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Welcome to our Anniversary Blog by resident blogger Jake Hope. Jake will be reading and reviewing all of the past CILIP Carnegie Medal winning books during the anniversary year. We are also asking shadowers to "Adopt a Book" and join in reading and discussing the anniversary titles in their shadowing groups.

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8
Sep
2017

"‘Think of the old town as half a spider’s web, with the railway station at the centre, she said, ‘the canals being the half circles, you see, and the streets across them the – strings? – ‘ ‘Threads?’ ‘Threads that connect them.’ ‘Looks more like a maze to me.’ ‘Yes, perhaps that too.’ ‘Easy to get trapped in one and lost in the other.’ "

Postcards from No Man's Land

Carnegie winner: 1999
Author: Aidan Chambers

Told in two parts, the novel weaves together two strands unifying them through their setting in the city of Amsterdam.  One is based in 1944, the other fifty years later in 1994.  Jacob Todd, is visiting the city to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem and his grandfather’s involvement within this.  His trip to Amsterdam marks his first trip abroad alone and he is insecure and prone to episodes of depression.

The other story centres around Geertui, the grandmother of Daan, a young man who Jacob stays with and who helps him visit and appreciate the city.  Geertrui is nearing the end of her life and is seeking a medically assisted death.  Before so doing, she is keen to relate the story of Jacob’s grandfather and namesake, who she nursed to health in the war.

In portraying Amsterdam as a cosmopolitan and thriving city, the book depicts the different characters and beliefs that comprise the settlement encouraging consideration around how different this might have been had Fascist rule succeeded.  There are strong allusions to Anne Frank’s story, which Jacob feels a strong affinity for, so much so that the realisation that Anne’s house and story exist for the public at large comes as a genuine shock, encapsulating the strong personal union that readers can develop for stories and text.

An intricately plotted and emotionally sophisticated story that unpicks and uncovers the multifaceted responses and relationships we have to people, places and the past. This is a dense novel that rewards multiple readings which help unfurl the nuanced nature of the prose.

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This book is adopted by

Exeter School
Victoria Park Road, Devon

Why we chose this book ...

"Our Carnegie Shadowers rated this highly on the basis of the blurb and their desire to read on, having read the beginning. The Librarian rated this as her top choice for its memorable and thought-provoking plot for older readers."