This isn't new, but I only just discovered it and wanted to share it. Author Ben Okri was asked for his book recommendations for children, he instead offered these 10 1/2 inclinations:
1. There is a secret trail of books meant to inspire and enlighten you. Find that trail.
2. Read outside your own nations, colour, class and gender.
3. Read the books your parents hate.
4. Read the books your parents love.
5. Have one or two authors that are important, that speak to you; and make their works your secret passion.
6. Read widely, for fun, stimulation and escape.
7. Don't read what everyone else is reading. Check them out later, cautiously.
8. Read what you're not supposed to read.
9. Read for your own liberation and mental freedom.
10. Books are like mirrors. Don't just read the words. Go into the mirror. That is where the real secrets are. Inside. Behind. That's where the gods dream, where are realities are born.
10 1/2. Read the world. It is the most mysterious book of all.
13 June 2012
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!
12 June 2012
Whilst I was very impressed by this, I did feel that its strength lay in the importance of the story being told rather than Sepetys' skill as a writer. Whilst she is obviously a very capable writer, her words themselves didn't uplift and inspire me with the way she captured her story. The story itself though is a traumatic one with moments of hope and happiness few and far between and plenty of moments of heartbreak and tragedy. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this win, and apparently its been very popular at lots of school but for me, and for many of my students, Sepetys isn't at the top of the pile
First Line: "They took me in my nightgown."
Why I read it: It is the last of the eight books on the current Carnegie shortlist.
Who I would recommend it to: If you appreciated The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and are prepared for harrowing and upsetting details of horrendous things that really happened.
11 June 2012
Well, this has been another pleasant surprise on the Carnegie shortlist. As I'm not generally a fan of animal stories, I was not expecting to particularly enjoy this but I wasn't expecting a moving and haunting story of family and loss. Hartnett's writing is truly beautiful, I am in awe of her talent and would definitely like to read more of her work. This is familiar territory, being set in World War II, but Harnett offers a totally unique take on it which balances fantasy and magic with the cruel truths of the war.
First Line: "If the old bell had been hanging in the steeple it would have rung to announce midnight, twelve solemn iron klongs which would have woken the villagers from their sleep and startled any small creature new to the village and unaccustomed to the noise."
Why I read it: It is on the current Carnegie prize shortlist.
Who I would recommend it to: If you like the Once series by Morris Gleitzman or The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Fans of lyrical, haunting writing.
8 June 2012
So far, this is comfortably my least favourite book on the Carnegie shortlist. Whilst it was okay and covered some interesting and important themes, it was just a bit dull. Nothing really happened until half way through and if I hadn't been reading it for Carnegie, I probably wouldn't have finished it. It has some appealing elements but the endless descriptions of cattle just got a bit boring for me.
First Line: "I'd known for ages how a baby was made."
Why I read it: It is currently on the Carnegie shortlist.
Who I would recommend it to: People who like gently paced family dramas, animal stories or are interested in the Australian outback.
Whilst I much preferred Skellig second time round, I can't say it is up there as a classic for me, which it is often described as. Indeed, it won the Carnegie award when it was first published which is high praise indeed. So I didn't like this the first time I read it, which would have been when I was around 12 or 13 but I can't really remember any specifics about why I didn't like it but I have grown up knowing I didn't like it, criticising it to English teachers and not recommending it to students. I now feel bad about that. Although to me it is a good read, it didn't transcend any boundaries for me and whilst it had some lovely moments, it is nowhere near my list of favourites. My Name is Mina is a far superior book in my opinion, although it obviously does build on themes and ideas that were first created here.
First Line: "I found him in the garage on a Sunday afternoon."
Why I read it: After reading My Name is Mina, the recently released prequel, I wanted to reread this. I read it when I was much younger and didn't really like it but I loved My Name is Mina and wanted to see if my opinion had changed, reading it as an adult.
Who I would recommend it to: If you're after a quick read with depth and you don't mind unsolved problems and unanswered questions.
1 June 2012
I read Skellig when I was much younger and didn't really like it so when My Name as Mina was announced as being on the Carnegie shortlist this year, I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about reading the prequel to Skelling. However, I was totally unprepared for how much I loved this. Almond's writing is beautiful and Mina is a truly remarkable creation. The word I would use to sum this up is uplifting, I felt really inspired and moved reading this and I would highly recommend this. I think it is going to be a battle between this and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness for my pick for the Carnegie win.
First Line: "My name is Mina and I love the night."
Why I read it: It is on the current Carnegie Prize shortlist.
Who I would recommend it to: Fans of quirky yet lyrical writing and you don't mind a story not driven by plot. If you don't mind precocious child narrators.
This is the gloriously silly sequel to Withering Tights, the romantic mishaps of Tallulah Casey, aspiring actress, hampered by her out of control knees and distinct lack of acting ability. Rennison's charm is her ability to manage to get inside teeenage girls heads whilst also introducing enough ridiculously bizarre situations and characters to make her books stand out from the hundreds of imitators out there. If you are a girl who grew up in the 90s or 2000s in the UK, you will struggle not to be charmed and endlessly entertained by Rennison. This series is not as funny as Georgia but still has many laugh out loud moments and is a quick, fun read despite not being as tightly written as the Georgia series.
First Line: "Performing Arts College, here I come again, hold on to your tights!"
Why I read it: I grew up reading Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series and have a huge affection for her as a writer so whilst I am no longer the target audience for these, and they don't make me cry with laughter any more, I still enjoy reading them and having a giggle at the complete silliness.
Who I would recommend it to: Fans of Chris Higgins or Jaclyn Moriarty. If you fancy a quick and silly read that manages to blend the absurd with some real truisms about growing up as a girl.