Review: Name upon Name by Sheena Wilkinson

9781910411360

Name upon Name

Sheena Wilkinson

Little Island Books, August 2015

Historical Fiction, 8+

Belfast, 1916. Fourteen-year-old Helen feels caught between two conflicting identities. Her mother’s family are Catholic, her father’s Protestant. Caught between two faiths, and between Britain and Ireland, Helen doesn’t know where she fits. Her cousin Sandy is fighting in the British forces, and her cousin Michael is keen to join up. As a girl, Helen can have less direct involvement with the war or with the conflict in Dublin. But she receives letters from her cousins, and learns from them the terrible cost of war. Helen must take a stand herself, and work out her own identity.

Name upon Name is a compelling book that will entertain and educate its readers. The historical accuracy reflects Wilkinson’s in-depth study of the period, and the details such as the school novels Helen reads are fascinating. The strong characters give the narrative heart and make this a memorable read. The Belfast setting and the female protagonist mean this book offers a different perspective on the events of 1916. Wilkinson raises a number of important issues for her readers to consider, such as women’s education. Helen’s teacher Miss Cassidy encourages her to further her education: “Why not? It’s 1916. Lots of girls go to college now.” Helen is a very relatable protagonist and through her readers become engaged with the conflicts of her the time. She grows throughout the novel, developing her own opinions and becoming more certain of herself. Wilkinson presents the reader with the larger conflicts of World War One and the 1916 Rising through Michael and Sandy’s letters but she also focuses very much on the conflicts Helen experiences at home and at school. This is a very worthwhile read – both as historical fiction and as a coming-of-age story. Highly recommended, a perfect class novel for the forthcoming 1916 centenary celebrations.

Sheena Wilkinson wrote an excellent article for Writing.ie about historical fiction called ‘The Vital Details’, check it out here.

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Review: A Clock or a Crown? by Caroline Logue, illustrated by Sarah Bowie

9781910411292

Suitcases: A Clock or a Crown?

Caroline Logue, illustrated by Sarah Bowie

Little Island, 8+

All she had to do was press a rusty button on each side of the ancient brown suitcase to make the locks flip up and the magic begin.

A magical suitcase in her aunt and uncle’s house takes Jenny on journeys back through history, with the help of the cranky Jeremiah Gnome. This time, Jenny finds herself in a huge clock with a strange spiky-haired boy who says things like ‘piff’, ‘chillax’ and ‘co-dee’. Soon, Jenny is whisked off on a fantastical adventure filled with kings and queens, explorers and poets. When and where is she? Who will she meet? And how will she get home again?

This is a fantastical time-travelling tale for children aged 8+. Not only will the reader learn about such historical figures as Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I (notes at the end of the book provide a good starting point for research) but they will enjoy the many twists and turns in Jenny’s adventure. The narration is fun, as Jenny’s ‘Sensible Self’ and ‘Risky Self’ guide her actions, and she encounters a host of entertaining characters during her adventure. The design is inventive and matches Caroline Logue’s creative use of language. Sarah Bowie’s playful black-and-white illustrations suit the tone of the book perfectly and her depictions of the various historical figures in the book are very entertaining. The cover, designed to look like an old suitcase, is eye-catching and will appeal to young readers.

Check out the barcode – it’s shaped like the Houses of Parliament!

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