Note to self: don’t let three months go by before before reviewing a book!
Further note to self: wait, what? OK, I have excuses for April, but did we even HAVE a March this year!?
When I was a child, in secondary school, the words “Carnegie Medal” did not fill me or my friends with excitement. The venerable prize for children’s fiction was for us more like a warning sign on a book’s front cover – it generally indicated that the novel that bore it in its blurb was going to be respectable, improving, and age-appropriate. Which is to say: it would have content appropriate for children ten years younger than us, written in a dour, worthy style that appealed to the quintagenarian grey-cardigan-waring English teachers who awarded it. It was not the absolute kiss of death for a novel – Terry Pratchett somehow won it one year – but it signified that a book should be approached with caution. Worst of all, it made a novel eligible to be one of the despised set texts that we would be cruelly forced to, in the loosest possible application of the term, “study”.
Nonetheless, the honour role of the Carnegie (first awarded 1936) is bristling with “classics” of children’s fiction, whether tedious or enchanting. Arthur Ransome won the first for Pigeon Post, and subsequent winners have included Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (1952), Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958), Alan Garner’s The Owl Service (1967), Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972), Gilian Cross’ Wolf (1990), Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (1995), David Almond’s Skellig (1998), Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001), Jennifer Donelly’s A Gathering Light (2003), Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (2010), and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls (2013)… and 1977’s winner, The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, written by Gene Kemp.