Tag Archives: Childhood

Week 3 of Childhood

Only one book to add this week as I was reading something off topic.

No Lily-livered Girl – Phyllis Johnston

No Lily-livered Girl is the story of four years in the life of May Tarrant. At fourteen, in 1912, she is apprenticed to a dressmaker in Hamilton in the North Island of New Zealand. Her ten-hour working day is wearisome, town life is strange, and she is homesick for the farming country she has left. A courageous old lady recognises May’s strength and tells her, “You don’t look a lily-livered girl!” That her opinion was right is demonstrated as May makes friends, including a young bank clerk named Ken, enters the world of competitive swimming, and copes with a traumatic experience. The start of World War One brings another crisis to May, and when she is seventeen this determined young woman returns to the King Country and makes the biggest decision of her life.


This finishes up the May Tarrant series. I spent several years growing up in Hamilton so it was interesting to read about the early days. Things have certainly changed in 100 years. One thing I enjoyed with this book was May’s battles with her mother regarding ‘proper’ behaviour, and the desire as a young adult for independence. Something that teenagers today can still identify with. Current events are more to the forefront with WW1 having an impact. Mostly enjoyed it.


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August’s Theme is Childhood

The new theme for this month is Childhood. The three books I read this past week were YA books, two of which I had read when I was considerably younger than I am now.

The Twelfth Day of July – Joan Lingard

Sadie is Protestant, Kevin is Catholic – and on the tense streets of Belfast their lives collide. It starts with a dare – kids fooling around – but soon becomes something dangerous. Getting to know Sadie Jackson will change Kevin’s life forever. But will the world around them change too?


Across the Barricades – Joan Lingard

Kevin and Sadie just want to be together, but it’s not that simple. Things are bad in Belfast. Soldiers walk the streets and the city is divided. No Catholic boy and Protestant girl can go out together – not without dangerous consequences . . .


Published in the early 1970’s The Twelfth Day of July and Across the Barricades are the first two books in Lingard’s Kevin and Sadie series about a Catholic teenager who meets a Protestant teenager and form a friendship despite the tensions between the two groups in Belfast. Lingard presents a neutral viewpoint, both sides do things that can be considered ‘wrong.’ It’s easy to see how easy it is to keep spreading hate and that true courage comes from standing up for what you believe in.

I remember reading Across the Barricades in high school in the late 1980s. I don’t know if I read The Twelfth Day of July. All I remember from my first reading in the forbidden friendship and that I enjoyed it.  I don’t think I paid a lot of attention to the political situation in Northern Ireland at that time. Belfast was simply a place many people wouldn’t think about going on holiday. Do they still hold up? I think they do although I’m sure some young people today would consider them boring, as they are rather slow paced and not a lot of ‘action’.  However, many of the themes in the books can be applied to so many different situations. The difficulties one faces when beliefs become different to those held by families and communities, the innocents that get caught up in any conflict, that you can’t simply judge an individual by their religion – not everyone is an extremist.

No One Went to Town – Phyllis Johnston

A story of New Zealand pioneers based on stories told by the author’s mother and uncles. The Tarrant family are farming in a remote area in the central North Island in the early 1900’s. Supplies are ordered and delivered by surveyors working in the area and the only time anyone goes to town is in the event of a serious accident. Simple accidents are dealt with on the farm, often without any form of medical assistance such as stitching up a leg with needle and thread.

In some ways it is similar to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books with the description of daily life and events, I just don’t think Johnston has the same skill as a writer. I read this book for the first time when I was around 10 years old and enjoyed it then. I do still enjoy it as an adult. It’s a shame that it’s no longer in print because I do feel it’s important to remember our pioneers. I love history anyway, and so often books like these give a sense of what life was like more than just reading a non-fiction book. There are 3 more books in the same series, two of them I know I have never read.

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