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The Picture Book Buzz

At The End of Holyrood Lane - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Although most of my reviews are of books released in the calendar year, I didn't discover this book until February 2019. After meeting Dimity Powell at the SCBWI Sydney Conference and getting a chance to thoroughly examine and talk about the book with her - we had a nice long train ride from a delightful indie bookstore - it was wonderful to watch the finalists being named and then for this book to be chosen for this honor. I'd have to agree with Uni, it's hard not to look at that pretty sticker!

If you haven't read this book yet, I hope this review will inspire you to do so. It is truly an amazing book both for its ability to be a chameleon and the hope it inspires. I totally fell in love with it and I hope you do, too.

Sometimes, it's easier to shy away from books with "heavy" or serious topics. But we do our children a disservice. Even if this book is not a mirror of their experience and a gentle confirmation that they are not alone; it is a necessary window into another's experience and a way to create empathy. Something we all need a little reminder of these days.

The best books, and At the End of Holyrood Lane is one of those, provide this window with a dash of humor and/or a parallel theme that makes the book appealing and relatable to most readers.

At the End of Holyrood Lane

Author: Dimity Powell

Illustrator: Nicky Johnston

Publisher: EK Books (2018)

Ages: 4-8



Fear of thunderstorms, domestic violence, and asking for help.


Flick is just like any other youngster. She loves to chase butterflies and jump in autumn leaves. But life at the end of Holyrood Lane is often violent and unpredictable due to the constant storms that plague her home, causing her to cringe with dread and flee whenever they strike. Flick tries her best to quell her fears and endure the storms' persistent wrath until, one day, with nowhere left to hide Flick summons the courage to face her fears by asking for help to overcome them.

At the End of Holyrood Lane provides a sensitive glimpse into one aspect of domestic violence and how it can affect young lives. Designed to be visually arresting, emotionally incisive, and ultimately uplifting, it is a tale of anxiety shown through the eyes of a small child with an intense dislike for thunderstorms -- a fear shared by many young children. This clever duality of meaning is able to evoke a gentle awareness for young readers who may be suffering their own domestic torment but who are too scared or unsure of how to seek help and shelter from their own storms, whatever their nature.

Opening Lines:

Flick lives beneath the beech woods

at the end of Holyrood Lane.

She dances with the butterflies in Spring,

tumbles through ruby leaves in autumn,

and basks in golden sunshine all year long.

Except when it storms.

Why I LOVE this book:

Reading though the first third of the book, you experience Flick's joyful exuberance for life and a seemingly normal dislike of storms. Just look at that halo of flowers and rainbow ribbon!

(I appologize to Dimity & Nicky for the darkness of my photos.)

Text © Dimity Powell, 2018. Image © Nicky Johnston 2018.

The images of swirling winds and sheets of rain reinforces the reader's belief that Flick fears storms. Especially the loud roaring that hurts her head and ears and makes "Flick feel smaller than she really is." Nicky Johnston's tender images demonstrating Flick's mastery of hiding "where the thunder cannot reach her," completes this impression. For some readers, this is the theme - overcoming a fear of thunderstorms. And this book is perfect for providing ideas to deal with storms and addressing a child's fears.

However, Dimity takes it a step further. The next image shows Flick knocking over a vase. I cringed. Knowing what happens when you knock over something of a parent's. Then I gasped. The face on the facing page leapt out at me. (Still does.) Watching me read the book, Dimity smiled. She knew I had grasped the deeper, visceral theme within the book. I fell right into Flick, with a desire to run & hide. Turning that page . . . was tough, but worth it.

Text © Dimity Powell, 2018. Image © Nicky Johnston 2018.

I still find it fascinating that some people don't see the face - just a storm cloud. Perhaps, they feel that it's an ingenious way of personifying a storm, making it feel more "real" and Flick's fear more intense. That works.

This is a perfect instance of a book being what it needs to be for each reader; based on what the reader brings with her/himself. Anyone whose been in a verbally or physically similar situation to Flick may be transported into the fleeing little girl, escaping anyway they can. Others will recognize their fright when a sudden, really loud clap of thunder announces an impending squall. Even the Kirkus review saw it as, "A young girl [who] conquers her fear of storms."

As Flick tries to hide, the face and darkness, swirling winds, and sheets of rain grow larger and larger. Until they cover an entire page and threaten to engulf Flick.

Text © Dimity Powell, 2018. Image © Nicky Johnston 2018.

Craft note - At this point, when the main character is expected to solve her own problem, Dimity faced the issue of Flick, a child, facing an angry, belligerent adult OR a big thunderstorm. She can't physically or verbally change her situation. Dimity ingeniously has Flick do "something she has never done before." Spoilers! You'll have to read the book to find out what Flick does.

Nicky's watercolor illustrations are delightful; shifting from the sunny pastel colors to the deep grey, blue, and black of the thundering storm. She masterfully portrays the storm so that either interpretation of the theme is possible, enabling the book to appeal to multiple readers. It's no wonder this team won the Crystal Kite Award. Overall, this is a book that creates a mirror for almost everyone (whether abuse or fear of storms) and an important window for the creation of empathy for anyone caught within their fear. A book which should be in every library.


- write about or draw an image of something that scares you. What do you do to feel better or safer?

- do you have a favorite activity for rainy days? Make a pillow or blanket fort. Or maybe one of these ideas - (;

- check out the Teacher's Notes and activities prepared by Dimity & Nicky (; and

If you missed Dimity Powell's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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