Middle Grade Reviews

Review: She Wolf by Dan Smith

Review: She Wolf by Dan Smith

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Extract:

‘What happened here wasn’t any kind of destiny; it was murder, and no one expects you to avenge it. Not even your Gods.’

(She Wolf by Dan Smith. P46.)

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 Synopsis:

Viking girl Ylva washes up on the frozen shores of Northumbria, but her mother is killed. Ylva swears to avenge her memory as the Gods decree and sets out into the wild with her wolf Geri.

The land is wild, but it is not only the wolves that Ylva has to fear. She must also work out whether she can trust Cathryn and Bron, the Saxons who offer her shelter.

An epic tale of trust and the truest forms of bravery. 

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Review:

An epic historical adventure which reminded me of the works of Rosemary Sutcliff. Viking attitudes towards revenge were examined in a way which was both sensitive to the time period and relevant to the modern day.

Ylva’s quest for vengeance begins with her certainty, as a Viking, that it is her role. This is the only narrative she has ever heard and it is how her people live. In fact, as she discovers, it is how other tribal people live during the same time period. Cathryn begs Ylva not to go in search of vengeance, but she is set on it. The examination of the motives behind revenge and the use of religious belief to justify it was fascinating. It is also a lesson which might be relevant to much smaller scale problems. Sometimes, no matter what wrong someone has done us, the best thing is to let that be the last bit of damage.

It was great to see a narrative about fights and the quest for justice centered around girls. Although there are male characters, there are female warriors in the story with the same bloodthirst and ideas about vengeance. Girls need to believe they have a decision about when to pick a fight and to know that often the bravest thing you can do is turn away. 

It was also great to see a novel about Vikings in Britain, and especially to see one with both Viking and Saxon characters. Too often these stories are told through a lens which favours one or the other so that even if there are characters of other nationalities, they are cast as antagonists and enemies. Life was more complex than that and it is important to understand that things are never so black and white.

This novel was all about setting, from the mounds of snow to the wolves howling through the pine trees. It is the kind of setting which you feel beneath your skin and imagine with every sense.

If you like adventure or want to know more about the time period, add this to your TBR pile.

 

She Wolf is available now from Chicken House Books, priced £6.99.

Many thanks to Chicken House Books and Laura Smythe PR for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.

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Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Meet The Pirates by James Davies.

Review: Meet The Pirates by James Davies.

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Yarr! Prepare for a voyage of discovery on the seven seas. Everybody has an image of pirates from films and stories, but who were the real-life pirates across history? What does piracy involve? Meet The Pirates is an accessible and humorous introduction to a favourite topic. 

From the Vikings to the modern day pirates with GPS systems, the book is like  a time-line of piracy. 

img_8171This book continues an already popular series which looks at the periods of history covered by the KS2 curriculum. It is easy to see why the series has taken off. The books are highly visual and the information is broken up by the illustrations. Each page contains a short amount of text. It is easy to make the mistake of looking for non-fiction books which match a child’s fictional reading skills, but readers have limited patience when they are learning new facts. The information needs to be broken up, and what is there needs to be written in such a way that it is engaging and memorable, without skimping on the content. 

The limited colour-palette of the illustrations makes the book look trendy and modern. They still manage to incorporate a lot of information, from the kind of pistol Blackbeard carried to the sails on different ships. The illustrations are as informative as the text. 

I love the features of the book. The title of each topic is written down both sides of every spread, so readers can flick through and find the relevant information with ease. As well as informative illustrations, such as a map of trading routes and an image gallery of different types of ship, there are cartoons and humorous illustrations. The importance of comedy in children’s books can’t be stressed enough. For many readers, these cartoons are the reward for taking in new information.

This will doubtless be a hit with teachers and librarians, but it would also make a lovely introduction to the topic for children who have shown an interest in pirates fictional or otherwise. I am hugely impressed with these books and look forward to sharing my review of Meet The Ancient Greeks. 

 

Thanks to Big Picture Press for my copy of Meet The Pirates.