Nominated for: The Ghosts of Heaven
Read: My Swordhand is Singing (EXPRESS FICTION 823.91 SED)
Marcus Sedgwick’s latest novel is set to split the judging panel straight down the middle. Described as “Cloud Atlas for young adults”, The Ghosts of Heaven is narrated by four characters: a Palaeolithic cave painter, a woman accused of witchcraft, a poet committed to an asylum, and a spaceship on course for a new world. All four are linked together by a spiral, the symbol of the golden ratio (and one of the best horror stories of all time!) The instructions from the author state the stories can be read in any order, and some reviewers have even commented that reading the book as-published is more confusing than picking a ‘quarter’ at random! This is not a story to be taken at face value, but you don’t need to ‘get’ philosophy or science to enjoy this book. We suspect that Marcus meant this book to stay with you for a long time. My Swordhand is Singing was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize in 2007. Steeped in European folklore, it tells the story of Peter the vampire slayer and his son Tomas, who knows nothing of his father’s former life. Tomas isn’t allowed to question his father, who carries a locked wooden box and builds a moat around their home. Peter steps in when the villagers barricade Tomas’ sweetheart in a hut on the edge of the forest, supposedly as part of a marriage ritual. She is really bait for the zombie-like bloodsuckers that Peter once swore to defeat, and the gypsies who are out to steal Peter’s sword. This novel contains some really obscure lore (give a vampire some charcoal, and he’ll have to stop what he’s doing and write!) and is notable for never actually using the word “vampire”.
Lauren St John
Nominated for: The Glory
Read: The White Giraffe (BOOK ZONE 823.92 JOH)
Martine knows that the white giraffe said to live on Sawubona reserve is no rumour- she has seen his “white and silver coat tinged with cinnamon in the moonlight”. So why do the adults continue to pass him off as a fairy story? Author Lauren St John grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe and stories from her childhood form the basis of her Animal Healer series (though she claims she never got to ride her pet giraffe!) St John doesn’t skirt around the issue of race- When Martine first arrives in Africa she is surprised to find cities and schools in what she thought would be a barren wasteland. She bonds with Tendi the gamekeeper, who was also bullied- though Tendi and his sister Grace were bullied for being Black. One of the themes in The Glory is the indignity of poverty in the US. Will Greyton is too poor to attend college and his father needs an operation costing $25,000. He is preparing to sell his Arab stallion Shiraz when he learns of a cross-country race called The Glory that comes with a $250,000 prize. Alex has made an unlikely escape from a boot camp style compound for ‘last-chance’ teens, and is counting on her mustang Scout to carry her as far away as possible. It takes a month to complete The Glory- do Will and Alex (and Shiraz and Scout) have the strength they need to win? St John is something of a horse expert- her One Dollar Horse series, set in Hackney, was inspired by one of the eight horses that lived on her father’s reserve! If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a horse- or indeed a giraffe- then read Lauren St John (just try to contain your jealousy!)
Nominated for: Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull
Read: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, starting with The Amulet of Samarkand (EXPRESS FICTION 823.91 STR)
The Whispering Skull is the second book in the Lockwood and Co. series. Six months have passed since Lucy Carlyle joined Anthony Lockwood’s psychic detective agency, but the company reputation has not improved. Rival agent Quill Kipps keeps stealing their cases, so Lockwood calls him out: the next team to fail an assignment will be publically ridiculed in the Times newspaper. Lockwood is counting on Lucy’s talent for ‘listening’- hearing the voices of ghosts- to lead them to victory, but his assistant George’s ineptitude lands the team in trouble at Headquarters. Both Lockwood and Kipps agree to try and reclaim the dangerous relic stolen from the grave of a Victorian medium, but Lucy remains distracted by the whispers coming from her skull-in-a-jar. Nobody in London knows the source of the ghost epidemic- does Lucy’s skull hold the secret to sending them back? The Bartimaeus trilogy is also set in England, amid a bureaucracy that governs the art of magic. Nathaniel was handed to the government at age 5, and apprenticed to a wicked master. Bartimaeus is a 5,000 year old Djinn, forced to serve any magician who wields the power to summon him. When Nat is humiliated by a high-ranking politician, he swears revenge on the upper classes, and orders Bartimaeus to help. The Djinn, who expected less from such a small boy, is reluctant to get Nat out of trouble. Written shortly after Harry Potter (when boy wizards meant big money!) the Bartimaeus trilogy manages to stand out, partly because of the bond between the two leads (think Harry and Draco, or Loki and Thor, tricked into working together!)
