At the End of Holyrood Lane, Dimity Powell (author), Nicky Johnston (illus.), EK Books, 2018
Synopsis: Flick is just like any other youngster. She loves to chase butterflies and jump in autumn leaves. But life at the end of Holyrood Lane is often violent and unpredictable due to the constant storms that plague her home, causing her to cringe with dread and flee whenever they strike. Visually arresting, emotionally incisive, and ultimately uplifting, this beautifully crafted picture book provides a sensitive glimpse into one aspect of domestic violence and how it can affect young lives.
Creating a picture book that deals with domestic violence is a very tricky task, but author Dimity Powell and illustrator Nicky Johnston handle it brilliantly in At the End of Holyrood Lane, published by EK Books. This topic is one that certainly needs to be discussed more, not just between adults but with children of all ages. At the End of Holyrood Lane provides parents, teachers and other caregivers with a finely-balanced, delicately approached book that can prompt discussions at levels suited to the age and circumstances of various young readers.
In the story, violence is metaphorically shown through raging storms, which the main character, a little girl named Flick, weathers as best she can through hiding and hoping. When things one day reach a level of intensity beyond what Flick has had to cope with in the past, she makes the brave decision to reach out to an adult for help. Things change for the better after this (though not immediately, which is true to life), and Flick eventually learns to feel safe again.
The story juxtaposes Flick’s vibrant, optimistic nature and happy play times with the violence that interrupts her life. As a result, the story cleverly balances darkness with light. As such, it is well suited for children who unfortunately experience domestic violence or other types of trauma and problems in their life, as well as those who haven’t had to go through such tough times but who can learn how it could be a reality for others. Ultimately the book focuses on hope and how reaching out for help can make a huge difference – a decision that hopefully all children will feel able to make when they need to.
Powell’s language is lyrical, emotive, sensitive, and gentle yet powerful. It showcases great rhythm and many examples of literary techniques such as alliteration, assonance, metaphor and even a little rhyme for readers to pick up on. Johnston’s evocative, visually arresting illustrations bring the story to life even further, and help to make Powell’s story and meaning more accessible for children.
The pencil and watercolour drawings beautifully balance the line between realism and metaphor, so that readers can understand Flick’s fear and dread (and of course, her positive emotions too, on the good days), yet not become too overwhelmed by the depicted situation. Throughout the book we also see Flick playing with and, as needed, clutching, a toy unicorn, which perfectly symbolizes the book’s themes, like hope, resilience, support, and trust.
Please note: A complimentary copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.