Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Whispers in the Graveyard by Theresa Breslin

Having read the entire shortlist in record quick time (for me anyway), I decided I would embark on reading every Carnegie prize winner since the prize was inaugurated (1936 as it turns out). This is not going to be a quick effort I don't think.  Most of the books are still in print (which is pretty impressive, really), but some are trickier to track down.

Lots of my favourites are represented.  The second ever winner was The Family From One End Street, which is one of my favourite books of all time (obviously A hated it, as the fates would suggest).  I would strongly encourage you to read it if you haven't already, it's short and really very good indeed. Tom's Midnight Garden, Watership Down and The Ghost of Thomas Kempe are other books I have loved.

I've read lots of the classic winners, and also most of the winners from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  I trained to teach English in 2003, and our tutor was very passionate about the need for us to keep up to date with YA literature, so that we can push our students on and make recommendations based on contemporary knowledge.  This was fine when I was a student and had no children and not a great deal else to do.  I read voraciously and with great enjoyment. 

I still find time to read YA literature; mainly because I now only work two days per week (more accurately, I am only *paid* to work two days a week).  I honestly don't know how full-time English teachers manage to keep up with YA literature now, along with their absolutely crippling workload.  And I know you'll all think - in their 13 weeks of holiday, but for teachers who are also parents, that's their time for re-introducing themselves to their own children. And catching up with the marking and planning for the term ahead. The answer is that probably most English teachers don't.  Which is sad and worrying.

Anyway, I started my quest with Whispers in the Graveyard, which won in 1994.  I don't remember this book, but I'd say it's probably aimed at younger secondary aged children and I was at the dog end of my compulsory schooling by 1994. It's very good.  It's like a Kestrel For a Knave-lite mixed with The Graveyard Book.  The main character is loveable, and there is a redemptive Miss Honey figure who the reader can't help but fall in love with.  Excellent for boosting the confidence of children with dyslexia, which is one of the themes of the novel.  It's a very short read, so good for a holiday bedtime story.

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