Dimity Powell (text), and Nicky Johnston (illustrator), At the End of Holyrood Lane, Exisle Publishing, 32 pp, RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925335767
Flick lives at the end of Holyrood Lane. She’s a young girl who loves to dance with the butterflies in spring, and tumble through leaves in autumn, Flick also lives with uncertainty: she never knows when the angry clouds will come and a storm will strike. When it’s stormy she usually hides. But one day, a terrible storm strikes without warning and there is no time for Flick to hide. She flees, running as the storm thunders and fumes around her. Finally, Flick does something she’s never done before – she seeks help. At last the storm is over.
On my first reading of this book I was a little mystified: many children’s books are about a child fixing a problem on their own, but this one is focussed on the child seeking help. On a second reading, it became clear that the story serves as a metaphor for a child’s experience of domestic violence, and finding courage to seek help. The language is powerful and emotive, perfectly capturing the fear that a child might feel in both a thunderstorm and an abusive environment — a very clever duality that makes this an excellent book for all children, regardless of their experience. The ending is sensitive, showing Flick still a little anxious about the storm returning, but now safe.
The illustrations help make this book accessible for children. They depict a happy child who lives with moments of fear. Using pencil and watercolour there’s something very realistic about the way Flick is portrayed. As an adult, I find it sad to see the pictures of Flick hiding, but children will relate to the situations and feelings in the pictures.
This is an important book for children, especially those who have experienced the terrible reality of violence in the home. I could imagine this being used by therapists working with children of all ages. It could also be used in the classroom to open up conversation and empower children to seek help when they need it.
Reviewed by Bec Blakeney