At the End of Holyrood Lane
EK Books, 2018
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Flick lives at the end of Holyrood Lane in a little house beneath the beech woods, spending most of her days in the sunshine dancing with the butterflies and playing with her unicorn toy and long, rainbow ribbon. But sometimes a storm hits – storms so violent and loud and scary that she has to hide because even her rainbow ribbon and her unicorn cannot give her comfort. She is very good at hiding but the storms make her feel very small and they are so loud her ears hurt and her heart throbs.
One day, the storm is so fearsome and lasts so long that there is nowhere for Flick to hide and so she flees. But it follows her, almost swallowing her in its fury, until “sodden and shaken” she stops, gathers all her courage and asks for help. She is gathered into the arms of someone with a large umbrella under which she shelters, and even though the storm continues to rumble and grumble for a while, finally it leaves. Finally the sun comes out.
Flick is still scared of storms and flinches if the rumbling starts, but while it might rain a bit the storms have gone for good.
While a fear of thunderstorms is common for many children, and even telling them it’s just the clouds bashing together doesn’t soothe, in this case the thunderstorm is a clever metaphor for what is happening in the house under the beech trees. Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnson, the couple behind the poignant story of The Fix-It Man, have teamed up again to bring us a book that uses the analogy of weather to explore the issue of domestic violence and its impact on the children in the family who are so often invisible as the storm’s fury strikes, often without warning. Sadly, this is an all-too common happening in the lives of those in our care but so rarely touched on in children’s literature, particularly picture books for the young. While we often hear the phrase that school is a “safe haven” for many children, there is much that goes on beyond school hours that we are not privy to, and unless a situation directly impacts a child in the class such as being removed into foster care, we really do not know the extent of the problem or the damage it causes.
Sharing At the End of Holyrood Lane as a class story may offer an opportunity to allow children to discuss those things they are scared of, their own personal “storms” and perhaps Flick’s courage in asking for help might inspire another little one to disclose something that will bring them respite too. Children need to know they are not alone and it’s OK to ask for help – that there is hope for the sun to shine again and there will be a chance to dance with the butterflies.
With its soft, supportive illustrations that encapsulate and extend the sensitive, subtle text superbly, and endorsed by a number of agencies concerned about the children caught in the middle of domestic violence such as Act for Kids, RizeUp, Paradise Kids , and Think Equal, this is a conversation starter that may bring a lot of comfort,help and hope to the children in our care.