So it turns out I was a little slower than anticipated, and the shortlist was announced on the 19th of March. Silly full time job getting in the way of all my reading!!

The shortlist is as follows:


While I am excited to see some titles have made the short list, I am also sad that some have not. Moonrise for example was an amazing book.

So the books that have made the shortlist that I have read so far are

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

And I am just about to start a Skinful of Shadows.

I will continue to read through the longlist, but will prioritize the shortlisted books first.

Mrs K

Review: Bone Talk

Bone Talk. Written by Candy Gourlay

39723033So this is the seventh book that I have read of the Carnegie Medal longlist. Of course I have been so overwhelmed with work that it has taken me longer than normal to work through the list, and as such the shortlist has also already been announced – so I can inform you that this book has also made the shortlist.

I loved this book! It was easy to read and was absolutely captivating. What I loved even more though was when I got to the end of the book and read about how the author was wanting to put Filipino literature out there, and also tell about experiences from their point of view. I love this idea so much. I grew up with so many Filipino friends, and I hate to think that they were never able to see themselves represented in literature. I also think that we have to be so careful with historic events and an awareness that largely the recordings that we have of these are from the perspective of the white person, or the colonizer.

Anyway – back to the story of this book. We are introduced to Samked, a young boy on the verge of manhood who thinks he understands the world and how it works, that is until his boyhood friend returns to the village and brings with him a white man. An American.

Samked is a delightful male protagonist, who is determined to do right by the people around him. I really enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes and understanding the importance of the ancients, and the spirits and the gods. I also enjoyed seeing how he approached the white men who came to the village.

The story is well paced and full of action and twists and turns, and taught be a lesson about just who can be trusted.

This is a really good book that I would highly recommend to those wanting to read a good story. Essentially it is a coming of age story. But with the cultural elements of being set in the Philippines during the 1700s.

Mrs K
Genre: Adolescent Fiction, Adventure, Cultural, coming of age,

Review: The Lost Words

The Lost Words. Written by Robert Macfarlane. Illustrated by Jackie Morris.

lost-words-spell-songs-twitter-headerThis was a truly beautiful book. The pictures and the words entwined beautifully creating a visual dictionary, and poetry book and tribute to nature. It called itself a spell book of lost words. While I was a little disappointed that these words were so called lost, I thought that the book was beautifully done.

Research also showed me that these words were lost or taken out of a dictionary. 34837005

As an English teacher I was upset that the words were considered lost, but also I was excited by the book itself. It is the kinda of book you love to read, and can spend hours flicking through the pages.

What really prevents me from writing a solid review, or ever being involved in award decisions is that I struggle to understand how to compare this book to the others off the 2019 Carnegie Longlist that I have read. It is so different and so offbeat and distinctive I do not know how to fully review it.0001478_the-lost-words

Mrs K
Genre: Poetry, Nature, Animals, Non Fiction, Environment, Children’s, picture books, Art

Review: My Side of the Diamond

My Side of the Diamond. Written by Sally Gardner.

This was a fascinating read. It is the fifth book that I have read off the long list for the Carnegie medal. Also reading the blurb I see that this is the same author that wrote Maggot Moon (Which I read and reviewed before I started this blog)  and won the Carnegie Medal in 2013.

This is the first book on the list this year that is science fiction, which I feel is quite a shift from previous years.

35698616The first thing that I loved about this book was the book itself. The early parts of the books feature a series of moleskin journals, and this book is designed to replicate that, which I absolutely loved. It helped create an atmosphere around the book that you don’t always get, and certainly do not get with digital books.

The blurb on this book says that this is “a breathtaking tale about friendship, truth and the search for love across space and time.”

I think this is the sort of book that you are either going to love or hate. I do badly did want to love it, but feel like I actually fell into the later category. What was it that prevented me from loving it? I think it was all the different perspectives, which left me confused rather than enlightened. I read this with my class, who do 15 minutes silent reading a lesson, so it was a little bit jumpy, often when I picked up the book the next day I struggled to remember who’s perspective I was currently reading and also which character it was related to.

