Chobham Academy Book Group
40 Cheering lane, London
In previous years, I have complained about the content of the books, and the ways in which they seek to glamorise dangerous and sometimes illegal pursuits. The heavily discussed “Out of Shadows” was rife with controversy and dripped with offensive material, although, a heart wrenching and seemingly complex message-incorporating the themes of morals, race and staying true to one’s self in the face of pressure-was played upon brilliantly, by using a protagonist with the desire to be accepted and who saw his head and heart descend into conflict.
I dismissed “Creature of The Night” and many others, and am glad to see that, this year, the list appears to have been toned down.
There are books that are suitable for the younger members of the group, and some that, I have no doubt, will engage and entertain some of the older shadowers, too. It’s the result of something that a number of us have been campaigning for for quite a while (I sound like I’ve just won a court case, against a newspaper.), and it’s nice to know that our views have been taken into consideration and that some of the younger readers will benefit from our efforts to “Clean-up” and “Tone down” the shortlist.
Posted on: 11 May 2012
This year, there isn't a clear winner.
All of the books are superb and brilliant; all of them, and in their own way. There isn't a clear winner, and, when Miss Brooke raised the point about whether comparing completely, different books, and choosing the best, was OK, she made a very good point.
Posted on: 08 Jun 2011
Out of Shadows Isn't Out of The Running
If you have looked at our Rading Barometer, you will have seen that the book that is at the top is the debatable and controversial, "Out of Shadows," a book that has been at the centre of many of the blog posts and group discussions for some time.
In spite of this, I wouldn't be disatisfied, if the book clinched the award.
It's tear-jerking, heart wrenching, excellently characterised and the events are well documented. The plot is controlled, the setting is well established and Jason Wallace manages to cronicle a sensitive issue well.
Even now, Robert Mugabe appears on the news-the Zimbabwe dollar is of poor value, and he is unable to attend G20-and seeing the cause of all of this is very interesting.
I might have complained about it, but, if it won, I wouldn't be annoyed.
It might not be one of the nicest books that I have read, but, as Miss Brooke pointed out, it is the kind of book that stays with you, and she is right.
It stays with you, it challenges our views and our opinions and it is something that is worth reading.
If Out of Shadows wins, it will be a worthy winner.
Posted on: 08 Jun 2011
With Great Prizes Come Great Opportunities
As the final weeks draw ever closer, and the revolutionary moment when the winner is revealed looms, I think back to when, last year, Neil Gaiman's victory was announced.
Newer Shadowers: I will fill you in.
Neil wrote, "The Graveyard Book," a book about a boy called Bod-Nobody-who was kidnapped at birth and taken to live in a Graveyard with Jack and the rest of the ghouls and ghosts. It might sound like morbid and gothic stuff, but, the book had a good reception, and many people, including the majority of our group, praised it. In fact, if I remember correctly, the book received hundreds of nominations, and it quickly became one of the most successful books of the year.
Anyway. Since winning the award, Neil Gaimen has been everywhere. The competition has opened up so many doors, for him; amoungst other things, he has penned a game-changing episode of Doctor Who and has been nominated for the enviable,Teenage Book Prize.
Whilst the winner may not yet be clear, at least one thing is, and that is that whoever wins can look forward to a rich future of oppotrunites and a whole array of great chances.
With great prizes come great opportunities.
Posted on: 07 Jun 2011
Who's Your Winner?
Where have the weeks gone?
At the time of going to press (I have always wanted to say that!), there are, approximately, three weeks of Carnegie left-that means that, this year, there are three weeks of reviewing, blogging, debating, chatting about the books, their content, the contexts, characterisation-and if they had made a lasting impression, or, not.
Everyone has a book that they feel should scoop the award.
For example, Miss. Brooke believes that the honour should go to Patrick Ness, who has been nominated for the same series of books.
I am, once again, in two minds.
I would like, "The Death Defying Pepper Roux," to win, as it is a charming, witty and unique story that is full of tongue-in-cheek moments and swashbuckling adventure.
Meanwhile, even though, "Out of Shadows," has caused some controversy, I think that it could be a winner; it's sad, and pretty graphic, but, at the end of the day, it is true to life and heartfelt. This combination, this blend of emotion and poignancy could result in a winning novel-and, I'll admit, if it won, I wouldn't be surpirsed.
