Next week, on March 18th, the 2014 Carnegie shortlist will be announced. I’ve been reading the whole longlist and have discovered some wonderful books whilst trying to predict what will make it to the next stage. I’ve also had some great chats on Twitter with other bloggers and librarians about what they’ve enjoyed and their predictions. Here are our predictions, favourites and thoughts…
(In the past there have been shortlists of 6 and 8, hence the variation in numbers.)
Me: School Librarian and Blogger
I feel fairly confident that we’ll see Campbell-Johnston, Cooper, Pitcher, Rundell, Stead and Sutcliffe on the shortlist (Stead being the wobbliest of those six). McNeal is my hope for the dark horse as I absolutely loved it, although my personal feeling for it might be clouding my judgment! For the eighth and final place, I have constantly been switching between a few choices. Personally, I would have been tempted to swap McGowan for Cooper but I think Cooper's spot is assured so I ended up going backwards and forward between Heroic and Binny for Short for my final spot. I have a suspicion that Berry might actually steal the last spot but for me, it was style over substance - I felt the story was shoehorned into suit a style that Berry wanted to use and I had some frustrations with unconvincing characterisation. But I’ve gone for heart over head and put Heroic in there. Brock and Binny for Short are therefore relegated to the personal favourites list where there is much affection but sadly less prestige and money. The Wall, Far Far Away and The Child’s Elephant are what, for me, best marry Carnegie criteria with my personal taste, but they’re led by Rooftoppers, the kind of book that reminds you why you love to read.
Adam Lancaster: School Librarian and Blogger at Reading Educator
The Bunker Diary - Kevin Brooks. Amazingly brilliant and will leave you for a long time after thinking wondering and dying to talk to someone about it!
Heroic - Phil Earle. My book of the year. Extremely well crafted and a story woven that speaks so much about our own characters and society.
Brock - Anthony McGowan. A masterclass in doing so much with so few words.
Ketchup Clouds - Annabel Pitcher. Fascinating premise executed to perfection.
Rooftoppers - Katherine Rundell. Clever and engaging and my secret desire to win!
Infinite Sky - CJ Flood. Understated debut that will leave you thinking for a long time afterwards.
Melanie: Blogger at We Sat Down
I’ve read 3 more books since the longlist was announced which brings our longlist reading to 13 titles. I haven’t changed my mind much since then, which suggests the longlist hasn’t exerted much influence on my reading choices. Consequently, my ‘shortlist’ combines the judging criteria with my personal taste for selecting books to read. My surprise inclusion is The Bunker Diary (not something I would ordinarily read) whereas I’m on the fence with The Wall (a novel I would normally be inclined to read because of the subject matter). I am curious about whether or not the age of children shadowing will at any point affect the judges’ shortlisting decisions. Please note that the inclusion of The Child’s Elephant on my shortlist is actually based on it being Little M’s favourite with me having only read the first few chapters (and loving them). I’m looking forward to the shortlist and secretly hoping for a surprise to turn up on it.
Caroline Fielding: School Librarian and Blogger at CazApr1
It was really difficult choosing my shortlist because out of the 19 books I was able to read from the longlist there was only one that I didn’t think deserved that place. I enjoyed all of them, including a few that I never in a million years would have chosen to read! I am pretty happy with my list though. My prediction for winner is, and always has been, The Wall by William Sutcliffe because I think it meets all the Carnegie criteria perfectly. The rest are my favourite of the longlisted titles but I’m not sure it will match the ‘real’ shortlist as, for example, I think that although The Bunker Diary is amazing it can’t meet the character development requirements, and I didn’t love Ghost Hawk but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the CKG judges list. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to read The Child’s Elephant in time so don’t know whether it would have surpassed any of these in my estimation.
Jim Dean: Blogger at YaYeahYeah
Yesterday, I wrote “From about a quarter of the way into reading Rooftoppers I was utterly convinced that I was reading the Carnegie winner. It’s not only brilliant - gorgeously lyrical with wonderful characters - but it feels like classic children’s fiction at its very best. If anything beats this I will be massively surprised.” So of course, today I read something that I think might just beat it. Far Far Away from Tom McNeal is an absolute delight - the perfect mix of a wonderful concept (ghost of Jacob Grimm ‘haunts’ a shy teenage boy and tries to protect him from an unknown evil) and brilliant execution. As much as I loved Rooftoppers, up until reading Far Far Away my own personal favourite was Hostage Three, simply because the subject matter is so unique and it’s also breathtakingly beautifully written.
Liar and Spy didn’t grab me until the last quarter, but that last quarter is so sensationally good that it changes everything. It wouldn’t quite get into my top 8 but it’s so well-written that I think it’ll definitely make the shortlist. All The Truth That’s In Me frustrated me because it felt slightly gimmicky to me with the second-person narrative and the Bible-like chapters. The Child’s Elephant was a good read which didn’t make it as a personal favourite of mine. Having said that, I’d be surprised not to see it on the shortlist.
Brock deserves huge credit for managing to pack so much - a compelling story, great characters, and a real evocation of the lives of a struggling family today - into so few words. Heroic is a gritty story but like Blood Family not horrifically bleak. It feels ultra-modern and the scenes in Afghanistan are nearly unbearably tense. Two very strong narrators, as well. Ketchup Clouds just edges out Liar and Spy for my final place. Great concept and outstanding voice.
Jayne Truran: School Librarian
The Bunker Diary: This book made me think very hard about YA lit. Who would read it, how would they react etc. I thought it was powerful and thought provoking and an amazing piece of writing
Heroic: I love Phil Earle’s writing and found this a moving account if the effect if war, relationships and sacrifice. Not an easy read but definitely hit the spot
After Tomorrow: A really good quality read by a top class author. Deals with contemporary issues within a string cultural backdrop
All the Truth That’s in Me: I thought long and hard about this book. A slow starter but it had such incredible quality writing. I got swept along with it. Deals with some gritty stuff so not a comfortable read.
Rooftoppers: I loved this story. It moved along nicely with some top class characters that were described so well I can actually see them.
The Wall: I read this in one sitting and thought it was absolutely wonderful. The setting, the fear, the hatred and the constant hope were all evident from page one. Again at times uncomfortable to read but take heart in that olive grove. Symbolically on the button.
I’ve found it fascinating to see how varied everyone’s predictions and favourites are - nearly every book on the longlist has got a nod from somewhere. The only book that wasn’t mentioned was Monkey Wars, which is a shame as I thought it was wonderful. I think perhaps it has suffered from The Wall and The Bunker Diary being longlisted and sharing many similar themes with them. The books that got the most nods are Rooftoppers, Heroic and Ketchup Clouds. If we collate all the opinions above, in a rather unscientific amalgamation of personal favourites and predictions, the shortlist we might see next week is this:
Thank you to Adam, Melanie, Jim, Caroline and Jayne for contributing. Let us know what you think! Follow the discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #ckg14.