Henrietta Branford’s Fire, Bed and Bone and Bob Graham’s Queenie the Bantam emerge as the hot favourites in this BfK poll of children’s literature experts and young readers asked to nominate their winners from the titles shortlisted for the UK’s most prestigious children’s book awards. Will the Carnegie/Greenaway panel pick the same winners?
THE CARNEGIE MEDAL SHORTLIST (authors)
Pig-heart Boy by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday)
River Boy by Tim Bowler (OUP)
Fire, Bed and Bone by Henrietta Branford (Walker Books)
Forever X by Geraldine McCaughrean (OUP)
Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley (Puffin)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling (Bloomsbury)
Meet Me by the Steelmen by Theresa Tomlinson (Walker Books)
THE KATE GREENAWAY MEDAL SHORTLIST (illustrators)
Mucky Pup by Ken Brown (Andersen Press)
Willy the Dreamer by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)
A Small Miracle by Peter Collington (Cape)
Queenie the Bantam by Bob Graham (Walker Books)
When Jessie Came Across the Sea by P J Lynch (Walker Books)
Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense by Clare Mackie (Macdonald Young Books)
Ginger by Charlotte Voake (Walker Books)
Unicorns! Unicorns! by Sophie Windham (Orchard)
LIZ ATTENBOROUGH (Project Director, National Year of Reading)
Carnegie: What a strong bunch of novels on the shortlist. Harry Potter is enormous fun and could be recommended to anyone and Scribbleboy will also engage a wide readership – fresh and original, even if it nearly goes on too long. My winner is Fire, Bed and Bone, though the title and cover won’t help it find the readers it deserves.
Greenaway:The shortlist doesn’t appear to be as strong as in recent years. If the award was for a picture book text it would surely go to Geraldine McCaughrean, but for the art I think Bob Graham is my choice – a perfect complement to the text, and skilful and appealing in its own right.
KEITH BARKER (Reviews editor, School Librarian, and former chair, Carnegie/Greenaway panel)
Carnegie: A difficult one this time as there isn’t one book which stands well above the others. I think I would go for either Fire, Bed and Bone or Forever X but more for their originality than their execution.
Greenaway: Among the menagerie of animals on the shortlist Queenie the Bantam shows the wonderful Bob Graham at his best but I suspect the panel will go for something more pretentious.
MELVIN BURGESS (Author and last year’s Carnegie Medal winner)
Carnegie: This year’s shortlist is very mixed, but it has two books I adore… Forever X and Fire, Bed and Bone. Geraldine McCaughrean is so inventive, a thrilling read… but in the end it has to be Henrietta Branford for a true fable, written with vision and great skill.
WENDY COOLING (Critic and consultant)
Carnegie: The shortlist reflects the range and strength of children’s publishing. For me Fire, Bed and Bone just has the edge for its originality and its point of view. It’s tautly written, full of vitality and it triggers a wide range of emotions as its tender, yet merciless story is told.
Greenaway: A good shortlist – apart from the absence of Ted Dewan’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. My choice is Queenie the Bantam for its wholeness – splendid cover, endpapers and constantly changing use of the page. The pen and wash pictures are full of movement and tell a story that offers more each time you look.
PATRICK McKEARNEY (8) (School student, St Bede’s School, Winchester)
Greenaway: I think Mucky Pup should win because the drawings fit well with the text and it has a sort of funny conflict between the drawings and the words (‘he rearranged the tablecloth and shook the cushions’). My favourite picture is where Mucky Pup falls in the water – the splash is tremendous so it really looks like a lifelike fall.
JULIA ECCLESHARE (Children’s books editor, the Guardian)
Carnegie: Though full of dark subject matter, including death both human and animal, Henrietta Branford’s Fire, Bed and Bone is inspirational on the subjects of both courage and freedom, important values for children to savour and ones that are not touched on often enough.
Greenaway: For their vivacity and contemporaneity, Bob Graham’s illustrations to Queenie the Bantam deserve to win the Kate Greenaway Medal. His pictures are full of details that engage the very young giving them a kindly reinforcement of their own perspective on life.
P.S. I’m not paid by Walker Books.
ELISABETH HAMMILL (Project Director, The Centre for the Children’s Book)
Carnegie: Forever X – a richly comic drama of character and response to the unexpected whose surreal out-of-time setting enables a unique take on the meaning of Christmas, ritual, illusion and reality.
Greenaway: Willy the Dreamer – a painterly homage to surrealism and dreams whose singularity lies in Browne’s use of bananas, intertextuality and design to turn readers into surrealist creators themselves. It ties with Queenie the Bantam, a comic masterpiece whose narrative pacing, design and use of strip create an extraordinary family drama.
ANNE MARLEY (Chair, Children’s Book Circle)
Carnegie: There’s no contest – well at least not since Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife didn’t make it to the shortlist! It has to be Fire, Bed and Bone by Henrietta Branford. Anyone who can make a fourteenth-century dog into a narrator and do it so convincingly has to have my vote!
Greenaway: Impossible to choose between my two favourite illustrators. There’s Willy the Dreamer, exploding from Anthony Browne’s riotous and surrealistic imagination and When Jessie Came Across the Sea by P J Lynch, a complete contrast with its vivid and masterful evocation of the hopes and aspirations of immigrants coming to America.
JOANNE FAIRCLOUGH (14) (School student, Withins School, Bolton)
Carnegie: Harry Pottter is an excellent adventure book and is easy to read; once I started to read it I couldn’t put it down! The plot has a lot to it but isn’t at all confusing. I was disappointed that Harry Potter did not win the Guardian Fiction Award; I was also surprised that The Subtle Knife and Tenderness were excluded from the Carnegie shortlist when Fire, Bed and Bone was included, as it did not prove at all popular amongst our Carnegie shadowers.
BARRY PARKER (14) (School student, Withins School, Bolton)
Carnegie: Scribbleboy is the most interesting, exciting and different book I’ve read for some time. It is a very well written novel, and using a quote from Scribbleboy, ‘affirmascribble’, a definite winner! I was very surprised that The Subtle Knife was not included on the shortlist because it is an excellent book!
ROSIE McKEARNEY (10) (School student, St Bede’s School, Winchester)
Greenaway: I hope that Queenie the Bantam wins because I like the way the pictures are cartoon-like but still stay realistic. I also like the way the colour is extended outside the outline of the drawings. The way the family’s noses are big and their eyes are just black dots makes me laugh!
ROSEMARY STONES (Editor, Books for Keeps)
Carnegie: Fire, Bed and Bone has the peasants’ revolt seen from a dog’s point of view which sounds too wacky for words. However, within the conventions of an historical novel Branford not only triumphantly carries it off but she presents us with a powerful and engrossing fable about loss, growth and death in which the predicament of the human protagonists is mirrored by their animal counterparts. A superb, tautly written, thrilling novel. Shame about the jacket.
Greenaway: Queenie the Bantam walks it. It’s a warm, funny, marvellously accomplished picture book about adaptation to change (new baby, new chicks) expressively and deftly illustrated in pen and wash.
The Carnegie and Greenaway winners will be announced on July 15th at an award ceremony in London. The award is sponsored by the Royal Mail.
Thanks to Anne Smallwood of Withins School whose students are shadowing the Carnegie and to Miranda McKearney whose children assessed the Greenaway shortlist for BfK.