Thursday, 3 June 2010

Black Death by Martyn Beardsley

March 2010, Barrington Stoke
60 pages, Paperback
Review Copy

Children's, historical

Interest age: 10-14 years
Reading age: 8 years

Cushions: 4
Daggers: 1
Tissues: 2
Nayuleska's recommended rating:♥♥♥♥♥

Summary from Barrington Stoke 

It's 1348 and Will Burstock has just returned from France, but it seems that the Black Death travelled on the ship with him. Soon anyone who sailed is cast out as a plague-bringer. Will and his sister are evicted as the disease wipes out almost everyone around them. Will they manage to survive the Black Death? Fascinating historical adventure.

It's the plague!!!! That was my thought on seeing the book, and reading it. The characters didn't quite run through the streets going shouting that proclamation, with or without the exclamation marks. That's just me (from eating too much cake mixture). Plus I adore books on the plague. I'm  not precisely a morbid person. But it was my favourite topic in history at school (apart from the native Americans). 

True to the FYI (fiction with stacks of facts (wording taken from the front cover)) range, there are a lot of facts in this book. Not that I really noticed them. I did notice them, but they are cleverly woven into the story. I can recall the symptoms of the black death and how people thought it spread (they didn't understand about germs back then). I can also tell you exactly what happened to Will and his sisters (but I won't). 

Like everyone else in 1348, they were terrified by the rate the disease spread. Sadly, Will and his family get blamed for it. So instead of staying put, where it's safe, they get shoved out. They experience sights that children shouldn't have to see. Will, being the brother, protects his sisters from the sights as much as he can. Their outlook looks pretty bleak - wherever they go, people are suspicious of them. However, there is light on the horizon. Although the end might mean one of them doesn't make it - no one is safe from the Black Death. 

After the story there are facts about the black death, and also about the author Martyn Beardsley and the illustrator Martin Remphrey. I really liked the illustrations in this book. The style appealed to me: I'm pretty sure readers will pick up an idea of the food, clothes and types of houses Will and his family lived in from the illustrations.

Be sure to check out Siege! by Ann Jungman (shortly to be reviewed, link to follow)

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