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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"I was curious, of course. I thought about the box all the time, long after Mum stopped going on about it. I dreamed about it a few times. Once I dreamed it contained a severed head. I knew it was Grandad’s even though it was completely wrapped in bandages. I could tell that the head was speaking because I could see the bandages over the mouth moving in and out, but I couldn’t hear what it was saying. These dreams weren’t really nightmares. In them I wasn’t terrified. I felt sorry for the head. I wanted to help it but didn’t know how."


Carnegie winner: 2005
Author: Mal Peet

Struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her grandfather, Tamar examines and pieces together a series of documents and letters entrusted to her by her grandparent.  In so doing, she discovers more about his role during the Dutch Resistance in 1945 when the country was under the harsh grip of Nazi occupation following the Hunger Winter of 1944.  Through the documents, Tamar uncovers much of the suffering and desperation of war and its long-lasting impact and aftermath.

Told across two time periods, 1995 and 1945, the book deftly brings into contrast the onset of adulthood and the growing sense of responsibility as compared with its closure.  Ideas of control and of mental health run through the book as too do themes of love and hope as pillars for resilience, even through periods of extreme adversity. 

The box belonging to Tamar’s grandfather provides a sense of mystery and ultimately serves as a bridge between the two elements of the story.  The revelations about Tamar’s family towards the end of the novel are complex and lever a shift in how readers regard her identity and family.  A powerful story about coming to terms with and making sense of our past and the influence this wields over our present.

Written with panache, this is a complex and profound novel whose lithe shifts in time, characters and structure creates a deeply affecting and humane story about war, conflict and families.


Dutch Resistance / brilliant / powerful / spies /


Why we chose this book ...

"Secrets- Lies- Jealousy- Betrayal. Can you handle the truth? A gripping tale set during the Hunger Winter of 1944 with a cracking plot twist. 'The past is a dark house and we only have torches with dying batteries.'"