Wednesday, 25 June 2014

I see "The Bunker Diary" has

won the Carnegie Medal.
It has now become clear that the Carnegie Medal is no longer about good literature for children (and young adults) but about controversial books that are designed to shock.
I have read "The Bunker Diary". I found it unrelievedly dark and depressing. It was a book without hope and without humanity. Others will disagree but my reading of it was that every time Brooks came close to either thing he dashed it away again. Brooks is playing with his readers. It is a vile game.
The Carnegie Medal list has changed in character over the years. That is only right. The first winner, Arthur Ransome, wrote books that now seem ordinary and predictable but they were, at the time they were written, seen as quite remarkable.
"The little white horse" (Elizabeth Goudge 1946) is still being read. "The Woolpack" (Cynthia Harnett 1951) is still one of the outstanding examples of historical literature for children and, where children get the chance to read it, enjoyed.
Jump forward - past some outstandingly good books - and there are authors like Anne Fine and Peter Dickinson who have one it twice - for books which can still be read with pleasure and interest. David Almond's "Skellig" (1998) and Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" (2010) are books which are likely to last the test of time too.
I doubt "The Bunker Diary" will. It will sell well for a short while because it is controversial, because it has won the Carnegie, because it will appeal to some who see no hope for the future and because a dangerous few will fantasize about doing something similar.
There was another book on the list for this year's Carnegie, "Rooftoppers" by Katherine Rundell. The characters are outstanding. It has humanity, humour and genuine hope for the future. We don't know whether there is a happy ending or not but the hope of one is there. If we want children and young adults to read and continue reading then surely this is the sort of thing that should be given precedence? Even if we want children to face the dark things in life, rape, murder, suicide, war, cancer and the like then surely we also need to say, "It's not all bad. There is always hope for the future."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your description of "Rooftoppers" reminds me of a manuscript I have read, with touches of humour, humanity and the most important, hope. Young readers possibly will not recognize the humanity, will appreciate the hope, and laugh at the humour ... and look out for another book to read.