Patrick Ness is the Somewhat Unsurprising Winner of the Carnegie Medal

Patrick Ness winning the Carnegie Medal was somewhat lost in the hype surrounding Pottermore (including on Kid You Not!). Author of the Chaos Walking trilogy, the Medal was won by the final book in the series Monsters of Men. Focusing on a dystopian future in which men can hear each other’s thoughts and women are outlawed, it is the story of teenagers Todd and Viola as they find themselves first lovers and then on different sides of a war. The books explore the nature and the price of war; its complexities and ambiguities; its moral dilemmas and dehumanisation. Although (still) suffering from dystopian overload, I have been a fan of these books since I first read The Knife of Never Letting Go. Original and brilliantly written, this is an uncontroversial choice for the Carnegie.

It is a shame that Ness’ voice was diminished by Potter mania, as he used his acceptance speech to lambast the government for its library closures, highlighting the importance they had played in his upbringing and childhood reading. Describing himself as ‘a child that libraries built’, he singled out Education Minister Michael Gove for his failure to oppose the closure of libraries.

As the latest in a long line of prestigious authors to protest against the closure of so many libraries it will be interesting to see whether in fact the Government – or the media – take any notice of the campaigns to prevent the policy from happening.

By Lauren

Review: Artichoke Hearts, by Sita Brahmachari

Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari (Macmillan, 2011)
Teenage novel. Winner of the 2011 Waterstones’s Children’s Book Prize.

It’s a book about colour-mixing, clashing patterns, dogs peeing on a tropical beach, painted coffins. It translates to the plot as the intermingling of terminal illness with teenage romance, constantly oscillating from energy to exhaustion and exhilaration to sadness. Told in the form of the not-quite-so-private diary of twelve-year-old Mira, the novel revolves around the gradual decline of her beloved grandmother Nana Josie, a revolutionary, imaginative, zany and slightly controlling hippie who could be the most attaching character in the novel if Mira wasn’t such an endearingly warm narrator. The story freely strays away from this original plotline, though, scattering secondary plots that sometimes lead somewhere and sometimes don’t, like the artichoke leaves of the title, but weave many more colourful characters into the tapestry. From Pat the posh, pedagogical writer and dog-walker to the beautiful and tragic young married couple waiting for death, the novel takes us through a gallery of portraits which could not be more remote from our everyday experiences while staying entirely credible.

Death is one of the most commonly tackled themes in children’s literature, and very often the portrayal of the death of a grandparent is a tear-jerking opportunity to teach the young reader about the harsh reality of our own transience. But Artichoke Hearts, although immensely sad, is not a tear-jerker; and although death is given more meaning and more stage presence in this novel than in most works of children’s literature that I’ve read, it is neither celebrated as a rite of passage or a process of maturation, nor lamented as a bitter truth of existence. In fact, far from allowing for generalisation, it is presented in all its singularity. Mira’s grandmother is like no other in the world. In her life, her death, her thoughts, her art, the artichoke charm she gives Mira, we read a unique and personal experience which does not call for universalisation.

Artichoke Hearts also presents a very tender, pitch-perfect portrayal of early teen romance. While Nana Josie is dying, Mira gets her first period, her first mobile phone and her first boyfriend. Far from both pheromone-packed hypersexualised YA and sickly-sweet love stories of pink girl-books, Mira and Jidé’s first steps into romance are gentle and loving, full of laughter and shyness and trial-and-error, firmly anchored in a world where the number of x‘s at the end of a text determines a teenager’s mood for the day, and where gossip is both longed for and feared.

Sita Brahmachari’s sensitivity in this first book is admirable. She deals with complex themes simply and gracefully, creating a resolutely modern coming-of-age story in a multifarious world. It’s a touching, fun, emotional, deep teenage novel which thoroughly deserves its award and will hopefully receive many more.

The editorial work on the book is enchanting, with a colourful cover and lovely detailed patterns introducing the chapters.

Reviewed by Clementine. Leave a comment

Potter, More or Less

One minute forty-nine seconds of JK Rowling interspersed with beautiful (if slightly bobo) animation leave us with more questions than answers. The highly-anticipated Pottermore website will be an interactive reading experience, with readers’ contributions feeding into the original stories. Jo promises a ‘safe’ platform, full of extra details probably drawn from her many notebooks of background and biographical information. For the moment, what we know from the Leaky Cauldron, one of the most famous fansites in the Pottersphere, is that we’ll learn more about Professor McGonagall’s and the Dursleys’ backstories; that we’ll be sorted into houses; and that we’ll get a ‘unique’ wand. Many more ‘official leaks’ can no doubt be expected in the near future.