I enjoyed the overall story. I also loved the overall message. That idea of love and a search for love being more important than anything else is quite strong. Especially as a NZer in the days after a terroist attack.

There were two quotes that really spoke to me.

“Love was the most extraordinary thing the human race possessed. […]  He’d come up with a formula – it went like this

Love plus passion equals imagination

Love plus imagination equals creation

Love plus creation equals life

Love plus life equals time

Love plus time equals death.

But he said nothing exists without love. (pg160)

I really like this summary of love, which I feel is quite accurate.  I also really liked the concept given we spend a lot of time searching for other life and examples, that this was an alien race that had everything, but was looking to us for love.

My other quote I liked was:

“How does anyone know who is the villain and who is the goodie? Many see me as the villain. […] Maybe we are all responsible for what happened, every one of us.” (pg164)

I really liked the notion of who was to blame which was explored in quite a bit of detail.

I think I enjoyed the actual story. However it was just the changing of perspectives which I particularly struggled with. Yet, this changing perspective also allowed for some amazing kind of wow moments at the end of the book. The ending also took me completely by surprise but was actually really really good, and continued to explore the notion of love and what matters most.

This story was also about how one small event can change a lot. And that all our choices and actions have consequences.

Mrs K
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Adolescent Fiction, Teenage Fiction

Review: Rebound

Rebound written by Kwame Alexander

35999004So this is now the fourth book that I have read of the Carnegie CILIP Longlist. What I love is that it is the third of those books which features male protagonists in a genuine way exploring their feelings. It is also the second of those four books which is written in poetry.

I also really appreciated the aspects of this book that were written in graphic novel form. I love that concept of mixed medium, so a novel written in poetry rather than prose and interspersed with graphic novel pages. Definitely makes this a must read.

Like the other book I have read off the long-list I have gone into them with absolutely no concept of what the book would be about. If I am honest I am very quick to judge a book by its cover – and this cover would never in a million years have had me picking up the book – it was very clearly a sports book – and that is just not me. However while it did feature basketball it was a long way from being a ‘sports’ book.

I just looked it up on goodreads right now, to link to the author page and I see that it is the prequel to another book “the crossing” not a book I have read, but one I may now go and search for. Also note, that not even knowing this other book in no part diminished my appreciation of this book.

One other thing I really liked (There was a LOT to like!) was that while I suspected that the main character was black, to me it was never overtly pointed out and I felt that that made the character more relate able.

So the book deals with Charlie, who is on the rebound from his dad dying, and trying desperately to figure out what his life is now. I could relate on so many levels, having lost my mum when I was younger. The bit that really got me were comments like Charlie feeling like he should not be laughing any more.

I really enjoyed the role of the grandparents, and the clear desperation of the mother. But I also really liked that throughout the book, despite being lost, Charlie still had a really strong Moral Compass, and although he did not always pay as much attention as he perhaps should have, it was still there and was shaping everything that he did.

I love so so much that this is the third book I have read in a very short time which deals with these male protagonists. And not just in a stereotypical way, but you genuinely get to see their pain, and explore the journey of healing with them. I think these sorts of books go a very long way to break down some of the toxic masculinity in our society.

Definitely a must read if you are into adolescent fiction. It is a slice of life story and very realistic. Definitely don’t do what I would have done and let the cover put you off!

Mrs K
Genre: Adolescent Fiction, Teenage Fiction, Slice of Life, contemporary, realistic

Review: The House with Chicken Legs

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.


I was surprised when this book arrived from the library to see that it was classified as children’s. I was not sure what this would mean in terms of my enjoyment of the book. However my one word  review is WOW.

This book was folk tale and fairy tale all rolled into one. It was amazing. It follows the story of 12 year old Marinka who feels like she does not belong in her grandmothers world, or the world of Benji or Nina. At it’s heart this is a book of self discovery that leaves Marinka firmly knowing where she belongs.

