Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece
April 30, 2012
Annabel Pitcher Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a’Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory.
Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago.
When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.
Five years ago Rose died. One moment that tore Jamie’s family apart. Now his Mum has left them, his Dad is an alcoholic and the only person there for him is his sister Jas, who was Rose’s twin. But nobody understands why he doesn’t cry for Rose, why he doesn’t miss her, because they remember her and he doesn’t, he was too young when she died. Now they have moved to the Lake District for a new start, to make things better, only it doesn’t seem to be working. Jamie still has deal with school bullies and his mother’s indifference. And just how does he explain to his father that his only friend is a Muslim, especially after Islamic terrorists killed his sister.
People have been telling me that I should read this book for months, that it is a heartbreaking, moving story that just deserves to be read. Yet I’d been putting it off because I hated the cover. Yep that’s right, me, a school librarian that tells kids daily that they shouldn’t judge a book by a cover was put off by a cover. I was so relieved when the Carnegie books were delivered and I found that they had changed the cover for the paperback. One I could get excited about reading it now and two the cover actually matches the story that I’d been told about.
And the story. I’m beginning to wonder if the Carnegie judges have shares in Kleenex this year as this is yet another shortlisted book that can’t help but move you to tears. I keep wondering if all the Year 7’s shadowing the Awards will give up due to the bleakness of some of the books but they are just so well written that they keep coming back for more. This is no exception. The book is written from Jamie’s point of view and by the end you feel as though you know him inside out. However this doesn’t stop you from getting to know other characters in the book just as well. Jamie is an incredibly perceptive character so you get to know characters close to him really well too. This book is about how death can tear a family apart and using a younger brother who barely even knew his dead older sister is a very effective way of adding enough distance to see the subtleties in characters behaviour yet keeping close enough to show the devastation that an event like this can cause.
Without going into details I loved the ending to this book. It had such an element of hope to it yet at the same time nothing was perfect, it wasn’t a happy ever after, as after all life isn’t like that. I may have been reluctant to read this book but I’m glad I did, it may have made me cry but it left me feeling that life may not be perfect, but it really isn’t all that bad. Verdict: At time a laugh out loud story, a times a total tearjerker, a book that deals with the devastation of loss, but reminds you of all you have to live for. Reviewed by Alison