Child of St Kilda
by Beth Waters
"This is the story of a little boy called Norman John Gillies. He was born in 1925 on Hirta..." And so begins the story of the last child ever to be born on St Kilda, a small group of distant Scottish islands referred to as "islands on the edge of the world." An otherworldly place with just one street and 16 cottages and no electricity or shops. A place rich with sea birds and wildlife from primitive oversized field mice to basking sharks. St Kilda- now a dual World Heritage Site- was inhabited for 4,000 years until 1930 when the 36 remaining islanders asked to be moved to the British mainland. During that time, life on St Kilda was an extraordinary story of a close knit community living together amongst harsh conditions, with their own parliament, with barely any experience of crime and with little regard for money- rent was paid for in feathers, oil and tweed! A fantastic little afterword and backnotes give further context.
The presentation of this island life is executed through extraordinary illustrations bound into a book which feels luxurious in its care and detail - from the front cover silver gannet trim to the endpaper flow of watercolour borders to the inside page 'sweeps' of muted blues and burnt oranges with grey blurs and etchings to evoke the unforgiving Atlantic environment. A study in illustration (this artist works through layering and with print techniques, mono-prints finished with digital edits); a geographical adventure of landforms, climate, oceans and weathers; a multilayered narrative about the environment, vanishing communities, evolution, preservation; a story of kinship, care, community and resilience. Few children's books offer such cross-curricular leaps and bounds- and this one is additionally delightful for delivering non-fiction through engaging storytelling. A real triumph for our reviewers: 'What an amazing book- very evocative' (Elaine, Foster Care Associates Liaison Officer, LL reviewer); 'Wow. I loved this book! What an incredible and detailed account of the self-contained yet connected culture of island life' (Hannah, Social Worker, LL reviewer). Age 7-12, Hardback 68pp
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