Book Title: Katy Parker and the house that cried (flashback)
Author: Margaret Mulligan
Reviewed by: Katy Reeve
Age range: 8-12
Genre: Flashback, Mystery, Detective
Katy Parker has a mystery to solve. With her brother Patrick and a local boy Charlie, who she has met in the future, they struggle to work out what has happened and why. The tension mounts as the previously hidden history of Willow Dean unfolds, and the children desperately try to avert the fate of the family in the past that they have grown to know and love.
This book is an excellent choice if your child;
- Enjoys a mystery adventure story
- Finds flashbacks and time travel exciting and engaging
- Can empathise with characters from different background and periods of time
- Wants to explore family dynamics and sibling relationships
- Likes historical settings and detail
- Is studying world war II
- Enjoys gritty, brave and courageous female characters
- Needs texts that aren’t too chunky
This multi-themed story is a page turner; I had to read it in one sitting. With a haunted house, time travel and the experience of wartime evacuees this tale engages the reader from the very first page. The element of mystery established through Katy’s dream creates tension; this is quickly developed through the visit to the haunted house and piecing together the past, back in May 1942.
The characters are likeable and relatable, Patrick, Katy’s brother, is initially a typical younger brother, mischievous, annoying and frustrating. However, the sister-brother relationship developed as the siblings find themselves living with warm, kind strangers and they have to play the role of evacuee children in a different time. The situation led to Katy relying on Patrick to keep herself going, and by working together, they find a way back home. I saw this a useful discussion point, a chance to relate the text to our life experiences; I recounted incidents to my children where they have relied on each other and told family tales, including stories about me growing up with my sister. Through the narrative, the writer conveys how at times you can trust and tell your family members things that you can’t share with others. This message is particularly compelling at the end of the story as Katy Parker feels she still has to hide the truth from her best friend, Izzy.
Through description and dialogue, the author paints a very different world, a world of 70 years ago. Mulligan seems to know how to relate to children today. A world where children turn to books and comics rather than tablets and iPods for pastimes. Her writing teases out what they would enjoy if they were a child of the past; from being a valued member of a community to being resourceful to having the freedom to roam. The “clipped and precise” radio presenters, tepid baths, wartime rationing, absent loved ones and “pea-green school uniforms” provide a sense of wartime togetherness, reality and hardship that make the book feel authentic. Using time-travel to develop the narrative enables the reader to gain a sense of how strange it would be to be taken from the 21st century and it is easy to compare modern life with that of an evacuee in the 1940s. Opportunities to emphasise because of different life experiences led to lots of discussions and as a family we played ‘would you rather’ for weeks.