Roehampton Readers: Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

Review: Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

By Julie Mills

Wed Wabbit is a fantasy story told with humour, exploring serious themes including grief, anger, dealing with emotions, change, fears, leadership. Positive play and imagination, co-operation and friendship are positive themes. “Know yourself” might be the motto for this is a moral tale.

wed wabit

Image via David Fickling Books

It is a super compulsive read, good for readers of the younger age group (9/10 or younger if read aloud, upwards). An adventure story with a great narrative, it uses mystery, puzzles and the journey quest as plot movers and includes a map of the land of the Wimblies. This is the land into which Fidge and her cousin Graham are hurled, following the near fatal accident to Fidge’s sister Minnie, whose favourite toy Wed Wabbit has recently taken over the idyllic, but stiflingly structured, land where the different coloured Wimblies live. This is a realisation and subversion of Minnie’s favourite story book The Wimbly Woos and a leap into the imaginative world of the pre-schooler.

Fidge soon realises that there is something rotten in the state of Wimbly Woo: “the prettiness seemed painted on. Nasty things were happening here” (p57). She is driven by the need to return Wed Wabbit the toy to her dangerously ill sister, but in the process leads a motley team of life sized toys to liberate the land of Wimblies not only from the tyranny of Wed Wabbit but from previous weak leadership and stereotyped expectations of its citizens.

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Roehampton Readers: Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

Review: Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

By Lorna Collins

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Image of Geraldine McCaughrean via  http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk

Geraldine McCaughrean is a prolific author of children’s books, and has won several awards, including the Carnegie Medal nearly 30 years ago with A Pack of Lies[1]. She has been nominated for the Carnegie award a total of eight times, the last time was in 2015 for The Middle of Nowhere[2] which has also been reviewed by Roehampton Readers. The Middle of Nowhere and Where the World Ends are both concerned with survival in almost impossibly hostile environments.  However, the locations could not be more different; The Middle of Nowhere is set in the Australian outback and Where the World Ends is set on the small island of Hirta, part of the St Kilda archipelago of islands situated off the north western coast of Scotland.

Warrier Stac

Image of Warrior Stac by Anna White

McCaughrean’s inspiration came from a visit to St Kilda made by her daughter, who brought back an abundance of stories about the history of the islands, including one about a group of men and boys who were put ashore on Warrior Stac (Stac an Armin) in August 1727 to collect birds, eggs, feathers and oil to provide for the islanders over the winter.  This was an annual event and they should have been collected after two to three weeks at most, weather permitting. However, they were inexplicably abandoned leaving them marooned on the stac for nine months. Nothing more is known about how they survived or what they thought had happened to cause their predicament. McCaughrean states in an interview on the Carnegie website that this is the ideal scenario for an author to build on – a verifiable historical event, but with very little factual information, allowing the author to imagine the gaps.[3] She has used extensive research into life on St Kilda at the time to imagine how it might have felt to be marooned on the stac and her account of the types of birds harvested and how they were used exemplifies the depth of research undertaken (pp. 38-39).


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Roehampton Readers: Thornhill by Pam Smy

Review: Thornhill by Pam Smy

By Clare Walters

 

Thornhill is a ghost story that interweaves the stories of two girls. The first is Ella Clarke, who is alive and well in 2017, and the second is Mary Baines, who died in 1982. These girls are mirror images of each other, and Ella’s tale is told through the illustrations while Mary’s is told through her diary entries.

Ella, who has recently lost her mother, has just moved to a new house with her father. Mary has been – and still is in her 1982 diaries – incarcerated in a children’s home called Thornhill. By chance, Ella’s new bedroom window overlooks Thornhill, now boarded up and derelict.

In both girls there is an absence of a physical voice – actual on the part of Mary who is a selective mute, and virtual on the part of Ella, who simply has no one to talk to. This is linked to a lack of agency, as neither girl has control over her life.

There is a third girl in the story, too, another abandoned child in the children’s home, who is simply referred to as ‘She’. Described as a cruel teasing, tormenting, bully who makes life unbearable for her victim Mary, she assumes the role of villain. But because She never speaks for herself, she also lacks a voice. We discover her solely through Mary’s diary, so we are learning about her through the classic unreliable narrator. Are the diary descriptions true? Or could Mary be the actual villain? Continue reading

Roehampton Readers: Shadowing Carnegie and Greenaway 2018

Carnegie Greenway Medals

Roehampton Readers, who meet at the University of Roehampton to discuss the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards shortlists as a shadowing group and post reviews to the shadowing site itself, are now in their fourth year. Former NCRCL subject librarian Julie Mills, who currently coordinates the group, reflects on their summer outing and introduces this year’s shadowing experience. 

