By Author / Illustrator
Oxford University Press
Paperback / softback
The world's in trouble. When war comes to the heart of the Italian city where Isabella lives with her family, everything changes. She makes the long journey with her dad to a safer place - the old house where he grew up in the north of England. Isabella must adapt to a completely different life. No shops, no electricity, no phone signal. No friends or neighbours - until she meets two 'wild' children. Rowan and Kelda live by themselves, hidden from the world, survivors of the sickness that swept through the valley. When Dad fails to return from a trip to find food, Isabella has to work out what to do and how to survive. Together, can the children build a new life, a life for the future? What do we really need for a happy life?
Everything changes, it's the one thing you can be sure of. Julia Green writes with intensity about the relationship between children and nature, of loss, devastation, friendship, family, love and belonging. Of survival, strength and beauty.
The Children of Swallow Fell is a story in tune with nature, brimming with exquisite descriptions, written in the first person from a child's point of view. In this alternate contemporary world, Isabella's existence is thrown upside down as war erupts in her home town in Italy; devastation and the need for survival throw her universe into a spin. Fleeing to her father's home town in England, she must now take charge; fate is in her hands.
I really enjoyed the contrast and use of weather to mimic the mood and diversity of the story: from sunny, bright and serene Italy - like a family patchwork quilt passed down from generation to generation - to dreary, wet, gloomy England, where Isabella feels like she doesn't belong. As she grows accustomed to her new surroundings and gains a new perspective, she evolves as a character to see that life couldn't carry on as it was; change was needed.
Links to current issues including the evolution of technology into modern life and losing touch with what matters most are clearly depicted in this story, exemplifying the notion of the divide between those with everything compared to those with almost nothing. True happiness, we learn, does not lie in materialistic possessions but in a sense of belonging and finding better ways to live; wasting nothing, not being greedy.
The story really comes to life, you feel you are walking in the steps of Isabella through vivid descriptions and the use of powerful personification dappled throughout. As a KS2 teacher, this book would be a great addition to support teaching of nature, survival and empathy.
256 pages / Reviewed by Kelly Buxton, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+