Children’s books

Behind The Walls
by Nicola Pierce (O’Brien; €7.99)
The walls in question are those of Derry during the siege of 1689, and the story centres around the exploits of brothers Daniel and Robert Sherrard, as they strive to hold the city against the invading force of King James. 

While the story of the siege is well known this exciting tale puts flesh on such historical figures as Lundy, Walker and Hamilton, while dealing sympathetically with the enemy King James.

Lundy proves to be an enigmatic presence in the city and soon loses the trust of the protestant defenders by his seeming double-dealing and procrastination in response to the threat posed by King James¹s troops.

What is interesting is the number of skirmishes that took place without the walls, and the various contacts made between the opposing forces to avoid all-out conflict.

The graphic descriptions of death and famine within the city are quite harrowing, in an environment where a price had to be settled on the sale of dogs, cats and even rats as emergency food supplies.

An unlikely young man Adam Murray emerges to take joint command of the garrison after the disappearance of Lundy. Suitable for age 14 and upwards.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman (Simon and Schuster; €10.05)

Twig¹s family have moved to Sidwell from New York to try to survive the 200 year-old curse of witch Agnes Early. Here Twig, to the great unease of her mother, befriends another loner Julia and her sister, Agate.

The people of the town are divided on the issue of allowing a local wood be used for development purposes and are about to cast their votes at a public meeting. In this tense situation Twig’s night-wandering brother James puts himself in great danger as rumours persist of a monster at large and the populace has become extremely spooked and trigger-happy.

Unless Twig and Julia can undo the spell cast on her family, tragedy may ensue, especially as the historical reason for the imposition of the curse seems to be mirrored in the relationship between James and Agate.

This is a charming and magical story infused with countryside lore and American mythology. Suitable for age 10 and upwards.


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