One of my aims for 2020 is to read more. I miss curling up with a book in bed – somewhat impossible when you have a 14 month old sharing the room with you half the time – but there’s nothing stopping me from sitting elsewhere to read. That may sound a tad radical, but totally possible if I Really want to end this book drought. In addition to just treading more, I also want to actually finish some of the books that I’ve started over the last couple of years. To my knowledge I’ve only managed to finish two recently, but more on them another time. Let’s kick off with what is actually a children’s book – Dancing the Charleston.
Nine year old Little Miss C has been a huge Jacqueline Wilson fan ever since she started reading her books. She was lucky enough to get to meet her at the Foundling Museum in London and she still talks about that day so much. We were also fortunate enough to be able to take mum mum with us on that visit – an extra [pair of hands is always useful! – and she too was blown away by Jacqueline Wilson when she spoke to the gathered children and adults.
A while back I recall mum telling me and LMC about a newspaper interview she’d read with Jacqueline about how she sometimes finds it hard writing about modern-day childhood, as she can feel a bit out of touch with it. Instead she was turning her hand to writing some books set in history. That’s exactly the case with Dancing the Charleston, as the title may suggest.
Mona lives with her aunt on the edge of the Somerset Estate, with her aunt holding the position of dressmaker to Lady Somerset. For years the closest Mona has got to life inside the big house has been through her aunty being friends with one of the maids who used to visit and bring stories about the comings and goings.
All that starts to change when Lady Somerset falls ill and Mona is taken to see her shortly before her death. Understandably the child is confused as to why, yet Lady Somerset’s death is the start of a change in Mona’s life. With one of her sons, Mr Benjamin, taking over the house a new lease of life is brought to it, in proper 1920 style. Parties and a more bohemian lifestyle are just the start of the changes that Mona sees and Mr Benjamin seems intent on including this dress-makers daughter in this new life. But why?
I started reading Dancing the Charleston simply because LMC had got it out of the local library and on the way home we stopped at a playground and whilst the older two were playing and the youngest one sleeping in her pram I wanted something other than my phone to occupy me. I was instantly hooked, although I had to admit that this is actually the first Jacqueline Wilson book that I’ve read all the way through.
I was enthralled by the story and the various twists and turns that it took along the way. One in particular had me let out an audible gulp of surprise when I got to it! What I really liked though was how she had managed to set a story in a time that many children may not know much about and help the reader see it all through a child’s eyes.
At school this term LMC is taking part in a “reading through history” challenge where children are encouraged to read books set at different points in history. Dancing the Charleston fit the brief perfectly as her first book to tick off the list.
The other thing that I loved about reading Dancing the Charleston is that LMC and I could sit and talk about it together – especially as she started getting to all the reveals within the story. We read together often, but have been poor at seeing a book all the way through from start to finish. This is something else we’re trying to change, but it was lovely to have both read the same book in quick succession and to be able to talk about it. It’s a beautiful bonding thing that I’ve realised we’ve lost since we used to have more traditional bedtime stories together.
Our next book that we’re reading together is LMC’s choice, and happens to be another Jacqueline Wilson book – We Are The Beaker Girls. After that we’re going to move on to my choice – a book that several people have recommended to me: The Boy at the Back of the Class. I’ll let you know how we get on with them both.
Where to buy the books mentioned in this post
Disclaimer: Any links marked with a * in this section are affiliate links on Amazon. If you buy through them it will not cost you any more, but I will receive a small (not enough enough for a cup of tea normally) commission for sending you there way. Thank you if you do buy anything as a result of reading this post. It is appreciated.
The Boy at the Back of the Class is written by Onjali Rauf and is *available in paperback here.