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Children of Winter is a classic, time slip tale by Berlie Doherty, an author whose books are a firm favourite in schools.  They are generally of a length to make them easy to study in a term, and usually tackle subjects which make great material for further discussion and study in class time.

This is no exception.  Children of Winter tells the story of Catherine and her family, who, out walking in the Derbyshire countryside one day, are forced to seek shelter from a terrible storm.  The children and the parents get split up, and the children take shelter in an old barn which Catherine finds, with an eerie sense of prescience.

Once inside the barn, Catherine is assaulted by knowledge that she has been here before.  She gets sucked into the story and lives of children, now long dead, who were inhabitants of the barn in the sixteen hundreds, and who were sent by their parents to live there while the plague raged through their village.

She and her siblings begin to act out the story of the earlier children and the two time lines become enmeshed until it is unclear whether they are playing or really living what happened.

The story is inspired by the story of the Derbyshire village of Eyam, who, when discovering that the plague had travelled to their remote village in a bundle of clothes brought from a nearby city, decided to shut themselves off from their friends and neighbours to stop the plague spreading.

The story is full of tiny, every day details of what it is like for the children to look after each other and live without their parents, all the while knowing that their home and family is a short walk away.  The fear the plague brings with it is beautifully drawn and enacted, and the whole book is wonderfully atmospheric.

The story would be suitable for both boys and girls aged eight and up. It is quite simply written, and easy to understand for younger readers, but more detail and study  can be gone into with older readers and I would think it would still be an enjoyable and worthwhile read for children up to about the age of fourteen.

This would be a great novel to study in class if you were doing this period of history, or were particularly studying the story of Eyam.

 

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