazz musicians substituting for the seven dwarfs of the original story. This stunning visual presentation, using strong line and colour, marries text and illustration together in total sympathy, and has great appeal for the older reader. A work of high technical excellence.
Highly commended are Jan Ormerod’s illustrations for Sarah Hayes’ picture book for under-fives, Happy Christmas, Gemma (Walker, 0 7445 0618 2, £5.95). This celebrates Gemma’s first Christmas told by her older brother, and the text is accompanied by skilled artistic representation of this happy Afro-Caribbean family. The illustrations are bold and clear, and presented in attractive primary colours, creating a work of great child appeal, and accurately reflecting the warmth of family life.
Five illustrators are commended. Janet Ahlberg’s illustrations for The Jolly Postman (Heinemann, 0 434 92515 2, £6.95) receive acclaim for their originality. The illustrations and text are totally inter-related in providing a novel, enjoyable experience for a wide range of children.
Paddy Bouma matches the poignant tale of Louis Baum’s Are We Nearly There? (Bodley Head, 0 370 30692 9, £4.95) with muted illustrations, working well with the text in describing the end of a small child’s day with his divorced father as they return to mother.
Totally different from this sad little tale is Babette Cole’s Princess Smartypants (Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 11885 9, £6.50). Humorous, lively illustrations combine with the text to describe how even an enterprising Prince Charming fails to win this Princess’s hand. Illustrations of great fun, vitality and child appeal.
Fiona Pragoff’s How Many? (Gollancz, 0 575 03758 X, £2.95) is an attractive counting book photographically portraying everyday objects colourfully presented for the young child. And it is with such children that Tony Ross’ I Want My Potty (Andersen, 0 86264 137 3, £5.95) will have great popularity. A humorous account of a Princess’s potty training is exceedingly well-matched by entertaining illustrations of great appeal.
The Carnegie and Greenaway Awards are administered by the Youth Librarians Group. YLG members make up the selection panel which considers nominations from members of the Library Association.
Helen Pain is the current chairperson of the YLG and a lecturer in the Department of Library and Information Studies, Loughborough University.