The University of Roehampton NCRCL Carnegie and Kate Greenaway award reading group recently overwhelmingly voted Geraldine McCaughrean’s Where the World Ends as their favourite Carnegie Award shortlisted title for the 2018 CILIP awards. This foreshadowed the announcement of this title as the official winner, revealed on June 18th.

The group particularly appreciated McCaughrean’s creation of an immersive, unfamiliar environment both in terms of historical time and sense of place and admired her strong imagery, though some found the language demanding and took a while to get involved with it. There was also strong support in the group for The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas which was awarded the Amnesty Honour prize by the CILIP committee.

Meeting weekly once the shortlist for the awards has been announced, the group discusses one title from each shortlist, with a different group member each week leading the discussion on the chosen titles. Discussion is often wide ranging, covering past winners and children’s literature themes and theory in general, but it is always informed by the criteria used by the judges when selecting the winners.

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Roehampton Readers: Shadowing Carnegie and Greenaway 2018

Images via CILIP

The MA Children’s Literature programme at the University of Roehampton runs a reading group Roehampton Readers, which discusses the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards shortlists as a shadowing group and post reviews to the shadowing site. The group  meets weekly to read one of each of the titles shortlisted for the Carnegie and Greenaway awards, with a member of the group leading the discussion on each title.

 

The next meeting is on 25th April. We meet at 5.30 until around 7.00 in Fincham room 002 and the books we will discuss are After the Fire by Will Hill and A First Book of Animals illustrated by Petr Horáček and written by Nicola Davies.

 

All children’s literature students past and present are welcome to come along and we would love to have some new members.

 

Roehampton Readers: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

By Kay Waddilove

Salt to the Sea is a historical YA novel set in the closing months of World War II. As with her debut Between Shades of Gray (2011), previously shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Ruta Sepetys weaves a fictional narrative around an actual, but little-known historical event. In the final months of the Nazi regime a multitude of refugees, both civilians and soldiers, fled from the advancing Soviet army to the Baltic Sea ports in the hope of boarding a ship to safety, and escaping the chaos of war-torn Europe. Several German ships were conscripted for this evacuation, dubbed Operation Hannibal, including the Wilhelm Gustloff, a large cruise liner designed for around 1400 passengers. Approximately ten and a half thousand refugees were loaded onto this ship, which, on 30 January 1945, was hit by Russian torpedoes. It sank in less than one hour, in a snowstorm, and approximately 9000 people died, over half of them children.

As Sepetys informs the reader in her postscript, this sinking was “the deadliest disaster in maritime history”, with a death toll exceeding those of the Titanic and Lusitania combined, yet it is a tragedy that is virtually unknown outside Germany. As a writer committed to shining an ideological light onto such “hidden chapters of history” through “the child and young adult narrative” (Between Shades of Gray did this for the plight of Lithuanian deportees to Siberian labour camps), Sepetys explores the event from the different perspectives of a group of young protagonists. The refugees came from Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the author builds her story around four contrasted fictional characters: Joana, a young Lithuanian nurse; Emilia, a Polish teenager; Florian, a Prussian art preservationist; and Alfred, a punctilious Nazi soldier. They all have a secret; carrying their guilt, their fate, their shame, or their fear – or perhaps all four – as psychological burdens which they describe as “hunters” in the opening chapters.

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Cover via Penguin

 

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Roehampton Readers: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

By Lorna Collins

The Bone Sparrow tells the story of 9-year-old Subhi, whose family have fled Burma (Myanmar) as a result of the persecution of the Muslim minority known as the Rohingya. Subhi, however, knows nothing of his homeland, since he was born in the Australian detention centre in which the story is set.

Subhi’s life consists of permanent hunger, constant threats from other detainees as well as from the ‘Jackets’ who run the centre, interspersed with involvement in smuggling packages for older members of his ‘family group’.  His only escape is the magical ‘Night Sea’ of his mother’s stories which he believes brings him gifts. We later discover these ‘gifts’ are left by Queeny, his seemingly heartless sister as  mementos of their father, knowing (as Subhi does not) that they will never see him again.

Jimmie, a girl who lives outside the centre, manages to get in through a hole in the fence. Her mother had died 3 years previously and we gradually learn that she has been pretty well ignored by her father since then, resulting in her skipping school and being unable to read. She carries with her a book of stories written by her mother which she longs to read. Subhi is able to read and longs to hear fresh stories, since his mother, previously an avid story teller, seems to have given up altogether. The two children quickly form a bond. Jimmie also able to bring with her a thermos of hot chocolate which is an unimaginable delight to Subhi.

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