How will this interactive world unfold? We can be sure that the academic and publishing world will be watching extremely carefully. Too close to a video game, and it will betray the nature of literature, the dwindling of which everyone already deplores; too close to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story and we’ll feel like we’re back in the nineties. The designers will need to work their way cautiously between these two pitfalls.

Of course Pottermore will also be a platform for selling ebooks and, potentially, more derived Harry Potter products. Are we heading towards a new publishing trend where the gap between paper books and their e-twins will need to be bridged by imaginative marketing strategies, enlarging the reading experience to a tree of endless real and virtual ramifications? Straddling Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the creative minds behind Pottermore are clearly tech-savvy and ready to embrace viral paths to success.

With Pottermore we can expect more definitional issues for academics. ‘Reading’, ‘literature’, ‘books’, ‘narrative’, ‘reader’ – what becomes of these signifiers when they come to encapsulate such a wide variety of signifieds? With one foot on pulped wood and the other one in the binary void, literature is still groping around for balance. In this precarious equilibrium, publishers, authors, agents, and academics find themselves in challenging times. Pottermore is more than Potter: it is a glimpse of the future.

by Clementinealso posted on

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Kid you not, we’re on iTunes !

And you can subscribe to our podcast by clicking here! Thanks to this clever bit of technology, the next episodes of Kid You Not will download automatically into your library.

But please keep checking our blog for updates! and don’t forget to rate and comment on the podcast on iTunes.

Episode One: Surely That’s Not A Children’s Book!

Click HERE to download Episode One of Kid You Not Podcast! (28 minutes) or listen to it on the feed player in the right sidebar –>

Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here!

This week’s theme: In the first ever episode of Kid You Not Podcast, we discuss one of the many problems with adults – namely, their ambivalence towards children’s and teenage literature! Listen to the episode to learn more about crossover literature, publishing strategies behind adult covers for children’s books, and what it says about you if you don’t feel too comfortable reading children’s literature…

This week’s book review:

Numbers, by Rachel Ward (Chickenhouse)

Tell us what you think of Numbers in the comments!

The next book review will be Mimi, by John Newman.
Get hold of the book and let us now what you think before the next episode comes out!

Other books mentioned:

Junk,  by Melvin Burgess; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon; Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman; The Giver, by Lois Lowry ; The Daydreamer, by Ian McEwan; the Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer; the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling; How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff; Holes, by Louis Sachar; The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. All books mentioned in the podcast or on the blog are listed here.

Thank you so much for downlaoding this episode! It’s our very first one ever and we hope you’ll enjoy it and forgive us for the glitches here and there. It’s all a learning curve!

Please share it with your friends and contribute to the blog and to the podcast by asking us questions and posting comments. You can also email us at .

The next episode, on Quality and Trash, will be released on July 17th. Until then, subscribe to the blog for extra posts and book reviews!

Clem & Lauren

Episode One: The Making Of

As a little teaser in advance of the release tomorrow, we thought we’d provide you with a brief account of our experience making the first episode of Kid You Not!

Given that neither of us had any previous experience with audio software or microphones it was an interesting Saturday in which we finally met to record the first episode. All the planning and research had been the easy part. Connecting the microphone to the computer was a little more challenging, as was working out how to reduce feedback on it and what all the buttons did…

After all this hard work we decided it was time for lunch in a local pub (before the harder work started). It seemed easier to tackle on a full stomach – anything is easier to handle after chips.

After playing around with the microphone and the audio software for long enough to work out how to make sure Clem’s voice was not ten times louder than mine, the recording finally began! We had a tentative start as we got used to the sound of our own voices and a couple of technical glitches. By the time we had finished both of us were convinced that we were going to need to start again – I could have sworn that we kept wandering off the point and that I didn’t phrase things at all as I meant them to. But when we listened to the material (to see which bits we needed to re-record) it wasn’t anywhere near what we had thought we had recorded! It was actually pretty close to what we had intended in the first place…

A lot of peppermint tea and audio aggravation later we had a roughly edited first episode. Just a little bit more polishing, and we have Kid You Not Episode One: Surely That’s Not a Children’s Book

We learnt a lot making the first episode; hopefully future ones will not require quite as much confusion or peppermint tea.

By Lauren