Child of St Kilda
Child of St Kilda
Beth Waters, Swindon: Child’s Play, hb, 978 1 78628 187 6, 2019, £12.99, 64pp.
Information book, picture book, 4-9 years
What was it like to live on the “islands on the edge of the world” – or rather on Hirta, the largest island of St Kilda? Beth Water’s has based her account of life on this the remotest island off the coast of Scotland on the memories of Norman John Gillies, the last child to be born on Hirta, who lived there for the first five years of his life before the population was evacuated.
This gives an immediacy and personal touch to Waters’ account encouraging young readers to better appreciate and indeed, to empathise with the experience of the islanders whose lifestyle was so different. We are given a snapshot of the history of the islands, the geography, the unique wild life, the close knit society, the isolation. The text is presented quite factually, the narrative is then enhanced by the illustrations.
Waters’ style references the 30’s with bold shapes and a limited palette of soft textured colours, yellows, reddish-pinks, blues and greens. Here we do not see the hard realism of the photograph, rather the reader is drawn into the atmosphere of the island life and landscape, the soft clear air, the sense of space, the close relationships. The moment the reader opens the book the end papers decorated with the patterns found on the knitted garments made by the islander establish this atmosphere. However, this is not a picture book; it is designed to impart information so at the end the reader will find the artist’s sketch book adding and expanding the information presented in the text together with a map of the islands. For adults there is a small but useful bibliography.
Review by FMH