Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Fiction Queenie

UK Writer and Illustrator
Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt
Doubleday 2013 $34.99pb   410 pages
ISBN 978 0 8575 3112 4

Themes: Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II 1958/ Grandmothers/ Miltree Orthopaedic Hospital, UK / TB treatments 1958/ Unpasteurised milk

Life in the children’s ward of a big orthopaedic hospital in Miltree in the UK in 1958 is the setting for this story told by 11 year old Elsie who has developed TB of the knee. This was the time when TB was talked about in hushed tones as it was equated with dirt and unmentionable disease and generally unhealthy living. The fact that Elsie’s beloved grandmother has also contracted the illness adds to the problems of keeping it secret.  I often find that Jacqueline Wilson’s female heroines have a certain sameness about them – they are feisty, outspoken and have a habit of getting their own way in the end. However, she is not afraid to explore the big issues of the times – attitudes to single mothers, poverty and the dreaded TB. I am sure the descriptions of life on the children’s ward are absolutely based on fact and I found the whole 410 pages (a good chunky read) really riveting. Sadly I have not had a chance to try it out on children yet.
Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

 Photo of Jacqueline Wilson acknowledgements to the Guardian Newspaper UK

A couple of weeks ago I went on a tour of the old fever hospital up in Newtown here in Wellington that is about to be converted into a permanent home for the SPCA. It certainly gave us a feeling of what it must have been like to be isolated in such a place and being wheeled out onto the long verandas (often in very cold weather we were told) to breathe in the healthy fresh air.  And, there was no TV around in the early 1950s.


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