Walker Books Australia
New Zealand RRP:$18.99
This ticks all my boxes in one fell swoop and I absolutely loved it. Mudlarking has long been a source of fascination for me and I would truly have loved the opportunity to explore it for myself.
Now Pamela Rushby has combined this iconic London activity with thrilling time slip experiences and at the same time crafted a very real and poignant narrative about family relationships. Nina loves her Aunty Bee, who is an ‘intertidal archaeologist’ living on a restored barge moored near Tower Bridge. What she doesn’t love is the feeling of complete rejection she has when her scientist parents both go to Antarctica for a year and send her to London to live with Bee.
At first fiercely determined not to enjoy anything, nor to communicate with her parents more than absolutely necessary, Nina finds herself drawn into the magic and mystery of the Thames and mud puddling, but with a very unnerving discovery. It appears she has a gift. If she looks too long or intently at one of the artefacts she finds, she is ‘transported’ back to that period of time, and as she finds out from old Molly, Bee’s barge neighbour, who has the same gift, this can be very dangerous.
After some near misses, and ignoring advice, Nina takes one last trip into the past, at the height of the Blitz, with evacuees and the very possibility of never making it back to her own time.
It is a fascinating look at both the history and hobby of mud larking, as well as the rich history of the Thames over centuries, and at the same time is very relatable story of the intense egocentric emotions of a tween girl, how she comes to terms with her parents’ decision, and reconciles her anguish over it.
There is no doubt in my mind that young readers will lap this up, even those who are not necessarily big fans of historical fiction because the very different setting overall (the barge, Nina’s online International School, inner city London) will capture their imagination for sure.
Tired as I was after the house move last Saturday, I managed to read this over two nights because I was thoroughly invested in Nina’s story (and the mud larking!). Pamela Rushby’s research for her historical novels is always impeccable so this will provide much rich fodder for further investigations and discussions with readers.
I highly recommend it for your kiddos from about ten years old.