BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
We are delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Sinéad O'Hart's new book The Star-Spun Web.
Read on for a review of the book followed by an exclusive guest post by author Sinéad about
the decision to use Ireland’s role in World War II as a background to the story.
Book Title: The Star-Spun Web (available here)
Author: Sinéad O'Hart
Publication Date: February 2019
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
Fans of Sinéad O’Hart's acclaimed debut The Eye of the North will be thrilled to see a new adventure arriving on the shelves so swiftly. The new book, The Star-Spun Web shares the high spirit of adventure, a captivating cast of characters and a determined, scientifically-minded female lead, but is in itself a wholly original storyline - one that is enthralling, intelligent and magical, hitting all the right notes and more for the kind of book I find just brilliant to read.
The story is based around the premise of parallel worlds with infinite possibilities, and features a group of pioneering scientists in the first half of the Twentieth Century working on theories about communicating and travelling between different worlds. The main character, Tess de Sousa, is a plucky young orphan with a pet tarantula called Violet. Tess was left at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings as a baby, along with a mysterious device called a Starspinner that may provide the only clues about her family.
When a mysterious stranger appears years later and claims to be a distant relative coming to take her home with him, Tess begins to unravel a deeply thrilling mystery about her origins. Soon she finds herself caught up in an edge-of-your-seat adventure featuring parallel universes, a very familiar-looking boy called Thomas and a dastardly plan involving scientific societies and terrifying war machines.
I loved the element of science-fiction and found the theme of parallel universes enthralling without feeling like it was at all too difficult to understand for a middle-grade audience. The concept was explained clearly and simply numerous times to the child characters in the story, making it easy to grasp, and I felt that young readers are likely to fully enjoy it as just another aspect of the exciting fantasy plot line. Tess is a really likeable character and through her experiences O’Hart intelligently and compassionately explores a rollercoaster of human emotions, from the loneliness of being an orphan and anger at the inexcusable actions of some of the adults, to the exuberant joy of treasuring friendships old and new and the thrill of scientific discovery.
Perfect for fans of Christopher Edge and Phillip Pullman, there is so much to love in this story and I’m sure it is going to be a big hit with readers in Upper KS2.
by Sinéad O'Hart, author of The Star-Spun Web
Ireland’s Role in World War II
The Star-Spun Web is partly shadowed by the threat of war in one reality. Can you tell us a little of the history of Ireland’s role in WW2? Do you have any family connections or stories that were passed down to you? Ireland was officially neutral in WW2, for lots of reasons. Mostly it had to do with the fact that Ireland was a relatively new country at the time, having only recently gained independence from Britain after many centuries of conflict and suffering, and the neutral stance was an effort to distinguish Ireland from Britain and to show it ‘standing on its own two feet’.
However, there was a lot of anti-Nazi sentiment in Ireland, and help was clandestinely given to the Allies. Several Irish people worked as codebreakers, most famously Richard Hayes, and the order for the Normandy Landings on D-Day, June 6th 1944, was only given after a weather report relayed from Blacksod Bay in County Mayo. As well as this there was a constant stream of undercover intelligence flowing from Dublin to London, and many thousands of Irish men gave their lives in armed service with the British Army. Added to the strain of armed service for an Irish soldier was the complexity of returning home to Ireland afterwards: soldiers were sometimes treated as ‘traitors’ for having served with the British armed forces, despite the fact that they would have chosen to do so for the larger reasons of the common good of Europe.
Ireland is only now dealing with the fact that so many men (and women) gave everything they had in the service of the Allied cause and were treated terribly badly when they came home. As for my family connections: my father’s great-great uncles were lost in World War I, but I’m not sure if any of my relatives served in World War II. My husband's grandmother lived near the North Strand and was present on the night of the North Strand Bombing; she lost a friend that night. My own grandmother told me about her memories of rationing and deprivation during ‘The Emergency’, as the war was referred to in Ireland, and the fear of invasion and bombs after the bombing of Campile in County Wexford in 1940.
For more from Sinéad, follow @SJOHart on Twitter or visit https://sjohart.wordpress.com.
Many thanks to Sinéad for writing the guest post and to the publisher for sending us a review copy.
Remember to check out the other stops on the blog tour!