At The End of Holyrood Lane

I’d like to acknowledge I reviewed this for StoryLinks. Below is separate book chat with 7-year-old girl.holyrood lane

At The End of Holyrood Lane is more than a picture book about a young girl being frightened of storms. It’s a book about the frightening stormy reality of domestic violence. The inside page affirms this with the logos Act for kids, Paradise Kids, Think Equal – Empowering Change Through Education, and the purple ribbon.

The front cover belies the turmoil within the smiling young girl’s life. Her only friend, the unicorn, divulges the truth of her story. The girl sits hoping for someone to visit the end of her lane, but the unicorn knows no-one ever comes. The unicorn’s emotions are pivotal in reflecting the child’s true feelings under these circumstances. The unicorn end pages reveal the child contemplating her problems while lying in various positions. In this home is Flick, a vulnerable, scared young girl hoping her tumultuous world will magically go away.

Within the story, author Dimity Powell and illustrator Nicky Johnston have used subliminal text, analogies and the personification of stormy weather for stormy relationships. The hint of subliminal imagery of a not-so happy girl are evident. When Flick, hugging her unicorn friend, is ‘caught in the swirling storm scenes’ a black silhouetted profile menaces them from above, as she – runs away, tries to face it or is cowered into submission. However, when she realises her friend has suffered along with her, a drenched and exhausted Flick confronts the dark face of the storm. No longer does she need to become ‘an expert hider’ hiding day and night in places she cannot be reached. She finally seeks help – Mum in this instant. Mum’s umbrella shields them both from further storms.

While the metaphors were a slight distraction on the first couple of reads, once you realise their purpose, and intent of the book, they become powerful imagery – ‘angry clouds’ symbolise angry adults, ‘…clouds muscle in’ are predators forcing themselves upon the vulnerable, and ‘wild winds bully the curtain’ relate to the type of bullying – mental, physical, sexual and verbal abuse. Reference to ‘things will just blow over’ is young Flick hoping things ‘will get better’. But as Flick realises ‘it never gets better if you do nothing’. ‘…it pours and pours’ refers to the ceaseless rain of abuse reigning down on the defenceless. The co-authors have cleverly created a picture book with various levels of discussion targeting various age groups.

Dimity and Nicky’s collaboration has produced a timeless book to share with children in a sensitive and subtle manner in conquering a frightening storm. It is also an educational tool for older students where parents and educators open a discussion on the dark secrets hidden behind closed front doors. Be very aware! If At The End of Holyrood Lane‘s’ front cover is never opened, neither will the front doors to domestic violence.

A Book chat between Adult/Educator/ Parents and Child

Chat with 7-year-old niece after she read the book by herself

1. What’s the book about?
‘She (Flick) does lots of fun things in all the different seasons, except when it storms. Then she hides all day and hides all night. She heard loud sounds. She didn’t have time to hide. She never called to someone for help, but when she did, Mum helps.
2. Does the storm worry the little girl still?
It’s only a couple of grumbles and… roars of thunder, the storm went away and then she (Flick) went back into the house. She asks herself, was that a storm, no that was just the wind.
3. Why does she have a unicorn?
It’s her friend.
4. How does the unicorn feel?
It’s sometimes a bit sad, bored, tired… maybe happy.

Adult (A) and child (C) look at book together.

A – Let’s look at the book again but just the pictures. What do you see here – on this page?
C – A black cloud.
A – What does the black cloud look like or remind you of?
C – Ah… It looks… like… a face. There’s the nose… .
A – What about this page?
C – A person’s face.
A – What about this page?
C – Aah, a black storm.
A – What about along this white curved trunk?
C – A black face with… a long neck.
Adult Informal chat with child
Sometimes in young people’s lives adults shout for different reasons like arguing about something.
But sometimes if there’s lots of shouting all the time and you’re getting hurt then that’s not right. You can ask an adult for help – at home or at school or someone you trust.
See here in the front of the book. Here are places that help kids when they’re feeling unsafe.

4 thoughts on “At The End of Holyrood Lane

  1. Maria, I commented at the launch of this book that there were numerous layers of meaning and nuances on each page, symbols secreted away throughout the story, but that the reader would have to find them for themselves. I am deeply gratified that without any direction by me, you have discovered them all. Thank you sincerely for your objective, astute and thoughtful observations, and those of your 7-year-old niece! Dimity x

    Liked by 1 person

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