Author blog: Using ACROSS THE DIVIDE in schools

We are delighted to host a guest post from Anne Booth, author of 'Across the Divide' (read our review here) which published June 7th 2018.

In this post, Anne discusses how the book can be used in primary classrooms and shares some links to help explore the topics further. You can also find details of a special book giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Here are some ideas for teachers to look at if they want to use Across the Divide in schools.

Olivia is sent to spend her school holiday with her historian dad on the beautiful island of Holy Island, or Lindisfarne, off the North East coast of England. There, surrounded by beautiful scenery and birds, she has time to get to know her dad and think about the arguments at home between her Pacifist mother and army major grandfather. She also remembers what is happening at home, between those (including her) who want a detachment of army cadets in her school, and her friend, the Quaker boy Aidan, who doesn’t, and is being bullied for this. Lindisfarne is also where she meets a gentle and mysterious boy called William, who is trying to decide whether to join the army.

1. Lindisfarne

Olivia is very aware that she is on an island, cut off by the tides, and this becomes symbolic of how she has become cut off from friends and family, both now, but also when she is at home.

This beautiful island off the North East coast of England presents a challenge to get to, illustrated by Serena Rocca’s cover of Across the Divide.

So discussing the tide tables is a way in:

and you can maybe show them a video of a car ignoring the warnings.

The children can learn about the medieval monks on Lindisfarne and how then, it wasn’t the sea which was the danger, but the land - that they set up a monastery on an island when it was safer to travel by boat than travel by land - and so things are not always what they seem, and we have to know the context of things to understand them and what is truly dividing us

2. Olivia and Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle plays a central part in the book. It dominates the island, and Olivia’s consciousness, and she visits it both with her dad and with William. Lindisfarne Castle at the time of Edward Hudson and Edwin Lutyens is particularly important.

Students can learn about Lindisfarne Castle, its role as a Tudor fort, and about Edward Hudson and Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll and her garden - they can look at The National Trust website and watch some videos of it.


3. Olivia, Aidan and William and birds

Olivia works on a school project about birds with Aidan, where they both draw them, and then, when she goes to Lindsfarne, the birds inspire her and are a link between her and William, who also loves drawing them.

Students can look at what Natural England has to say about the wildlife on Lindisfarne, especially the birds. and maybe try to draw and paint them as Olivia and Aidan and William all do.

When I visit schools I will show them the vintage paint box I bought on ebay, just like the one which William would have used and the WW1 prints by Muirhead Bone, the war artist, which I bought on ebay but which I wrote that Olivia’s dad bought in Barter Books.

We will look at the passage in the book where Olivia’s dad explains propaganda and the use of images in war. We can also talk about music and war and the way Jerusalem was set to music and used to encourage young men to join up.

I know that the children will be able to explore the issues Olivia thinks about whilst on Lindisfarne and these resources may help teachers prepare discussions.

4. Poppies - red and white

There is a major row at the beginning of the book between Olivia’s mother and grandfather about the significance of red and white poppies - and this illustrates Olivia’s mum’s questioning of Pacifism and Olivia’s grandfather’s loyal love of the army. It is the reason why Olivia’s mum takes Olivia and moves out of the vicarage.

but also

5. White Feather Movement

Both Aidan and William are given white feathers, so learning about this is important in the book, and Olivia learns about this from William. I also adapt an incident referred to in this article.

6. Cadets

When on Lindisfarne Olivia thinks about the rows breaking out between her school friends who are excited about there being a detachment of army cadets at school, and Aidan, a Quaker student, who is involved in a protest against it.

So teachers can look a recruitment video

and also this alternative video, which also really informed my writing, and shows what is behind Aidan’s point of view

The Quakers have lots of resources available for peace education and working on them would go well with Across the Divide.

ACROSS THE DIVIDE by Anne Booth is out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip Publishing)

Follow Anne Booth @Bridgeanne  and Catnip @catnipbooks for more information


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.


Click here to read our review of Across The Divide.

The book is available to order online or from your local bookshop or library.

Many thanks to Anne for sharing this blog post with us.

If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please get in touch here or click here to find out more.


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