With two weeks to go before the winners of the prestigious Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards are announced, here is a look at two of the books I swept up to take home with me as lockdown was announced.
Lark by Anthony McGowan and Lampie by Annet Schaap are both shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. This is awarded annually for a book that creates an outstanding reading experience through writing. Although quite different, these two tales both involve flawed fathers and missing mothers. In each, two children develop their bond of trust to overcome adversity. This may sound bleak, but both books are funny, as well as moving.
Lark is published by Barrington Stoke, who work with the best writers and illustrators to publish good, accessible books that help every child experience the joy of reading. Brothers Nicky and Kenny, whose home life has not been easy, get lost and caught in a blizzard on a day trip to the Yorkshire moors. The real peril of their predicament is heart-stopping, and yet there is plenty of humour in the boys’ chat and daft quips. It is a short book, with short chapters. Evocative description of the natural world is kept tight and concentrated, and carries the action along. McGowan has told how the discipline of writing for Barrington Stoke has honed his skill as an author. Not a word is superfluous. This is the fourth in a series but is equally good to read as a stand-alone.
Annet Schaap is one of the Netherland’s best-loved illustrators. Lampie is her debut novel, and has won prizes in the Netherlands and Flanders. Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, lights the lantern to warn ships away from the rocks. But one stormy night the light goes out, a ship is wrecked, and Lampie is sentenced to work as a maid at the Admiral’s Black House. Rumour has it that a monster lurks in the tower. What will Lampie find there? With echoes of The Secret Garden, Lampie is a magical story of the sea and seafarers, of pirates and circus folk, and of mermaids, courage and friendship. Magical, but not fey, and often laugh-aloud funny. Thanks also to translator Laura Watkinson, the story trips along compulsively. Highly recommended.