BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Today we kick off the blog tour for Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens.
Read on for a review of Lily and the Rockets followed by an exclusive guest post in which the author explains how the book explores the themes of football, friendship and feminism, all in a WW1 setting.
Book Title: Lily and the Rockets (available here)
Author: Rebecca Stevens
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: May 2019
Most Suitable For: KS2
Reviewed By: Angela Kent (@FljsLibrary), Librarian
I loved the premise of this book, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read and review it. Taking us back to first world war London, Rebecca Stevens delivers a tale of war, family and friendships but above all an inspirational story of ladies’ football.
The captivating story follows Lily Dodd, an ordinary 14-year-old – other than being taller than most 14-year-olds and dreaming of becoming a goalkeeper. Together with her best friend Amy May, the two girls devise a plan to lie about their age to obtain jobs in the munitions factory. After discovering the death of her favourite brother, Amy May decides instead to go to France to help the nurses. This aspect of the story really highlighted that it may not have just been the boys who lied about their age to help, but girls may have too. At the factory Lily makes friends with Jess, one of the canary girls working in the danger building and the best football player Lily has ever met. After an accidental save, she joins the munition ladies football team – so she gets to practice and play her dream. As the male teams are fighting in the war, the ladies are able to join a league of other female teams and play for a large audience. As the war comes to an end and the men begin to return, what will Lily do when there are no longer jobs for the ladies at the munitions factory? Helped by her friend Billy, she decides to dress as a boy and try out for Tottenham Hotspur.
The complicated issues of loss, love and friendship are emblazoned throughout the story, with the loss of Lily’s mother, her feelings of being betrayed by friends and the realisation that the person we need could be right in front of us the whole time. I thoroughly enjoyed this realistic portrayal of a young woman’s plight during the First World War, the danger of the chemicals that some women were exposed to, the empowerment of women during this time and the realisation, once the war is over, that life would never be the same again.
Based partially on the real life of Lily Parr, I’m sure that the footballers are representative of some of the experiences and disappointments of the girls who were allowed to play football during the war but continued to be banned from playing professionally after the war. This rule was not revoked until 1971 – making it illegal for any male club to employ or allow female players to practice on their grounds, so the resilience of those female players who continued to find ways of enjoying playing was commendable. I loved that Rebecca Stevens ends the book with the life of Lily Parr, stating that she has been the greatest female player so far.
I would highly recommend this book for KS2 and it provides a brilliant way to deepen interest in female roles during the war as well as wider issues around women’s rights.
Guest Blog Post
by Rebecca Stevens, author of Lily and the Rockets Lily and the Rockets is a story about football, friendship and feminism, set in the brief period during and just after the First World War when women’s football dominated the national game .
I didn’t set out to write historical novels and certainly never thought I’d write a story about football, but since I was little I’ve always been interested in what it meant to be a girl. My sister and I grew up in a household with a very quiet father and a very noisy mother. Mum worked full-time and seemed so much in charge that I was surprised when I discovered the world wasn’t ruled by women like her and that most of the important and powerful people were, in fact, male. This didn’t make sense to me. I’d never thought of myself particularly as a girl and often had dreams (still do, actually) in which I’m a soldier in the trenches; I liked dolls, but I also liked climbing trees and reading books about boys (Jennings and Darbishire, anyone?), and my favourite toy of all time was a spud gun*. So I was a bit shocked to find out that there were things girls weren’t supposed to do. And then, by the time I had children of my own, instead of moving on, it felt like things had got worse.
Take clothes, for example. My sister and I lived mostly in trousers or shorts, so it was a shock to discover how gendered children’s clothes had become since we were little. It was difficult to find girls’ clothes that weren’t pink and impossible to find clothes for boys in anything other than navy blue or beige, preferably with a picture of a truck on the chest. And then there were the toys. I couldn’t believe it when we went to Hamley’s and found there were not just different aisles for boys’ and girls’ toys but entire floors given over to each sex. The girls’ floor was dazzlingly pink and sparkly and the boys’ stacked with vehicles and things to make and build. It felt like the loosening up of gender roles that had begun when I was little had become even more confining.
And I thought that was a shame, for both girls and boys.
So when I found out about the girls and women during WW1 who, when their fathers and brothers went away to fight, took over not just their jobs in the factories, but their football clubs, I knew I wanted to tell their story, the story of Lily Dodd, five feet ten in her socks with feet big enough to fit into her dad’s football boots, who doesn’t let the fact that she was born a girl stop her from becoming what she wants to be.
* A spud gun is a sort of toy gun which enables you to dig pellets of raw spud out of a potato and fire them at your sister. Very good fun and almost certainly no longer available.
LILY AND THE ROCKETS by Rebecca Stevens out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Follow Rebecca Stevens on twitter @rstevenswriter
Many thanks to Rebecca for writing the guest post and to Review Panel member Angela for reviewing our copy, provided by the publisher.
Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!