Thoughts on the Carnegie Shortlist 2013

It’s been such a busy week that this is the first time I’ve had chance to sit down and fully give my attention to the books that are on Carnegie shortlist. I must say, I’m pretty impressed.

Last year was my first librarian experience of the Carnegie medal and, at first, although I liked some of the books, I felt it didn’t reflect the things that the children were reading in my school library at the time. This did change, for primarily three reasons:

1. Urging, nay,  harrassing kids to take out particular shortlisted books.
2. Kids getting “Between Shades of Gray” confused with a different shade/s of grey (I read an article somewhere about how parents could capitalise on this confusion to get their kids to read a good quality children’s novel. I cannot locate it now, but if anyone can point me in the direction of it I will link to it here.)
3. Using/discussing the books with our reading groups.

My personal favourite was Between Shades of Gray, however the overall winner was the librarians’ favourite author, Patrick Ness with his beautiful book A Monster Calls. Bad librarian alert: I do think that Ness’s book is beautiful, and I am pleased that Jim Kay won the Greenaway award, however, and I’m really sorry about this, I know I may be wrong, this is just my opinion, etc., but I am not a huge Ness fan. In theory I am. The way he deals with gender in the Chaos Walking books (well, the first one. I haven’t read the rest. See above RE: bad librarian). The way he talks about how doesn’t want to patronise kids, but challenge them. I love that stuff. But there is something, and I can’t quite put my finger on what, that doesn’t click. Our kids hardly ever take his books out too, which obviously doesn’t necessarily reflect on their quality, but does make me think a little. I always do this in my head: “yes, but do the KIDS like it?”

This said, I am glad that he won, because I know I was in a minority, but I am also glad that someone else gets to have a go this year.


Anyway, tangent aside, I am pretty excited about this year’s selection. I have read two so far. Here is what I thought:



I absolutely loved this. I thought it was going to be a little maudlin, and it was, a really tiny bit, when I forgot that I’m an adult reading from an adult’s perspective and what I really need to do is be an adult pretending that I am reading from a child’s perspective. Again, that question: “yes, but will the KIDS like it?” Here the answer is a big yes. Every single kid (and that’s quite a lot of kids) who has borrowed this book from the library has loved it. It’s funny, touching and it’s major theme of not judging people by appearance is fantastic. (And in the end, even when reading it from an adult perspective, I would still give it 5 stars.)



I liked this before I asked myself the question. After I asked myself the question, I wasn’t sure what I thought. Sedgwick is undoubtedly a fantastic writer with great mind, but I’m just not sure whether this book really connects with the kids I work with. It’s barely been taken out. The seven interlinked stories and themes of death, love and eternal life are fascinating and atmospheric, but there is barely any character development and the entire thing feels a little cold. This was fine by me as an adult reader; the atmosphere was brilliant enough to make up for this. However, for the kids? I’m not so sure.

I am currently reading Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner and will endeavour to read and review all of the titles before the winner is announced in June.

What book do you think will win? Do you have any general thoughts?


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Carnegie Shortlist 2013

  1. Not a Patrick Ness fan, you say? *unsubscribes from blog, unfollows you on Twitter*

    KIDDING, of course 😛 There are plenty of authors and books that in theory I should love, but they just don’t click with me for whatever reason (Jasper Fforde, just to name one). Having said that, Patrick Ness’ books are constantly flying off the shelves at my library, so I do think he’s popular with teens themselves in addition to being a librarian favourite.

    I really, really hope Code Name Verity will win. I haven’t read the rest of the shortlist, but it was one of the best books I read last year and I have a hard time imagining anything beating it.

    • Haha, I know it’s a controversial position! I love everything he stands for, but yeah, something just doesn’t click. Is it a public library you’re working at? I am, admittedly, basing my judgements about what kids and teens like on one school library; I suppose that if he is popular with other teens then I cannot really argue with that! It’s actually quite nice to hear.

      The head librarian at work is currently reading Code Name Verity, I am going to snatch it off her as soon as it comes back in! It sounds very intriguing indeed.

      I am pretty excited to read all of the shortlisted books really. I definitely didn’t feel quite as enthusiastic last year.

      • Yep, public library (Cambridge Central, which is really lovely – if you’re ever nearby you should come visit!) Of course, this is not necessarily a representative sample either. I guess I’ll find out more when I try to give one of his books away for World Book Night 😛

        Looking forward to your thoughts on Code Name Verity!

      • Ooh I’ve been there before I think – there’s an entrance through a shopping centre? It seemed really modern and busy. Cambridge is lovely!

        It would be interesting to hear different librarian perspectives on popular authors, etc. I think that it can vary so much depending on many factors.

        Yes, I will be sure to write some sort of review when I have finished it!

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