The Carnegie shortlisted books are reviewed by teacher, Nick Attwood, and pupils from Bristol Grammar School. They were originally published on the Carnegie website. Thanks to Lucy Shepherd, part-time teacher/librarian.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
The writer described the rainforest and the river scenes very well in this book but I think the characters could do with a little more description. The story line however is very intriguing and when you meet the twins and the parents of the twins you think everything will turn out alright. But when you get to know how nasty the twins and parents are to Maria it made me shiver with anger. I could not put the book down when the fire happened and as the story ended it was also very exciting. The ending was very satisfactory with the way that all the characters went off their own way. I give this book 8/10.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
A good book written in a strange form. It is the shortest book I have ever read – having only about twenty words on each page. I recommend reading it as it only takes about twenty minutes to read. There are happy and sad parts in it and is about a boy who progresses in writing poetry. There are lots of funny parts so it is worth reading.
The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson
This is a great tale of good against evil and bears resemblance to The Lord of the Rings, only less complicated. The characters are lifelike and easy to believe. The idea of magic has not destroyed and overridden the story but has helped to make the book not too close to reality. The story is well explained but you can tell the author is keeping something back. The tale unfolds with very colourful descriptions and characters who are all unique, with their own personalities. I found this book longwinded but it was worth all the hours I spent reading it. The main character was Tilja and the tale unfolds around her and her family. This was by far the best book and I hope it wins.
Jake’s Tower by Elizabeth Laird
I have to admit that before I read this book, I looked upon the prospect with a certain amount of apprehension. I have never been a big reader of writing which I consider harrowing, and the subject of child abuse seemed to fit that bill nicely. This novel tells the story of Jake, a boy living with his mother and his abusive stepfather. Jake desperately seeks escape from the world he inhabits of minute-to-minute fear.
When he discovers a place to hide by the railway track, in his head he begins to create this magical tower a safe haven where he and his idyllic image of his lost father can live without fear. As the story continues we see Jake’s life improving bit by bit. But it’s the factors of fear and retribution that make this such a compelling read, Jake’s constant irrational fear of his stepfather tracking him down. But it’s so evocatively written that you begin to believe that he could actually get him. As Jake’s life improves and his imaginary idyllic home develops there are certain revelations that are very interesting to say the least. To conclude, I feel this book is well written, compelling and at times will bring a tear to your eye. Everyone should give this book a try.
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
This is an excellent book of brilliantly formed characters that enables you to read into the story and live the life and fears of the characters. It sparks of indignation and anger at Great-Uncle Bo and the end is a fitting way of getting revenge as he is left and no longer has anyone to exploit and manipulate. The Great Miao is a superb character as he is an untouchable figure that is struggling against the customs of the people and what is ingrained in his upbringing. Di Chou plays the classic villain who is cunningly outwitted by Haoyou, the simple boy who is desperate to see the spirit of his father in the heavens but is strangely reluctant to fly and eventually he realises the whole vision of his father guiding him is a damaged eye caused by too much flying. This is strangely ironic as he flies to see his father. It has some great comedy with the town they con into believing that the gods are talking to them and the way they turn rebellious.
Stop the Train by Geraldine McCaughrean
Beautifully penned, this is a sensational yee-haa romp of a Wild West novel, which complements (by contrast) the writer’s story of the East in The Kite Rider. The title says it all: the neo-villagers must gain a railroad station or their newly hewn community will die, like a mongoose bitten by a rattlesnake. Interest is maintained in this beef jerky-thin premise with impressive eccentrics such as the Swedish baker (who requires a wife to jam his donuts) and the academically-challenged schoolmistress (who wouldn’t pass an Ofsted). I’d hoped that the railroad company’s prodigal son would be the central hero, but the inter-family feud wasn’t really developed. What was, however, was the powerful sense of community spirit set against John Bull’s destructively steely member which repeatedly lanced through their land and aspirations, a steam-spilling, horn-tooting embodiment of ‘Progress’.
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
This was a fun and enjoyable book. Although definitely not the best in Terry Pratchett’s wonderful ‘Discworld’ series of novels, this is still a good fun book, with some hilarious moments. However, it must be taken into account that I am an avid Terry Pratchett fan, and so the book is probably not as good as I say it is. However, even with this taken into account, it is still a good read, although not deserving of the Carnegie medal. I definitely hope that Pratchett soon has another book in the Carnegie shortlist, this time more like some of his better books.
True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Although this book probably won’t be the winner of the award this year (as much as I may hope it will), it was certainly the one that I have enjoyed the most. This may be partly due to the fact that I read it at a point where I was not stressed out, and (more importantly) it was a book aimed at my age range. For starters the style is relaxing to the eyes and mind, and the plot, if not gripping, holds you tighter than a safety bar on a reasonably disreputable roller coaster. Another quality of the book is that it contains no obscure and pointless metaphors, quite unlike this review. However, the main quality of this book that sets it apart from the rest is that it is the only one that makes you think about it afterwards. Other books, such as The Ropemaker, have more gripping plots, but True Believer is set in a world that really comes to life, warts and all, and makes you ponder over it for week afterwards.