Here is my countdown, I found it difficult to sort the top seven out into an order but this is what I've come up with. These are my personal preferences, not based on which I think will win or the reaction from children. I am hoping to do another summary tomorrow, based on the ratings that my student shadowing group gave, to give a teenage perspective. Click on the title of the book to go to the full review (opens in a new window).
This is the upsetting and harrowing story of Lina and her family who are deported from Lithuania by the Soviets and ensure horrendous circumstances in Siberian labour camps. It brings a little known mass deportation to light. The family relationships are beautifull created and extremely moving and the horrors of the farms and prison camps are evocatively rendered. But, if I dare say it, I'm not sure this is really outstanding writing and the story itself carries the majority of the weight, rather than Sepetys' writing.
This top three was a clear top three for me and I struggled to put them in order but this beautiful story just slipped down because it took me a few chapters to get into it. But once I did I was blown away by the beauty of Hartnett's writing and the wonderful story of two brothers and the abandoned zoo they found. A section near the end in particular absolutely broke my heart with its soaring words and bittersweet story.
A very close second, I found this uplifting and marvellous. I absolutely adored Mina as a character and narrator and could have read pages and pages more of his diary. I loved the creativity of the words but also of the book itself with its 'extraordinary activity' boxes and pages packed with words or with just one in the centre. Working in a school myself, it inspired me to make sure my library is a creative and inspiring place, the cage that Mina sees school to be. This book is wonderful in every way.
last year for Monsters of Men. As with My Name is Mina and The Midnight Zoo, Ness manages to fuse beautiful language with an entrancing story and characters. The story of Conor as he deals with his mother's cancer, through the yew tree monster that visits him at night is incredibly moving and filled with beauty, tragedy, love and things which are not as they seem. The wonderful illustrations by Jim Kay elevate this even more with gasp-inducing black and white illustrations that really up the atmospheric darkness of the books.
In terms of which book I think will win, I think Between Shades of Gray is in with a very strong chance as it ticks a lot of the boxes I think Carnegie goes for with its very heavy theme, with Ness, Almond and Harnett in serious contention. I must admit I would be surprised to see any of the others take it although I have a soft spot for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece because Annabel Pitcher is so lovely and it's an exciting debut.
I am incredibly excited to say that I have managed to get hold of some tickets for this awards ceremony and will be attending on Thursday with four of my students who have been reading the shortlist. I will be tweeting at @acaseforbooks on the day and will post some photos and thoughts at the weekend. So exciting!