Although this book is much lighter than The weight of a thousand feathers or Moonrise I think that this may be my favourite book from the longlist that I have read to date. It feels like the most relatable. We have all felt that sense of isolation before, not really sure if or how we belong. For Marinka, the fantasy nature of the story left her with bigger issues to contend with than most of us. But not only did she battle with her loneliness but with her physical isolation and also the bigger worry about whether or not she belonged and her destiny was right for her.

Marinka in the book is 12 years old, but as a 35 year old I could relate to her. My eight year old daughter started reading this book, although did not get far, I would have been interested to know how she related to the character.

Sophie Anderson writes with so much compassion. My heart was absolutely breaking for the character of Marinka in the beginning.  But also for the old Yaga and both houses. I loved the epilogue, and the finding of a place to belong.

This book would be great for young readers and would fit in so well to a study of fairy tales and what makes a fairy tale. I really cannot recommend it enough!

Mrs K
Genre: Folk Tale, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, adolescent fiction, teenage fiction, family, adventure


Review: The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers. Written by Brian Conaghan.

This is the second book that I have read off the 2019 Carnegie Medal Longlist. The strange thing when you are reading from a list rather than choosing books for interest is that they have the ability to totally take you by surprise.

9781408871539Once I had this book in my possession (borrowed from the local library) I still did not read the back of the book, merely launched myself into it.

So, with all of this in mind perhaps it is not surprising that I was absolutely totally blown away by this book.

The book started off simple enough, about a young man (17) who is looking after his brother an his mother who has MS. From the beginning I was drawn in, I liked the humor of the main character, and the nature of the story was interesting. I wanted to keep reading. However I was not sure exactly where it was going to go.

I read it quite quickly, over about four days. It was one of those books that I was able to enjoy when I picked it up, but it did not have a massive selling point which had me unable to put it down. However that all changed about half way through the story when the mother asks her son to do the unthinkable.

I essence, this is a book about euthanasia. What surprised me was that this is a book written for teenagers discussion a topic which is still not often discussed in any medium. While there are many other topics that were once taboo that are no longer, euthanasia is not one of them.

What I really liked about the book was the relationship between the brothers. The need to protect each other, and look out for each other. Also that each of them still worked on maintaining a relationship with the mother.

While I liked the inclusion of Pozitive as an outlet for the older brother, I felt that some of the relationship between Bobby and the friend was not needed. Especially since it was left with such a lack of conclusion.

I really liked the depth of these male characters. It is not often that we get the opportunity to see such strong and nurturing characters in adolescent fiction.

Oh my goodness! Just now – when loading the picture of the cover I saw that the feathers are actually the silhouettes of the people. That is so cool! I did think that the title was so apt, the idea that you are always happy to look after those you love, but the weight and burden of that is also difficult.

There was one quote that really stood out to me – stood out so much that I took a photo so I could remember. Bobby was talking about his mum and he said:

“I can imagine Mum flouncing around to these groups back in the day when she was a different person, rejoicing in an alternative universe: no kids, just herself, her friends, great songs and the thrill of youth; life’s blank canvas to splatter. Exactly the place where I’m at now I suppose.”

There are two things about this quote  – one is that him thinking about his mum in this way highlights how far from the ordinary Bobby’s life is. It highlights that with his responsibilities he will never be like this. It is both what his mum has taken away from him and what she wants to give him back. However I also love that idea of life as a blank canvas to splatter to decorate or change the way that you want. What a cool idea to think that as a teenager you have this blank canvas to do with what you want.

Overall I would recommend this book. It was a tear jerker, it certainly deals with a tricky subject, but it well worth the read. Especially if you are looking for a book that deals with male characters.

Mrs K

Genre: Contemporary, Adolescent Fiction, Slice of Life, Teenage fiction