Carnegie Medal Posts

Links (27 Feb 2017)

Literary Prizes

Scholastic Writing Awards 2017, deadline 28 February 2017

Winners of the PEN (USA)

Barnes & Noble Announces the Salam Award for Pakistani Science Fiction

Shortlist Announced for International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017

2017 longlist for the Walter Scott Historical Fiction

LA Times Book Prize finalists

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston has won the Bologna Ragazzi Award for fiction

Branford Boase Award longlist

All-white Carnegie medal longlist provokes anger from children’s authors and here is the response from CILIP responding to lack of diversity


Miscellaneous Links 

Ukraine publishers speak out against ban on Russian books

How Flap Illustrations Helped Reveal the Body’s Inner Secrets

Invisible, a book written by the homeless, can be read only when it’s cold (Kapucynska Foundation, Warsaw, Poland) A special temperature-sensitive paint was used to print the text. The letters, the words, the sentences will become readable after a couple of minutes – but only if the temperature is lower than 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit)

Remembering Nüshu, the 19th-Century Chinese Script Only Women Could Write

The Woman Who Cut of her Breasts :  The real story of how one woman’s rebellion against oppressive feudalism has been hijacked and repurposed by the patriarchy

Rafia Zakaria on Carson McCuller’s birth centenary

Pixar offers free online lessons in storytelling via Khan Academy

An Elegy for a Library” by Mahesh Rao

A lovely essay by writer Andaleeb Wajid “Learning to be myself: Can you overcome obstacles by yourself?”

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative: Publishers Showcase — fantastic idea to have a global catalogue of translations from independent presses. h/t Rachel Hildebrandt

Reviewer and critic, Laura Miller’s fantastic interview by Michael Taeckens in Poets & Writers

An excellent interview with publisher Robert Giroux by George Plimpton in Paris Review 

An interview with Pakistani independent publisher, Shandana Minhas, Mongrel Books

An interview with Yemeni author Ali al-Muqri

Award-winning writer Tope Folarin brilliant essay on “Against Accessibility: On Robert Irwin, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Imbolo Mbue’s “Behold the Dreamers

Something to cheer about: Human translators rout AI in much-hyped translation event

Himanshu Rai, the boss of Bombay Talkies, and his two wives


Cancer and literature for children and young adults

Cancer and literature for children and young adults

Seeing a child, even a teenager, ill has to be one of the most unpleasant experiences of life. Somehow the big C or cancer gets The Yellow World by Albert Espinosawritten about more than other diseases. In 2012, The Yellow World by Albert Espinosa was published and became an NYT bestseller. It charts the experiences of the young boy developing cancer and then battling the disease through much of his “young adult” life. It has been translated from Spanish into English. The first half of the book is far more readable as it documents his getting cancer, the treatment, the jokes shared with other patients, the friends who pass away etc. But this is a memoir. Quite unlike John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, another NYT bestseller and soon to be made in a Hollywood film. This is fiction but based on meticulous research done by Green. ( An example of his knowledge is evident in this YouTube where Green discusses the costs of American healthcare: )  Fault in our starsThe Fault in Our Stars is a story about teenagers affected by cancer. To put it simplistically it is told through the friendships Hazel makes with Augustus Waters and Isaac and the other kids at Cancer Kid Support Group. The matter-of-fact manner in which the young cancer patients manage themselves and help each other is an eye opener. John Green also manages to get the nervousness, concern, worry of the adults very well too. The tone adopted by the writer is not surprising given that he spent a long time with Esther Earl, to whom the book is dedicated to as well. Esther Earl developed cancer at a very young age. Along with the support of her family and friends like John Green. As John Green says in the introduction to Esther’s book/memoir/diary This Star Won’t Go Out that she was EstherEarlterminally ill with cancer but she made the treatment for it seem “very standard and casual”. For instance one day they were  typing to each other when John Green realised Esther Earl was actually in the ICU with tubes coming out of her chest to drain fluid that had accumulated in her lungs. 

