The thing I like best about Emma Carroll is that she understands dog hair. Non doggy people wrongly assume it to be a total pain that stops you from buying dark soft home furnishings and sees you wedded to the ‘lint’ roller. But actually, it can be a truly lovely thing. My dog Mr Fly is a seventeen year old whippet lurcher who has always been outstanding at producing dog hair. We have been able to bless most of the Midlands and the South-West with his fur over the years, and better places they are for it too. A lack of dog hair, on the other hand, means a lack of dog and this is a terrible, terrible thing. Emma Carroll gets this:
“I pined for Pip too. It was odd to wear clothes without a single dog hair on them.” Chapter 21, The Girl Who Walked on Air.
Mr Fly in his Youth.
I couldn’t agree more with this sensible thought.
Our protagonist and dog appreciator here is Louie Reynolds, a young girl who works in a Victorian circus. Louie has ambitions to be a show stopper- a tightrope walker! When Louie walks the tightrope, she feels she belongs there. This is a blessing as life hasn’t offered her much opportunity to understand her place in the world. Her mother abandoned her as a baby, leaving her with good people and a fine hound but not with the knowledge to understand why she was left behind. Then there’s Mr Chipchase, the circus owner. He seems determined to keep her hidden away and safely on the ground. Louie’s frustration is palpable. Then one day, half an opportunity arises for her to fulfil her dreams and walk the rope for real! Thrilling stuff and the start of an adventure that takes her firstly across the ocean to America, then towards another formidable body of water: Niagara Falls…
This is a cracking good read which wraps up nicely in 300 or so pages. As I got closer to the end of the book, I would’ve been more than happy to find that Louie’s story was going to continue in a second volume, but sadly that wasn’t to be.
GGGG- A great adventure for children 9 plus. It’s wonderful to read a story which brings some joy to the Victorian era! Now, this leads me to my second point. Non school based folks, at this point you are excused. Missing you already though x.
Have they gone?
Inspiration and Added Value
The Girl who Walked on Air has got to me. It made me think. I’ve been teaching 9 to 11-year-old children for a good while now. Any primary school teacher will tell you that teaching through topics has been popular again for ages and it isn’t going away. Some topics tend to crop up in your year group again and again. For me, that’s always been ‘The Victorians’. Along with the obvious history gubbins, it’s always good to liven up the learning with a relevant piece of fiction.With this topic, it’s usually Berlie Doherty’s Street Child: our default Victorian based read. Although informative and entertaining, starting the day with a few pages of Jim Jarvis’ woes can sometimes leave the kids looking fairly stricken as they pad quietly off to literacy, hollow-eyed by 9:15, me behind them feeling like the worst teacher ever and making plans (that I will later forget) to pop down the garage at lunchtime for a bag of Chupa Chups to make up for it…
The Victorian era was tough for kids. We know that. We teach that pretty thoroughly too, I’d say. So any teachers looking for a way to bring joy to this traditionally dark topic, give The Girl Who Walked on Air a go and reflect the excitement of these wonderful times: the crazy popularity of the circus- the more dangerous the better! I can imagine a totally inspiring term’s work evolving, with fantastic PE lessons based on developing circus acts! DT could see us developing our own perfectly balanced creations to travel a class tightrope! Probably best to keep the kids off it though. The risk assessment would be horrendous. The right book can revolutionise the way we teach a topic. This is one of those books – pass it on. Let’s get the word around and put some new blood into the curriculum.
More to come on this subject…
Teachers: for those looking to bring the dead to life, GGGGG- a true book of glory
After a second opinion? Here’s a cracking review from a fellow blogger: