The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are probably the foreign book awards American children’s librarians know best (I’d like to pretend it’s the Governor General’s Awards what with Canada being right next door and all, but alas in my experience that is not the case).
The 2010 Kate Greenaway winner, Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood, is a tearjerker. Harry and his dog, Hopper, are inseparable. When Hopper suddenly dies, Harry’s grief seems unbearable, but Hopper returns through Harry’s dreams helping to ease the pain. It’s a little confusing the first night reappears, but the repetition of his visits over a few nights makes it clear that Hopper has, in fact, died. Whether you are a dog-lover or not, get out your kleenex for this sweet book.
My Carnegie Medal choice, Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd, was no less intense (it also won the Bisto Book of the Year from Children’s Books Ireland for the 2008/2009 cycle). I had already read quite a few of the Carnegie Medal winners and really enjoyed the 2011 winner, Monsters of Men, written by Patrick Ness. Two periods of Irish history collide in Bog Child. Set in Northern Ireland in 1981, 18-year-old Fergus is preparing for his A levels which will let him leave Northern Ireland and her Troubles when he and his uncle discover a body in a peat bog. Who is the girl, how old is she and how did she die? Fergus is drawn to the mystery of the Bog Child (and the archaeologist’s attractive daughter). At the same time, his family is in crisis. His older brother, Joe, has joined the prison hunger strike which recently killed Bobby Sands. His parents disagree about his brother’s choice and his brother’s friend has blackmailed Fergus into delivering packages across the border. With so much going on, it is little wonder that success in his A levels is no foregone conclusion. There are many tense moments throughout, but also tender ones showcasing young love, family ties and even political choices. A well-deserved award winner.