Nominated for: Fire Colour One
Read: Finding Violet Park (QUICK READS 823.91 VAL)
“Fire Colour One” refers to the painting FC1, and this novel is equally obsessed with fire and fine art. Iris’s father Ernest is dying, and her mother and stepfather are convinced that they should inherit his art collection. Iris knows nothing about Ernest, but she needs the money to pay for the damage she has caused to nearby property. Iris is a pyromaniac, who derives an eerie sense of calm from starting fires. In England she learns the other side to her mother’s story, but her father doesn’t have much time left. Will he be able to get through to Iris before he passes? Finding Violet Park (also known as Me, the Missing and the Dead) is also concerned with death and family secrets. 16 year old Lucas Swain communicates with the deceased Violet Park via an urn containing her ashes. A talented pianist, she hired Lucas’ father to write her biography shortly before he went missing. Before he can decipher the connection between Violet and his father, Lucas will have to steal the urn, currently held in the Lost and Found department of a local cab firm. Finding Violet Park won the Guardian award for children’s fiction in 2007- can Fire Colour One win the Carnegie medal?
Nominated for: Katy
Read: Cookie (QUICK READS 823.91 WIL)
Cookie is available in Large Print from our Quick Reads section. Beauty Cookson’s father is a loudmouthed businessman who loves to point out all of Beauty’s flaws. He views her mother and stupid and weak, although she is a talented baker who would love to work outside the home if he would only let her. After Daddy carries out a wicked prank at Beauty’s birthday party, Beauty and her mother flee to a seaside town and set up business selling beautifully decorated cakes and cookies. Beauty takes on a new and fitting nickname- but can she outrun her father’s shadow? Katy is a modern retelling of What Katy Did, which was written in 1872. Katy Carr is the oldest in a family of six- her father, a celebrated Doctor, remarried after her mother’s death, and Katy dislikes her stepmother and stepsister. After Katy is banned from a family outing, she escapes to an overgrown garden and falls from a makeshift rope swing. As she comes to, it becomes apparent that Katy may never walk again. In the original story, Katy regains the use of her legs by after learning the lessons of “patience, cheerfulness, and neatness”. Wilson flat-out refuses to indulge in this nonsense- instead, we follow Katy as she fights for fairer access and learns to play wheelchair basketball. She befriends Dexter, an older boy who was hurt in a motorbike accident, and bonds with Helen, who has used a wheelchair since childhood. Reviews by people with disabilities suggest that Wilson occasionally misses the mark- it’s stupid of Katy’s teacher to get the class to “try out” her wheelchair- but overall readers are glad that she allows Katy the space to feel sad, frustrated and angry with her body. You can read Jacqueline Wilson’s thoughts on the Katy novels here.
Surrey County Council Interesting signing session! accessed at https://flic.kr/p/9qxQ6D on 15/03/2016
St John, L (2016) 20th February. Available at https://twitter.com/laurenstjohn/media (Accessed: 23/03/2016)
Burdock, R Jonathan Stroud accessed at https://flic.kr/p/ageSdY on 15/03/2016
White Ravens Festival Jenny Valentine accessed at https://flic.kr/p/cDY3xf on 15/03/2016
Barlin, M Jacqueline Wilson Books accessed at https://flic.kr/p/o4T5uA on 15/03/2016