And then there is Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. A powerful novel with three short stories A Monster Callsembedded in it about a young boy who is worried about his very sick mother and is unable to utter the truth to anyone. This is a novel about loss, fear and courage. It is a story told with sensitivity, compassion and powerful storytelling. Ness wrote the novel based on an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd ( who died of cancer), he and illustrator Jim Kay won Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal and Greenaway Medal in 2012, presented to the year’s best children’s literature in the UK.  (Unfortunately the edition I read did not have a single illustration in it.) Recently it was announced that Ness is adapting the screenplay from his novel. The film is slated for released in 2016 and will be directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.

Every one of these books has been selling exceptionally well. The two books of fiction by John Green and Patrick Ness are being converted into films as well. Every time one reads books like these the power of literature to share, describe, comment, analyse or just present a situation is confirmed. It is as if the words on the page speak to the reader quietly, taking them into confidence and exploring a world that is otherwise frightening.

27 March 2014 

“Boys don’t knit” by Tom Easton

“Boys don’t knit” by Tom Easton

Boys Don't Knit

Ben Fletcher is in a bit of a soup. He was with a bunch of his friends when he was nabbed after an unfortunate incident at the supermarket. It involved a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso and a lollipop lady. Anyway the upshot of it is that Ben Fletcher has to do community service. According to Claudia Gunter of the West Meon Probation Service, Ben Fletcher has to maintain a personal journal, “giving as full an account as possible of the events of each day and recording, in detail, your thoughts, concerns and feelings.” He is also asked to take up a hobby to keep him on the straight and narrow. Of the few classes being offered at school, he wishes to join the one being offered by the  “hot teacher”, Jessica Swallow. Unfortunately it is knitting. So knitting class is what he signs up for.

Ben lives with his parents and six-year-old sister, Megan. His father claims to be dyslexic and is a car mechanic who thinks that Jeremy Clarkson is god. “I suppose he’s all right, my dad, except he just talks about nothing but football and Top Gear. On and the Second World War. ” Ben’s mother is a “state magician, which sounds quite cool but it’s not really, because it isn’t like David Copperfield with a huge stage and special effects. It’s just little clubs and pubs with dodgy PAs, unappreciative audiences and nowhere she can keep her white doves. She’s always off ‘on the circuit’. My relationship with  my mum is OK, when she’s around. On the one hand she never cooks or cleans or does any of the stuff mums are supposed to do, on the other hand she can make Pringles come out of my ear.”

He is a normal boy, Ben is. When he manages to find himself in this incredible situation of learning how to knit, tying himself up in knots wondering what people would think of him, especially the girls. Once in knitting class he discovers the joys of knitting patterns, being creative with colours and experimenting with designs. He slowly discovers he has a talent for it, likes it, begins to take orders and is competitive too. All the while he is trying to knit quietly and secretly in his room, hiding his knitting pattern sheets and balls of wool under the bed. Even Claudia Gunter is interested in his progress.

Boys Don’t Knit is a delightful, laugh-out-loud funny book by Tom Easton.  (In his “spare time” he is the Production Manager for Hachette UK.) It is devoid of vampires and ghouls–creatures about whom Tom Easton also loves to write–but it has all the ingredients of a crackling good read. It has the angst of a young boy, just stepping into his teens, who to his dismay has to take up knitting classes, thus upturning the preconceived notions of gendered roles in society.  At the same time he discovers how to handle competitiveness with grace and remain focused on the goal of winning the prestigious knitting competition. And more importantly, discovering that the girl of his dreams, Megan Hopper, may just have a thing for him. Life could not get any better.

hkblogoThe imprint, Hot Keys Books, will be releasing Boys Don’t Knit on 14 Jan 2014. It is an imprint worth watching out for. After a long time I am discovering the joys of being familiar with a list that is producing magnificent titles, with a range of issues and very well written. So far any book that I have picked out of their pile has been worth reading. Hot Keys Books was begun by Sarah Odedin who in her previous avatar was an editor at Bloomsbury. Hot Key Books, a brand new division of Bonnier Publishing, publishes books for 9 – 19 year olds and was established in 2011. They are focused on developing this as a brand and so far doing it well. In the couple of years of existence they have already got a winner with Sally Gardener’s Maggot Moon. It won the 2012 Children’s Costa Book Award and the 2013 Carnegie Medal. From 2014, it seems Hot Keys Books will increase their number of titles from 40 to 60 per year.

Tom Easton Boys Don’t Knit Hot Keys Books, London, 2014. Pb. pp. 278 £6.99 ( Age range: 12+)

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