Black Water by Barbara Henderson
Two of my favourite childrens’ authors of historical fiction are Barbara Henderson and Ally Sherrick. So I was most intrigued when I picked up a copy of Black Water and find this quote on the back.
“A glittering, real-life adventure swirling with secrets, suspense and nail-biting action”
Black Water is a short historical story (p80) set on the Solway Firth near Dumfries Scotland in 1792. Henry joins his farther on Excise business. The Excise men have the job of patrolling the coastal waters and catching smugglers to make sure the correct taxes are paid on imported goods. A gripping story and a eye-opening insight into a period in history I knew little about. I also loved how you got insights into all sides involved in the smuggling trade, as Henry develops his understanding.
I love Barbara Henderson’s other historical novels. But, this may be her best yet. It’s an action packed story with a strong father and son bond. As the author says in the end notes, when she came across the diary account of Riding Officer Crawford she found a story that had everything from: a race against the tide, smuggled goods, pistols and even quick-sand. Plus a connection to Robbie Burns the poet with a lovely touch toward the end where Burns finds on the smugglers boat a feather pen and ink and gives it to Henry so he can write his own poems in the future. Which also opens up possibilities for children and young people to write their own poems in response to this story.
It’s amazing the action that’s been packed into just 80 pages. However, it’s worth mentioning that some less confident readers may find some words and Scots speech difficult. They can be helped over this by being referred to the really useful glossary in the back. Also, as a parent one of the best ways to support a child reading this could be to read the story yourself which makes it easier to explore together anything they find tricky. However, it would be well worth the effort. This story will appeal to readers of all abilities and really grabs your attention, so for less confident readers it could open the door to more historical stories. Highly recommend for ages 9 to 99 years.
Sequin and Stitch by Laura Dockrill and Sara Ogilvie
One of Barrington and Stokes short story titles for 8 to 12 years olds, with dyslexic friendly text and pages. A story that needs to be read by everyone confident readers included.
Sequin lives on the 12th floor with her mum and baby Stitch. Her mum is a skilled seamstress. Then one day her mum gets her dream seamstress job. Sequin is so excited. With an eye opening insights into what it’s like for some kids. Sequin’s mums too afraid to come out of her home, and the kids sometimes bully her at school, and they have little money. But, it’s also a story of hope, the love between parent and child, and the power of children’s imagination to get them through the most difficult of times.
But, then tragedy strikes, there is a fire in the apartment block. This immediately made me think of the Grenfell tower, but readers please remember it’s a children’s story. Then there is a final twist and not all that went before was quite what it seemed, and it had me in tears and smiles of joy.
A story of family hardship and loss, but most of all of hope and the power of parent child bonds and ones imagination to see you through. If you looking for a heartfelt and heart warming short read to share with children 9/10+ years there is so much to recommend Sequin and Stick. There are also great illustrations by Sara Ogilvie. Adults should read it too.