BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Author: Anne Booth
Publication Date: June 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
Across the Divide is a contemplative story about war and pacifism, about making a stand and about seeing different viewpoints. When writing to introduce the book, author Anne Booth said:
“I know from school visits for my earlier book Girl with a White Dog that children are genuinely interested in history and politics, and that they understand they are directly affected by decisions made by adults…..I want all children to know that they CAN already make the world a better place, and that there are other people, now and in history and in fiction, who stand alongside them in this.”
Anne’s new story Across the Divide is, in part, about what happens when people with different experiences and viewpoints find a way to listen to each other’s voices and find ways to progress based on respectfully accepting difference and finding where commonality lies.
The main character, Olivia, finds herself in the centre of bitter arguments and feels caught between sides. Her mum is a peace activist and her grandfather is a vicar who used to serve in the army. When the opening of an army cadet unit is proposed at Olivia’s school, everyone seems to have strong opinions and tension quickly mounts. Olivia’s friend Aidan is from a Quaker family who are firm believers in pacifism. Many other friends are from families with strong military traditions and are keen to honour relatives who are serving or who have served in the armed forces. Olivia feels like she is able to see different sides of the argument and can sympathise with those making a stand for either cause. Before she knows it, things have spiralled out of control and Olivia’s Mum is arrested for leading a pacifist protest against the army base.
With her grandparents away on holiday and her mum in custody, Olivia has no choice but to go and stay with her estranged father on the island of Lindisfarne. There is an almost ethereal quality to the beautiful landscape on Lindisfarne and its timeless remoteness gives Olivia plenty of space to think about the different viewpoints dividing her community. Olivia meets William, an old-fashioned and mysterious-seeming boy who lives on the island. William can relate to the way Olivia is wrestling with different ideas about war and pacifism and in talking together the pair help each other to find their own voices and look for a way forward.
The narrative raises to the surface some really interesting considerations about how war is viewed by society and who influences those views. The events on Lindisfarne also bring in a historical aspect by linking Olivia’s story to the experiences of young people in the lead-up to the First World War.
In Across the Divide Anne Booth has masterfully crafted a narrative that is deeply contemplative with important values at its heart, and one that allows different viewpoints to be heard without directing what the reader should conclude. Olivia arrives at her own verdict and seeks a solution that helps her community to work through its divisions and make progress peacefully without compromising the integrity of those who wish to make a stand for what they believe. Through Olivia’s story and her interactions with friends and family, the narrative gently suggests that young people can be powerful in their capabilities to stand up for their beliefs and to be instrumental in bringing about positive change in society.
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Across the Divide, simply follow @booksfortopics on Twitter and retweet the pinned giveaway post before midnight Thursday 14th June.
UK only – full T&Cs here.
See also Anne’s guest blog post about using this book in the classroom.
Across the Divide publishes on Thursday 7th June 2018.
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me a review copy of this book.