My Lockdown Books: Fifty One

David Almond is a deceptively brilliant writer.  His syntax is simple, although his vocabulary is not, but sentence upon sentence it builds up to an unexpected crescendo before you are hit by an explosion, the impact of which leaves you overwhelmed by emotion.

War is Over is set in 1918 as the Great War is coming to an end.  It’s the story of John, a boy whose father is fighting in France and whose mother is working in a munitions factory.  The plot is slight but it raises complex questions of right and wrong, war and peace.  When John finds a picture of a German boy his own age, he is forced to question the war itself.  The Germans, he begins to feel, are people like him and his family – but can he like people who are trying to kill his father?  Is Gordon, the conscientious objector, right?

The book is illustrated by David Litchfield and the power of his drawings is immense.  Somehow, using only black and white, he is able to depict aggression and gentleness, to conjure up changing seasons and moods.

Kate Greenaway Medal

Alongside the Carnegie Medal sits its sister prize the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.  The nominations list for it has also been published today.  The nominating and judging process is the same for the two awards and you can read about it in my previous blog.

Once again this list is varied and I’m delighted that many non-picture books are included.  Having said that, I am probably most pleased to see When Sadness Comes to Call by Eva Eland on the list.  I’ve written about it elsewhere.  It’s a book about depression and anxiety for small children.  That makes it sound heavy and forbidding but it’s not.  It’s gentle and calming and reassuring.

An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castles illustrated by Kate Leiper and published by Edinburgh’s Floris Books is possibly my pick of the rest.  I love Kate’s style and use of colour and the way her illustrations work so well with Theresa Breslin’s text.  (And she’s a Lossiemouth quine too! (Kate, that is.)

I had the pleasure of working with Emma Shoard at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival which makes me even happier to see her nominated for Good Boy published by Edinburgh-based Barrington Stoke and written by the late and lamented Mal Peet.  Not even Emma or Mal’s wife Elspeth was quite sure how to read Good Boy (that’s one of its joys) so Emma was faced with having to interpret it in an open way.  And she has succeeded stunningly.

And there’s The Dam by Levi Pinfold.  His illustrations are so evocative that you almost don’t need David Almond’s words.  But if you didn’t have them you’d be missing utter brilliance.  They absolutely can’t be separated from each other, a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

There are plenty of other great books on the list and you can see them here:

You have until June to decide what decision you think the judges should make.