The blog posts to highlight the three books in the ‘older reader’ category have all been amazing thanks to the brilliant bloggers who agreed to help celebrate the top 10 this year.
You can take a look at any you might have missed by visiting childrensbookaward.org.uk for links to all three blogs. Here is a round-up of what they had to say.
Optimists Die First
By Susin Nielsin
Published by Andersen
Blog post by minervareads.com
Susin Nielsen is thrilled to be shortlisted, saying: “I’m delighted that Optimists Die First has been shortlisted for an award that is voted on entirely by young readers. Awards like this have extra-special meaning, because it means the book is connecting with the very people it was meant for. It’s also wonderful that so many books are donated to worthy organizations.”
MinervaReads summed up the book beautifully:
“Nielsen’s deft writing skill is apparent in abundance here. Not only is Optimists a gripping read, but the characters, no matter how minor their part, come across as authentic teens. Nielsen writes of their agonies and anxieties with pathos and sensitivity, as well as demonstrating their clear sense of humour, be it cynical, sarcastic or just straight funny. She zips around the darker themes with ease, especially Petula’s ongoing anxieties, and manages to incorporate a sense of the consequences of the tragedy of the death of Petula’s sister on the parents too. Despite the tough subject matter, there is no over-dramatisation – this is a carefully sewn tapestry of teen angst.
Moreover, the book gives the reader the courage to face down their own adversity, whatever it may be. And it also shows that although another’s problems may not be as apparent, they may be larger than one’s own issues. Each person can find courage to overcome obstacles, especially if they speak up and speak out.
The novel is about trust, and friendship, guilt and grief. The children of the FCBG have voted Optimists into their top ten for a good reason. It’s an excellent read. It’s in the older readers’ category, age 12+ years, because it contains references to sex and more adult themes.”
Take a look inside the book and read the opening pages here
I Have No Secrets
By Penny Joelson
Published by Egmoont
Blog post by TheBookActivist.blog
Penny gave her thoughts as a shortlistee:
“I was delighted when I heard that ‘I Have No Secrets’ had made the top ten for this award – one of three books in the older children category. It is particularly special as I know it is an award where the voting is entirely by children and young people themselves. I enjoyed writing this book so much and it is wonderful to think about so many young people reading it now. I can only say – I am utterly thrilled!”
The Book Activist gave her thoughts on the book:
“I was filled with a certain amount of trepidation before reading this book. Having grown up with an older sister who was completely physically disabled and had round the clock care, I wasn’t sure how I would feel ‘hearing’ a story told from the point of view of someone suffering a similar condition. However, I’m glad I did read it. The opening hooks the reader instantly by introducing a really unpleasant bad guy and immediately you are on Jemma’s side -not because she’s disabled but because she is brave and determined. The narrative isn’t just centred on Jemma’s disability, it focuses on the relationships between those around her; her carer Sarah, her foster parents, her foster brother who is autistic and her foster sister who has behavioural issues. Suffice to say there is a lot going on but the story doesn’t get bogged down and as the plot thickens, you wonder just how on earth Jemma is going to bring the culprit to justice, when she cannot speak. Jemma’s world is further turned upside down by the arrival of her long lost twin sister from whom she was separated at birth and the emotional turmoil that ensues is incredibly moving.
Some really insightful moments caused me to draw breath and wonder how many times I’d left the room with my sister feeling frustrated she couldn’t say what she really wanted to. The author brilliantly captures the reality of looking after a severely disabled person and the difficulties that arise from this. Given the themes covered in I Have No Secrets, it is particularly inspiring to know that young people themselves have nominated the book for this award. But not surprising – it’s a well-written thriller told from a unique perspective, with believable characters and a great plot.”
Here is a link to some great resources.
By Alice Broadway
Published by Scholastic
Blog post by Lunaslittlelibrary.wordpress.com
Alice spoke to Luna about the book. For the full interview visit Luna’s blogsite.
But in the meantime, here is a taster of what she had to say:
Why did you want to write Ink?
The idea for Ink kept rattling around in my mind wanting to be written. I’d never written fiction before (apart from stories at school) and didn’t feel up to the task, but I am so glad I gave in and got writing! I was really interested in writing about loss and faith and what stories mean to us.
How do you go about building your world(s) in a story?
I spend a lot of time daydreaming, which looks like utter laziness. Often I begin with an atmosphere or a particular sense like temperature or scent.
Is there something you want readers to take away from Ink?
For me, a book belongs the reader – so I daren’t tell anyone what to take from Ink. But I hope it’s a book that offers space for the reader to think and permission for them to be fully themselves.
Do you think that society still has expectations for looks and behaviour in children and teenagers?
Oh always! I’m one of those people who has vivid memories of what it was like for me to be 8 or 18 and I think that as adults we can so easily project our own childhood experience onto young people, in the hope that it helps us to relate.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
I trained to be a signing tutor for a type of sign language designed for people with learning disabilities and communication difficulties.
Which character in Ink is closest to you?
I relate a lot to Leora – I was (and probably still am) similarly unconfident and yet desperate to find something I could shine in and a place to belong.
Alice spoke to the FCBG about memories and passing on stories in a blog earlier this year. You can read this blog here.
If you have read all three titles in this category and are under 18 then your vote counts. You can help decide which book wins this year’s Children’s Book Award by casting your votes here: