‘Winner of the Carnegie Medal 2006’


Carnegie Medal 2006 – winner

Liverpool City reads

Wirral Paperback of the Year


New York Times Book Review – Editors’ Choice

ALA Best Books for Young Adults – Top Ten

Oregon Battle of the Books

Alaska Association of School Librarians Battle of the Books

Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List

Book Sense Book of the Year – Nominee

Chicago Public Library Best Books for Children and Teens

Booklist Editors’ Choice

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books – Bulletin Blue Ribbons

School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

Book Sense Children’s Picks – Top Ten

Junior Library Guild Selection

Discover New Writers Spring 2007 – Barnes and Noble

Grand Canyon Reader Award


De Gouden Lijst 2011


“Mal Peet’s second novel is utterly unlike his first, Keeper, save in one respect: the quality of the writing. This sombre and distinguished book is as fine a piece of storytelling as you are likely to read this year.”


“Throughout the book the writing is of the highest order, crisply figurative description falling from Peet’s pen with apparent ease: “the mud had solidified into frost-capped peaks and ripples that looked like mountain ranges seen from the cockpit of an aircraft” or “the sky was the colour on old knife” to give just two examples.

Published by Walker Books as a Young Adult novel, Tamar is a novel worthy of standing with the very best of contemporary British fiction.”


“Peet moves effortlessly and skilfully between the 1940s and the present and the characters are strong and well-drawn. Terrific stuff.”


“This is an exceptionally well-written, meticulously researched and moving book. Peet’s use of dialogue and internal speech makes us care deeply about these trapped and troubled characters. His dense but subtle use of simile adds a sensory richness to a cognitively engaging preoccupation with secrecy and encryption. This is reflected in a complex and skilful disclosure of events through multiple personal and temporal perspectives, a process which holds the reader in emotionally committed suspense until the closing pages.”

Books For Keeps *****

A big fat, satisfying, sophisticated read has won the Carnegie Medal: Mal Peet’s Tamar, a remarkably skilled, comprehensively imagined and absorbing saga about wireless operators in the Dutch resistance during the second world war, about danger, romance and betrayal, and the impact of history on subsequent generations.

The Sunday Times

‘’And Tamar by Mal Peet is a fascinating and complex story, set against a backdrop of the nazi occupation of Holland. Beautifully crafted, with a finale that took my breath away, this is simply unforgettable.’

Publishing News


“In Peet’s Carnegie Medal–winning work, he tells the interwoven stories of Tamar the spy and Tamar the teenager in beautifully visualized episodes. Meticulously crafted scenes develop this long, complex and elegant work that is both a historical novel and a reflection on history—how a young girl’s life has been shaped by a past she never knew. Readers will be torn: They’ll want to slow down and savor the gorgeously detailed prose, but speed up to find out what happens next. Simply superb.”

Kirkus Reviews *

“As a multigenerational story focusing on the Dutch resistance, this recalls Chamber’s Postcards from No Man’s land, but it’s a considerable original achievement as well. Peet deploys alternating narratives with exceptional skill, allowing the twentieth and twenty-first century players substantial stretches of page space to spin out their dramas in unnerving detail. There is cunning misdirection to satisfy mystery lovers, treachery to touch fans of tragic love stories, convincing recreation of resistance operations to engross historical-fiction buffs, and subtle underpinnings of metaphor to please readers who appreciate polished storytelling.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books *

“This lengthy Carnegie Medal-winning novel is masterfully crafted, written in cinematic prose, and peopled by well-drawn, multidimensional characters. Intense and riveting, it is a mystery, a tale of passion, and a drama about resistance fighters in the Netherlands during World War II. The story unfolds in parallel narratives, most told by an omniscient narrator describing the resistance struggle, and fewer chapters as a narrative told by 15-year-old Tamar, the granddaughter of one of the resistance fighters. The locale and time shift between Holland in 1944 and ’45 and England in 1995. The constant dangers faced by the resistance fighters as well as their determination to succeed in liberating their country from German occupation come vividly to life. Dart, Tamar, and Marijke are the main characters in this part of the book. Their loyalty to one another and the movement is palpable though love and jealousy gradually enter the story and painfully change the dynamics. Other characters jeopardize the safety of the group and intensify the life-threatening hazards they face. Peet deftly handles the developing intrigue that totally focuses readers. After her beloved grandfather commits suicide, modern-day Tamar is determined to undercover the mystery contained in a box of seemingly unrelated objects that he has left for her. Peet keeps the story going back and forth in time, and readers must wait till the end of this intricate book to understand fully what happened to these courageous people. This is an extraordinary, gripping novel.–“

School Library Journal *

“Peet’s plot is tightly constructed, and striking, descriptive language, full of metaphor grounds the story. Most of the characters are adults here, and to some readers, the Dutch history, though deftly woven into the story, will seem remote. But Peet’s sturdy, emotionally resonant characterisations and dramatic backdrop will pull readers forward, as will the secret that gradually unravels. Despite foreshadowing, the outcome is still a stunner. Winner of Britain’s 2005 Carnegie Medal, this powerful story will grow richer with each reading.”

Booklist *

“Mal Peet’s young adult novel, which won Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal, is a masterpiece of war writing. Using a relentlessly intense narrative, Peet manages to capture the atrocities of the Nazi occupation in a way no history textbook ever could. In addition, Peet vividly conveys the more mundane—but no less real—realities of wartime: the delights of a bite of chocolate or a sip of cognac, the unexpected boredom, the fragility of love, the unending fear, the hesitation to hope. Just as Tamar’s characters live on long after the final pages, the novel reminds readers that history’s implications cannot—and should not—ever be forgotten.”


“In times of war, love can rival politics and gunfire in its messiness.

That timeworn theme has been the basis of untold numbers of novels and classic movies, perhaps most famously “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

It rises again in an unforgettable young adult novel that was released in the United States in January after receiving the 2006 Carnegie Medal, Britain’s highest children’s literary honor. “Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal” is the second young adult novel by British author Mal Peet. His first book, “Keeper,” was highly received in both Britain and the United States.”

The Capital Times

“This is a demanding, carefully written story, with dreadful details of betrayal and violence.”


“This novel belongs to that elastic category of ‘young adult’ books that, while resonant and gripping to their intended audience, will be appreciated perhaps even more by grown-ups.’”

“Author Mal Peet, who won Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal for this novel, writes with an exquisite but unobtrusive touch. At one point, for instance, three Dutchmen ambush a nazi staff car and open fire with machine guns: ‘The sound hammered into the night, like typewriters writing the same brilliant white word over and over again.’’

Wall Street Journal

‘It takes a disciplined author to hide secrets within secrets, to create puzzles, codes and metaphors that will prise them open, and then to hand everything over to readers without signaling each bit of legerdemain with a moment of “aha!” And it takes ambition to apply such intricate storytelling to a sweeping plot.

The British author Mal Peet shows both restraint and daring. The deeper a reader wades into the novel, the cleverer its apparatus appears. River metaphors and allusions flow freely, suggesting a world of secrets and false identities that is “slippery, changeable, fluid,” and that the reclamation of identity — a topic invariably of interest to adolescent readers — is a tortured process in which “you can swim … also drown.”

On the other hand, scrutiny also points up the novel’s flaws. The motivations behind some of the characters’ pivotal actions, particularly decisions connected to the love affair, can be so opaque that Peet repeatedly has them ask one another for explanations. The two story lines unfold at different paces, which hobbles the race toward climactic revelation. Given the overall drama and vividly researched setting, however, most readers will forgive such failings.’

‘Peet’s ability to tackle outsize themes with minutely tooled devices may be his most impressive gift.’

‘After the characters have teased out the codes, the picture they present remains morally ambiguous, a final puzzle. In the end, judging his characters is a trick the author wisely declines.’

New York Times

“Although this is a novel for young adults, there is nothing juvenile about it. Dealing with themes of passion and jealousy, love and possession, it crawls its way into the reader’s soul. Set against the backdrop of the terrible winter of 1944-45, when the Dutch literally starved while awaiting a liberation that refused to come, the tale centers on the ultimate tragedy of lives wasted. The injustice assaults the character’s very humanity. As Marijke remarks, you can take anything unless you start to hope. Still, a glimmer of hope remains, in the form of a child yet unborn.

I wholeheartedly recommend this well written, meaningful tale to adults of all ages.”

Historical Novel Review

“The level of detail in the book, invoking a specific time and place, as well as the moral complexity required of its characters in a world where the self-interest of survival is stronger than any code of honor, distinguish TAMAR in a sea of novels about World War II. Mal Peet finds the perfect balance between thrilling adventure and serious history without relying on stock characters or sentimentality. TAMAR is not the first novel to be written about spies during WWII, but it is one of the few written for a young adult audience and is one of the best novels on the subject for readers of any age.”

“Tamar is a well-researched and beautifully written novel. Mature readers will enjoy the rich historical background, the story of love, and the suspense which builds and moves inexorably towards the bloody climax.”
Fiction Focus

“As a piece of historical fiction, Tamar’s author Mal Peet fulfils his responsibility to the reader by offering a carefully researched backdrop with actual events woven throughout the story. Aesthetically, Peet challenges the reader to solve the mystery of the novel but also to start to explore how to solve the mystery of how to live a real life, one replete with guilt, shame, and the fragile possibility of love”’

Worlds of Words

“With surgical precision, Peet explores universal themes of fear and suspicion, trust and compassion in this multilayered and complex story …’

‘Skillfully interweaving the secrecy of the past with the uncertainty of modern day and moving fluidly across time, the author creates a lyrical tale of integrity and betrayal that takes place in both the past and the present. Filled with compelling and deeply disturbing images of the horrors of war, the feelings and questions raised by this winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal will remain with the reader long after the last page has been turned.”


“Strikingly descriptive language grounds this dramatic novel, which folds together the story of a contemporary teenager’s search for answers about her grandfather’s suicide with brutal events in Nazi-occupied Holland years before. Complex and surprising, this grows richer with each reading.”

Booklist Editors’ Choice

Best Books 2007

“This gripping thriller unfolds in parallel narratives. An omniscient narrator vividly describes the struggles of Allied spies sent to support the Dutch resistance, and 15-year-old Tamar, the granddaughter of one of the undercover operatives, tries to piece together the clues to the old man’s past left to her following his suicide in 1995. An intricate and powerfully written read about love and loyalty, deceit and betrayal. “

School Library Journal


“Mal Peet is a distinguished children’s illustrator and author. Tamar is marketed as his second novel for young adults, but easily crosses over to an older readership. Its subject is the much-covered World War II – yet Peet manages to be different.’ 

‘Tamar is intensely depicted, a lived-in past, and the best World War II novel I have read in a very long time. Highly recommended.”

The Sunday Age

“Peet writes with confidence. His account of the experience of resistance fighters delves deep, from the horror and adrenaline of working under the nose of the enemy to the extreme and maddening boredom of a life spent in constant anticipation.

Decades later the events of the war reveal awful truths to the young Tamar, about her father’s mysterious disappearance and the death of her beloved grandfather.

Tamar is a gripping tale that tugs at the heartstrings.”

Sydney Morning Herald