This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Especially for children: a rant.

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks has just won the Carnegie Medal, Britain's most celebrated children's book prize.

What's the book like?

Well, I haven't read it, so I can't tell you. What I can tell you, though, is what (according to the reviewers) the story is about.

Imagine a group of imprisoned people. Imagine a cruel jailer. Imagine the jailer forcing those people to do terrible things to each other.

Imagine the very darkest, most dreadful things you can - and the worst possible ending - and you'll have some idea of The Bunker Diary.

Now, whether the book is good or bad, one the thing is clear: it isn't suitable for children.

And surely an award for best children's novel should go to a book that children can read without harm.

Shouldn't it?

Word To Use Today: cruel. This word comes from the Latin crūdus, which means raw or bloody.


  1. Nothing to say, really. This says it all.....will tweet it at once...

    1. Thank you, Adele. It seems that the Literary Establishment has lost faith in children's fiction. This is bad for writers, but a tragedy of huge propertions for the kids themselves.
      And THAT'S what matters. Tremendously.

  2. I'm not one to try and deliberately stir the pot, but isn't this an impossible position to take without having actually read the book?

    I'm not saying this book *is* suitable for children, because I haven't read it either, but there can be an enormous gulf in the themes a book explores and whether or not it's presented in a way that's suitable to children.

    While I'm not sure that it's specifically written for children, I would consider The Boy in Striped Pyjamas to have similar themes to the ones you described above, themes that would certainly make me cautious about handing that book over to my daughter. But, having read it, I feel that it is an appropriate book for children of a certain age, because of the way that the material is handled.

    1. Yes, Eddie, You're quite right. My problem was that because I maintain The Word Den as a family blog I wasn't able to be specific about what happens in the book.
      The Carnegie judges gave the book a 14+ age recommendation, and 14+ hardly comes into the category of children. 14+ still deserve good books, of course, though by that age the adult market is largely available for them. Children - the under fourteens - have only children's books to read, and it's just so important that good quality children's books aren't marginalised, especially when the small market for literary children's fiction is already under enormous pressure.

    2. OK ... I've read The Bunker Diary, and I won't be handing it over to any child of mine any time soon.

      I didn't like it, but the reasons I didn't like it were more than because I just didn't like what it was about - I couldn't see the point, and I really don't think the author could see the point either. And if the point was that there is no point (to violence, to cruelty, to life, etc), he didn't get that point across very well.

      For me, it came across as a kind of Saw-Lite, a Hostel for kids, but what was most annoying what that the author didn't seem to even bother finishing the book. I don't expect everything to be wrapped up in neat little packages come the final page, but it felt like Brooks had created a puzzle he couldn't think of a way out of.

    3. Thanks very much indeed for this, Eddie. Because I haven't read the book I could only comment on the reported content. It's of very great value to have an opinion from someone who knows the book.
      It doesn't sound as if you'd recommend the book to anyone very much; but if you did, what minimum age would you suggest for its readers?