Who do you want to win?
Posted on: 07 Jun 2011
The Title Isn't The Consensus!
The question that makes up the poll was chosen, due to the fact that it was an issue that was raised, at one of the meetings. It was something that everyone speculated about, and that everyone had an opinion on. The title of the poll wasn't the consensus of the group; it was a question that everyone could answer. Not everyone would have the same opinion-hence why there were several options-and the question was open to lots of debate, which was partly the reason why it was picked.
The poll isn't the general view-it is something that should be talked and conversed about.
Posted on: 26 May 2011
The violence in, "Out of Shadows," is required, in order to provide an accurate account of the ordeal of the youngsters of the School. However, is it going too far? Is shoving a live and dangerous scorpion down somebody's trousers true, or, is it too violent? I'm split-what about you?
Posted on: 26 May 2011
The Violence Battle
I am in two minds about our poll. I think the books are violent, yes. But for the Xbox generation? To entice them to reading? Nah. I have not played Xbox myself, but I know many people who do and they are very pleasent. I think it is a rather judgemental thing to hyave put on. (Sorry ) (But very relevant) Isabelle.
Posted on: 25 May 2011
Which Side Should I Take?
OK. Here's the thing: I don't know which side to take.
Part of me thinks that the large quantities of violence that are evident, throughout, "Out of Shadows," are Jason Wallace's way of getting his views and messages across, and that they are his way of documenting and conveying the true extent of the horrific events of the 1980s, in Zimbabwe.
Controversial, edgy and somwhat tear-jerking, the story might require the violence-it is most likely that it might be a way of sympathising with the characters. It might help with the characterisation, and it is what happened during an event that has, and, even today, still is, left and is leaving a whole nation, reaping the consequences
On the other hand, some of the violence is unbelievable. Although this might act as a way of getting the points across, it is quite graphic, and it is something that you wouldn't want to let younger students read. The blurb, in addition, is quite decptive, and, whilst the book carries a warning, some will not be expecting the things that are contained, within it.
To be honest, if I was a teacher, or, a carer, part of me would want my class to read, "Out of Shadows," as it is an innovative perspective on an event, that shook the World, and it could change their entire personality. However, I am adamant that that kind of violence is something that young children should never be exposed to, and it could provide an influence, leading to innapropriate actions and behaviour.
I'm stuck. Which side should I take?
Posted on: 20 May 2011
How much gore can we take?
I actually do agree that any violence in Out of Shadows is totally relevant as opposed to the gratuitous and unrealistic nastiness that is often behind the games many boys like to play (gross generalisation on many levels I know). Reading about the real thing is infinitely more moving and leaves those who attach any glamour to violence nowehere to hide.
However... I still think that everyone matures at different rates and it's all a question of balance isn't it? Would you let a 9 year old read Out of Shadows? how about a 6 year old...?
Posted on: 20 May 2011
Out of Shadows: Heart Wrenching, or, Axe Wrenching?
I know a boy, who is an absolute stickler for a bit of violence. If you were to hand him a thousand pounds, or, the opportunity to see something being gnashed and torn to pieces, with sprays of blood everywhere, he would, without a small shadow of doubt, choose the option with as much gore, as possible.
Some may point the finger at the X Box, and at the PS3. They may claim that the overhaul of violent games has transformed a young generation into the, “Baying for blood,” type. Others may blame music videos (Did you see that GMTV special?).
Some of the members of our group, however (Not me, would you believe!), have taken to blaming Jason Wallace’s, “Out of Shadows,” and its harsh and often brutal way of conveying the inconceivable truth.
What do I have to say about this?
Whilst Out of Shadows may not be to everyone’s liking, and, whilst the extent of the gore might, perhaps, be a little too much, for some to stomach, it is, at the end of the day, the harsh reality of the events that occurred in Zimbabwe, in the 1980s. When reading this kind of book, it is important to remember that, even though the recount will not be entirely accurate, it is a documentation of something that really happened; something that people really endured; something that cursed the hearts and minds of so many… Knowing that makes you see the book in a different way.
It might not be as good as John Boyne’s, “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas,” which had me in inconsolable floods of tears, but the characterisation is excellent.
Underneath the gory and controversial tale of bloodshed, rife fear, bloodthirsty battles and general wars, there is a tale that is both powerful and poignant, and the extreme horror may help to reinforce the true extent of the problems.
