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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"Ping could not get used to the way Hanno's arms were dual purpose, equally good for whatever he wanted. It gave him great advantages which Man had thrown away when he decided to become two-legged. When Hanno stood on all-fours it could never suggest as chimpanzees do the awkward business of crawling. It was rock-like and noble, as erect as anyone could need to be."

A Stranger at Green Knowe

Carnegie winner: 1961
Author: Lucy M Boston

Green Knowe is a historic family house belonging to the Oldknow family and is set amidst extensive  gardens.  Rich in history that pinpoints particularly events and relationships in the family’s past, the series as a whole show the sophisticated inter-relationships between people and place.  A Stranger at Green Knowe opens in the African jungle with a band of gorillas, establishing the homeland for Hanno the gorilla who is caught and taken for a new life in captivity at London Zoo.

Ping, the refugee boy form the books predecessor, The River at Green Knowe,  visits Hanno at the zoo and feels an immediate kindship and connection with the gorilla.  Ping is offered a break from the drab and dreary existence by Mrs Oldknow at Green Knowe and, unbeknownst to Ping, Hanno has made a break for freedom and ends up in the grounds of the house.  Discovering Hanno in the grounds, Ping struggles to keep the gorilla’s presence secret and to ensure its safety, preventing it from eating the poisonous yew that grows in the gardens. 

The ending of the novel, though deeply affecting, is perhaps inevitable given the enormity of the task that Ping faces.  The book explores large and important themes about displacement, media perceptions of that which is, and is not, in the public interest, our relationships to the environments that we live within and ultimately how we might choose to embrace or shy from difference.  

There is a familiar, yet otherworldly quality to the lush verdant gardens around Green Knowe, and the sanctuary they present for both Hanno and Ping. An over-arching melancholy looms over much of the book which offers some fascinating Post-Colonial insights. It is, however, a book that also contains hope, a great deal of courage and that comments poignantly on the redemptive powers and depth of true friendship.