Carnegie Medal Shadowing Underway

The Carnegie Medal shortlist was unveiled last week. As I’d blogged previously, the Carnegie Medal is the bees knees when it comes to the world of Children’s/Young Adult fiction. Ask any author who writes in this genre which matters to them the most, and they’ll say it’s this one.

Our shadowing groups will start to meet as of today, and in the near future we hope to get our shadowing page on the Carnegie Greenaway website up and running too. I’m really looking forward to hearing what our girls will make of the shortlist, but in the meantime I can share my thoughts on the two books I’ve read so far. They couldn’t be more different, but both are standout reads in their own right. First up is Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary:


I’m a big fan of Brooks: he refuses to water down his hard-hitting stories, putting his characters in to the most desperate of situations and offering them no easy way out. Gore Vidal once said that writing fiction is all about sticking your characters up trees, throwing rocks at them, but then eventually bringing them down from the tree. I’m not so sure Brooks lets his characters off so easily: he doesn’t always believe in closure, and he certainly doesn’t believe in happy endings.

The Bunker Diary pushes the envelope further than Brooks has dared to push it before. Trapping his first-person narrator Linus in the titular bunker, with a gallery of characters who vary in age, appearance and sympathy, Brooks succeeds in evoking a cloying, tension-head atmosphere. Bleak and downbeat as it is (it’s definitely not for younger/sensitive readers), the novel is a thought provoking page turner, asking unsettling questions about what people are capable of when things are as bad as they can possibly be, and refusing to give us the answers.

The other book I’ve read, Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers, could not offer a starker counterpoint:


This is a vibrant novel that is in love with the wonder of the world, celebrated in its firework-prose, gloriously eccentric characters (who wouldn’t want to have a father like Charles?) and amazingly vivid sense of place. Having been to Paris several times, I can tell you that I will never look at the French capital in quite the same way again.

What makes this novel linger in the memory, though, is its undying conviction that you should not be shy of dreaming big and defying those who insist you think small. As its tagline says, you should never ignore a ‘possible’, and it is this inner belief which propels protagonist Sophie onward and ensures we simply can’t help but root for her. Unique and original, Rooftoppers fully deserves its place on the shortlist and might just be a dark horse for the medal itself.

So there we have it: two very different books, but two excellent ones in their own right. If the rest of the shortlist is as good, then the standard this year promises to be very high indeed. We can’t wait to get our teeth stuck in to them!

World Book Day

Note – This post has been written by acting librarian Paddington Bear, who only agreed to it being posted on the condition it run unaltered.

It really was an honour to join in the World Book Day celebrations at Surbiton High School on Friday 7 March. I was made to feel so welcome, and everyone I came across did their best to ‘look after this bear’, whether that was through helping me up and down the stairs or pointing out whether there was a spot of marmalade on my coat…

It was great to see so many wonderful book characters around the School: I spotted the Invisible Man, Fagin, The Wicked Witch of the West (scary!) and two Demon Headmasters (even scarier!) among the staff, not to mention team efforts from the English and Science departments, who came dressed as characters from Gothic literature and Roald Dahl respectively.

The girls at the Senior School also got in to the spirit, with Skulduggery Pleasant, Sherlock Holmes and Cruella Deville being just a few of the characters on show. Special mention must go to 8P and the whole of Year 13, who all dressed as 101 Dalmatians, with their form tutor/head of year accompanying them as Cruella Deville. I was honoured to be asked to judge which house had the best costumes overall, and I decided that Nightingale House had the best overall costumes, duly rewarding them with 100 house points for their efforts, with the other houses also earning points for some of their more eye catching costumes.

I was also honoured to be asked to judge the Boys’ Prep and Junior Girls’ parades. Apart from a clumsy moment (I get those) at the Boys’ Prep when Mrs Bufton said I wasn’t very good at listening to instructions, I had great fun! There was even one young chap who dressed the same as me, and here’s a nice little photo of us both:

paddington bears

Every boy and girl looked fantastic, and it was extremely difficult for the other judges and me to pick winners. The overall winners in each category were:

Junior Girls

Reception – Year 2: Siobhan Starkey (Long John Silver) 2N

Year 3 – 4: Harriet James (Golden Ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) 3S

Year 5 – 6: Isabella Mulholland (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) 6S

Boys Prep

Reception – Year 2: Luca Clery (Oompa Loompa) 2B

Year 3 – 4: Mac Barclay (The Mad Hatter) 4B

Year 5 – 6: Rahim Bashir (Willy Wonka) 6B

As if this wasn’t enough, we were also treated to a visit from author Paul Dowswell, who spoke to Year 5 and 6 at the Prep and Year 9 at the Senior School. He was a very nice man, although when he tried to steal one of my marmalade sandwiches I had to give him a very hard stare…


He also gave me a very hard stare…

His talks went down well, with his discussion of his World War I novel Eleven Eleven being particularly pertinent to the Year 9 girls, who are visiting Ypres and the Somme shortly after the Easter break. Paul spoke very movingly about the war, and the human cost, which acted as a timely reminder of how lucky we are to be living in a time of relative peace and prosperity.

In Darkest Peru, which is where I hail from, we don’t really celebrate World Book Day. This goes to show what an important event it is, as all proceeds raised on the day will be donated to READ International, a charity that supports literacy in sub-Saharan Africa. I am most pleased to hear that Surbiton High School places such importance on reading for pleasure and literacy. I really enjoyed my day, and it was great to see the Surbiton High School community did too!

For more photos from World Book Day, see the School’s Facebook page.