For that reason, Out of Shadows might just win the award. It might not appeal to all ages, and, let’s face it, even some adults might find it a little hard to bear*, but, at heart, it is a poignant tale of true events.
Do you agree with me?
*Mr. Bhatti claimed that an audience of ages 16+ would best suit the book.
Posted on: 19 May 2011
The Eccentric Events of Our Latest Gathering
Take several cartons of orange juice. Take bars of Tesco chocolate, Isabelle's lipsol and a copy of, "The Death Defying Pepper Roux," and participate in a series of turbulent exploration, and, what do you end up with?
A game, which will blow the minds of the established, fire-breathing dragons of the Dragons' Den.
Our meeting began somewhat differently, to previous sessions.
Upon receiving these cartons of orange juice, we were prompted to create our own assault couse, in which the object of the game was to roll the lipsol through as many towers as possible, and drop the carton onto the lipsol-with your eyes shut.
That may sound perplexing-let's just get to the books.
Miss. Brooke was shocked at the content of, "Out of Shadows," and agreed with the title of the poll. In addition, Mr. Bhatti expressed his concerns, and believes that the book is only suitable for those who are over 16.
Katie, meanwhile, praised the way that the book captures the essences of peer pressure and the impact of war, though, it is likely that she may agree with the two teachers.
She thought that the blurb was quite deceptive.
"To start with," said Isabelle, "the book seems to be about boys in a school, but it appears that is not how it will carry on."
Our topics of conversation varied somewhat-Mr. Bhatti and Katie managed to forge a link between, "Prisoner of the Inquisition," and, "Only Fools and Horses." Rachel, on the other hand, claimed that she liked the book, as it described the events well.
"Monsters of Men," lead to more discussion. This time, the debate was about whether the slang language sets the tone well, or, whether it is irritating.
Anyone who watched, "The Apprentice," will see where this is going.
The group made the connection between the slang language of the, "Chaos Walking," trilogy and the boys', "Slang Attang," application (Don't say that we didn't warn you about the topic jumping).
Posted on: 18 May 2011
Should there be a 3rd Carnegie category
The more I read of this year's short list the more I am convinced that the books selected are just too disparate in terms of age suitability.
There is one; Out of Shadows, which I wouldn't want anyone under 16 to read because the content is both violent and adult in nature. Not that it's not a good book. It's just that some books should only be read when one has the emotional equipment to deal with it.
2 or 3 are I think unsuitable for anyone under 13. that leaves just 2 that year 7s would be able to read. If you have a group then all members should able to read all book choices but the selection is making this impossible.
Should we have a new poll? Should there be 2 Carnegie groups one for under 15 one for 15+
Posted on: 17 May 2011
It’s Trilogism! (I just coined that, didn’t I?)
During our meetings, there appears to be an ever-reccuring and very important raise of point about the, "Chaos Walking," trilogy-a point which may influence the result of the Carnegie Prize.
Members of the group claim that, in order to understand the third book, Monsters of Men, readers will have to have read the other, two books. Whilst the book stands on its own, (To a certain extent, I believe) there are parts that are hard to understand, and to comprehend to, and this will reduce the enjoyment of the book.
This is a huge shame.
One member firmly believes that the book should win a prize, but, due to the fact that it is part of a trilogy, it will not.
That is a prime example of Trilogism-books that are discriminated against, as they are part of a series, or, a trilogy.
On behalf of the group, I am begging the Judges to not overlook Monsters of Men. As far as we are concerned, we think that the book stands on its own, and hope that it will be pretty successful.
At this point, I am brought to ask the question of, “Should a book in a Trilogy be nominated?”
Should we allow the fact that it is in a series to put the book at a potential risk of not winning a prize?
I want to hear your views.
Posted on: 05 May 2011
Who’s your money on? (We’re not actually gambling, of course.)
Bradford: A vibrant and diverse city, located in the heart of Yorkshire.
To narrow the search down, there’s Thornton, which, away from the bustle of the city centre, is an idyllic and quaint retreat from the noise.
Narrowing the search down further: Thornton Grammar School, where one of the millions of Carnegie Reading Groups is based.
In case you have not yet guessed, we’re back, joined by one of the land’s most prestigious prizes.
