Friday, 15 April 2016
A Pair of Wellingtons by Esther Gordon
[Cassie and Celia are coming to stay with their uncle and aunt]
Both girls came in from another trip to the car carrying their backpacks and plastic bags which had obviously been packed in a hurry. Their long stripy scarves were hanging out of their mud splashed green wellingtons…
They were almost 12 years old and identical, except for tiny differences that mostly only they recognized. Celia was usually the first to act in any situation, while Cassie was the more thoughtful one. They were tall for their age, with lively features and light brown wavy hair that was rarely tidy. They liked to dress in a similar way but often chose different colours.
commentary: This is a charming children’s book dealing with an eventful time in the life of Cassie and Celia. Their father has to go abroad for his job, their mother goes with him, and the girls stay with a much-loved aunt, and have to start a new school. Then some worrying news comes from abroad, and the girls have to decide how they will cope with their difficulties.
The story is short and easy to read, and although it shows a comfortable, happy family, it is very contemporary, and does not shy away from the prospect that things can go wrong.
I have a particular dislike of children’s books that show too much jeopardy and misery – described as Dreadlit in this article I wrote for the online magazine Slate. But Esther Gordon’s book is a model of how to make a story exciting and even worrying without going too far and (spoiler alert) it has a happy ending. I liked the book because it has a strong moral framework, and because it showed the existence and importance of community in modern-day life.
Esther Gordon trained as a teacher specializing in remedial work and art, then later joined a Catholic lay community called The Grail, where her creativity could flourish. She has been involved in many aspects of the community’s extensive activities, including writing books, articles and dramas.
Read more about The Grail - a fascinating group with a most impressive 20th century history – at their website here.
Top picture is The Twins by Thomas Bowman Garvie from The Athenaeum website , other twin pictures from the internet.