Saturday, November 08, 2008

Walking to School

Walking to School: A Story from Northern Ireland
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Michael Dooling
Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

This is a story for today's children.  The problems in the world around them (in this book the tension and violence between the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland) can seem too big and too long-standing ever to be solved.  And yet there's hope.  A connection is made, child to child, across the boundaries that are meant to keep them apart and at odds.  The adults may not be able to end "The Troubles," but perhaps the next generation will.

Allison is a Catholic child in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  To get to her new school, she has to walk through a Protestant section of town. Protestants line the road to harass and threaten the children and the adults who walk with them for protection.  If that's not scary enough, Allison has a secret.  She overheard her uncle planning to "teach a lesson" to a Catholic who has been seen associating with Protestants. The "lesson" involved being beaten senseless with both legs broken. What's a child to do when the adults around her perpetuate the violence rather than working to end it?  

The story turns around a button, a marble, and a connection made between Allison and a Protestant girl who has been forced by her mother to come participate in the harassment.

This is an amazing contemporary story, based on an actual event, about the power of young people to bring about social change and justice. Like I said, it is a story for today's children.

Eve Bunting has published over 250 books. She grew up in Ireland. She doesn't shy away from topics like homelessness, racism, divorce, and immigration (to name a few). This would make a great addition to an Eve Bunting author study in the upper grades and middle school.

You must visit Michael Dooling's website.  His catch phrase is History Through Picture Books, and when you browse through the list of books he's illustrated, you'll recognize many favorites. According to his bio, he often paints from life -- his family and neighborhood children dressed from the collection of vintage clothes and costumes that he and his wife have amassed.

Eve Bunting's bio on

Review and discussion at The Reading Zone.


  1. I always love reading reviews at A Year of Reading. There are still too many unfortunate universal truths in this world, and hate seems to be at the core. This sounds like a phenomenal way to convey truth and open discussions.

  2. I will definitely be checking this one out. Ever since I read The Bog Child, I've been fascinated by The Troubles. This sounds right up my alley! Thanks for your review.

  3. I love Eve Bunting. Books like Fly Away Home are the reason I have a tub of her books in my room. I will definitely have to add this one as well.


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