Perhaps one of the best things about the Carnegie is that it brings together such a varied blend of influential, innovated, encapsulating and entertaining (For the time being, I’ll lay off of the explicit rant, shall I?) fiction, and gives so many authors the big and influential break that they have been searching for.
It introduces us to books and ideas that we had no prior knowledge of, and, without, wouldn’t have any knowledge of, today. The awards open our eyes to the kind of social and moral issues that plague our society, such as morality and ethnicity, and can change our perspective of debatable and controversial issues. (Come on; let’s face it. Without, “The Ask And The Answer,” how many of you would have thought about how moral putting bands on Spackles is?)
Yes. The Carnegie is certainly something.
For that reason, any of the associated books should be pleased with the fact that they made the Long List, and the authors of the books that made the actual Shortlist should be oozing happiness. The overall winner, then, should be brimming with joy.
Who’s your money on? (We’re not actually gambling, of course.)
Personally, I’d like Geraldine McCaughrean, author of, “The Death Defying Pepper Roux,” to win, though, I’m tempted to side with every writer, as they’ve all got something incredible to bring to the table.
I’ll end up taking a lot of sides, I suppose.
Whatever happens, it is guarenteed to be a good year.
(How many seconds before I’m complaining, and going back on that, do you reckon?)
Posted on: 07 Apr 2011
I think that the reading groups should vote for their favourite
I learnt that a panel of adult judges choose the winner of the prize. I think this is stupid, and I think that the reading groups should vote for their favourite and then the winner is that book. It wouldn’t be that hard would it?
The books are all good, and I think that it is right that anyone of any age should be able to enjoy the book. But, as it is meant to be a children’s book award, then the children should pick it.
If the panel weren’t happy about a vote, then they could have a panel of people that are the ages that the books are for.
It would be so easy, and I don’t think that Helen Grant wrote The Vanishing of Katharina Linden with the idea that it was going to be awarded by a panel of middle aged adults, who all have the idea of finding a book that the older people will enjoy.
That is another thing.
Are the books too orientated for a specific age.
I also found that it seemed that they are all rather one genre – not all, but to start with they are all quite dark.
I know they say never judge a book by its cover…but darkness is what a few of these books give out.
Posted on: 10 Jun 2010
Power to the Children
The Carnegie Book Prize. Last time I checked, it was a Children’s Book Prize. Last time I checked, it was the adults that were choosing the Shortlist.
Normally, this doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, a book’s a book. But, recently, we’ve been getting books that are way too explicit/complex for this kind of age group.
Don’t get me wrong. The panel have done a great job of toning it down from last year’s horror show, and most of the books are much cleaner. This is good. However, they’re still picking books that are complex, take some getting into, and that are about very strong subjects.
I like that. (To an extent, of course.)
I’m not getting my point across very well, am I?
Look. The point is, this is a Children’s thing. It should be children that pick the winners.
Otherwise, you end up with a selection of books that the majority of kids aren’t interested in.
We have to put a stop to this. Loosing kids to Television, and the curse of Facebook and Street Crime will be the demise of our Country.
We must restore the idyllic state that our Nation once beheld.
We must remove the austereness that has been spread across the faces of our generation by many years of gaming.
You, Carnegie, can help us.
Let the kids choose the judging.
Posted on: 10 Jun 2010
What can I say?
You miss things, when they’re not there. And, in the strangest of ways, when the Carnegie Winner was announced, last year, and the shadowing was over, it felt like there was something missing.
Strange, isn’t it? How regular, 30 minute-meetings become part of your routine. You get used to them, and reading a book every night becomes a habit. “The Norm,” if you will. The whole thing then ends, and it feels like there is a gap in your weekly schedule… Strange…
Anyway; enough grieving. The Carnegie is back, for another few months. (Play canned cheering and applause) That’s more reading; debating; reviewing and munching our way through chocolate bars. (You know who you are)
Back to the books. All of the Books look less explicit. None have immediately stuck out as ones to ovoid. That’s all good.
Plus, there’s also a good selection of authors. Terry Pratchett is supposed to be good, and, as well as that, you’ve got Patrick Ness, Helen Grant, Phillip Reeve, Marcus Sedgwick, Neil Gaiman and Laurie Halse Anderson. Great selection.
All in all, I think that this year is going to be a good one. We’ve got some great authors, fantastic titles and some amazing teachers and readers who are willing to run the club.
