By Dimity Powell
Illustrated by Nicky Johnston
Reviewed by Maria Parenti-Baldey
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.
EK Books 2018 Picture Book Hardback $24.99 ISBN 9781925335767
Maria Parenti- Baldey is a primary teacher, public speaker and journalist. She started Big Sister Blogs to write about Writerly Wisdoms where she shares authors, illustrators and storytellers’ workshop tips. Her picture books reviews are from a teacher’s perspective.