Carnegie Winner – Buffalo Soldier by @tanya_landman – Review and comment

This year’s Carnegie winner has not attracted the controversy of last year’s winner The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks, which some people felt was too dark and lacking in hope for a teen audience. Buffalo Soldier is a compelling and entertaining story which should inspire readers with its portrayal of a strong and independent woman fighting against the burden of slavery, racism and sexism. The book also provides a fascinating insight into American history in the 1800’s. Whilst the story is tough and events in it are difficult to read, especially when you realise they are based on true events, the story is ultimately one of hope – hope of a better world and a better future.

The author, Tanya Landman, was researching for her book Apache when she came across the story of Cathy Williams a freed slave who joined the US army disguised as a man. Cathy’s story inspired the story behind Buffalo Soldier. Tanya’s website contains plenty of interesting information for readers who would like to learn more about her books.


Charlotte is born a slave on a Southern plantation. Life is hard and when she and her fellow slaves hear that the US Civil War might result in their freedom they feel hope. However, the reality is that victory for the North against the Confederates leaves slaves like Charlotte without a way of life, without food and without a home. Charlotte teams up with Cookie and her husband Amos in an effort to make a new life for themselves but when they are lynched she finds herself all alone with no means of survival. In order to feel safer, she dresses as a boy and eventually joins the US army calling herself Charley. The story follows her time in the army, fighting Indians and still struggling to find the elusive freedom that was promised to her and her people.

An epic story following the life of Charlotte, known as Charley, from childhood to old age as she struggles to make a life for herself and to find freedom in a land that is still, at times, overtly racist. The story covers the lives of slaves on plantations, the effect of the US Civil War on the South and on slaves, the battles between the Indians and the US settlers, the role of the army and the treatment of blacks in the army and by society as a whole. The powerful story is told by Charlotte in a clear and engaging voice and there is much for the reader to learn and think about between the covers of this book. The book was inspired by Cathy Williams, a black woman, who joined the US army after the civil war disguised as a man and BUffalo Soldiers was the name given by Native Americans to the African-American Cavalry they fought against during the 1860’s.

The full list of books shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Prize can be found here with links to reviews for practically all of the books available on the Books Teens and Magazines website.

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