It’s going to be good.
Posted on: 11 May 2010
Welcome to the DARK side…
There are, as you may know, two sides to every argument. There are two teams on a football field, right?
On a different note, that means that there are two sides to my argument. You know, the one about age restrictions for books and the like.
Anyway, to be truthful, you can always “Not pick up” the books from the “Dark Side” but you know what they say, Curiosity Killed The Cat. But not the dog. You see, the dog was sensible. (Long silence…) Never mind.
Posted on: 15 Jun 2009
Look what you’re doing to society!
“I went outside and smoked my fag right down to the filter. I felt the nicotine rush like an anaesthetic to my brain. Two more puffs and I could think again…” Oh, please.
“Sometimes we got lucky. We got i-pods and money and once we found an old lady with an envelope that said “Deposit” on it. It was full of fifties so I bought myself an X Box…” Oh, really.
Is this the kind of thing we want to drum into the heads of children? That crime and violence can be rewarded with flashy games consoles and phones? Is this what we want to happen to OUR society? Do we really want OUR children to become the BAD people in society? Do we want them, standing in court in three or four years time, about to be sentenced to a young offenders institute or worse? Grinning? Saying that they were inspired by a series of books nominated for one of the most prestigious book prizes ever? Books that could lead to such lows should not be nominated for such awards. Carnegie books should change the reader for the better, not for the worse.
Example? Millions. (The book, dag-nab-it!) Anyway, on a serious note, Millions deserved all the credit it got. For once, it was about helping others, rather than uniting against them. And, if I’m not mistaken, it won TWO Blue Peter book awards, a Carnegie medal and a WhiteBread prize. It deserved all that. Creature of the Night doesn’t. That deserves a stern talking to and a lecture that’s something along the lines of, “Look what you’re doing to society!” Hopefully, I’ll be the one to give it that lecture. Maybe in a few years, but not now. I’ll have to finish that French homework first.
Posted on: 15 Jun 2009
The start of something new
For all those who were wondering, my recent campaign to "Keep it clean," (Or KIC, for short.) is going from strength to strength. With, of course, the exception of one book:
But suddenly, something terrible happens.
Can you guess which book?
Answers on a postcard, please. (Play canned laughter).
No, really, answers on a postcard.
Posted on: 10 Jun 2009
Keep it simple, keep it clean
I, for one, think Alex was right in saying that books should have age ratings because of the content. In addition to the age rating, some film covers also have a small rectangle on the back with things like: “Language: Mild” etc. But maybe, just maybe, books should also be rated on the difficulty…
Cosmic. A good plot, humour every now and again, language that was easy to understand… Everything a book should have and a definite contender for the prestigious Carnegie Medal. But sadly, the same could not be said for Airman…
A long prologue that seemed to go on forever... Very long descriptions that seemed to last for a century… Long words that I didn’t know how to pronounce (I had to reach for the dictionary four times too many…) So, people that choose the books nominated for the award, let’s get one thing straight. Children of eleven years of age would prefer not to be treated to a dose of foul language, (Yes, I’m looking at you, Ostrich Boy, Black Rabbit Summer etc.) sexual content, nudity etc. Even word like “Idyllic,” which here means, “Simple and carefree,” and long sentences that you can’t make head or tail of. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. If anyone disagrees, I’d like to hear from you.
Posted on: 15 May 2009
Alex's look Episode 1: The disturbing case of teenage books
For films, there's the BBFC. Every film released in the UK has a rating, which makes it illegal to watch or purchase films above your age limit. This, on the whole, works well. However, there is no such thing for books.
For most books, the general consensus is that, really, how bad can it be? it's only a book, for goodness' sake. There's no explicit violence or nudity. Surely it's fine.
but the people who say that obviously haven't read Black Rabbit Summer, shortlisted for the 2009 Carnegie award. Violence? Check. Sexual content? Check. Strong language? You bet. And it's all wrapped up in one of the most disturbing and distressing storylines of all time.
For books like this, some kind of age restriction needs to be used. It shouldn't be as stringent as film classifications (because books don't actually SHOW anything) but still, something should be in place to act as a guideline for parents or carers so that young children are not exposed to such childhood-wrecking, soul-destroying* material.
(*I may have exaggerated this slightly)
Posted on: 13 May 2009
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