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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"Right now I want a word that describes the feeling you get – a cold, sick feeling deep down inside – when you know something is happening that will change you, and you don’t want it to, but you can’t stop it. And you know, for the first time, for the very first time, that there will now be a before and an after, a was and a will be. And that you will never again be quite the same person you were."

A Gathering Light

Carnegie winner: 2003
Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Words and language, past and present, reality and fiction are interwoven to great effect in A Gathering Light.  Drawing upon the true life story of the murder of Grace Brown, this is a rites of passage story focussing upon sixteen year old Mattie Gokey, the novel deftly evokes the type of community, friendships, romances and tensions that affect small rural settlements.  Mattie is a determined and intelligent girl who wants to become a writer.  She is influenced in part in this by her teacher Miss Wilcox who writes controversial feminist poetry and introduces Mattie and her best friend Weaver to the works of Dickens and Milton.

The friendship, learning, discovery and play that Mattie and Weaver share is based around a curiosity and intrigue in words and learning.  Despite the aspirations that each hold, life in the early 1900s holds constraints for them that make their dream of college life appear unlikely.  Mattie is needed on her father’s farm and is limited by narrow views around what a girl can achieve and Weaver by the perceptions and prejudice people hold because of his race. 

Mattied works at The Glenmore, a hotel on Big Moose Lake.  It I while on shift here that her life alters, she is passed a collection of letters by one of the guests, a Grace Brown, who asks that they are destroyed.  Before Mattie is able to ensure their destruction, Grace’s body is retrieved from the lake and Grace finds herself reading the letters looking for clues to what motivated the murder.

The landscape of Big Moose Lake and the surrounding Adirondack Mountains is vivid and creates natural boundaries for the small town of Eagle Bay. A Gathering Light captures that startling moment between childhood and adulthood, creates a vivid sense of time and place and shines light onto the concerns, preoccupations and inter-relationships of a small community in ways that are both ingenious and intriguing.


choices / murder /


Why we chose this book ...

"We chose this because it won in the year when most of us were born. It was strongly recommended by the staff running the club as a well-written book with adult ideas handled in a manner appropriate for younger readers. We will read it soon!"