The Week at World’s End has shot to the very top of my list of favourite books of 2021. Pulling me in from the very first line, it took me on a challenging, entertaining and eye-opening journey. I know a book is powerful when I keep going back to it, thinking about the story, characters and messages that developed as each element was revealed.
I learned so much about life during a week when everyone was paranoid that the world would end – when most people had no idea what the impact of an atomic bomb would be – and those who did were terrified. It is fascinating to read historical fiction from a time that is still in living memory. This story isn’t one that happened long ago – less that 15 years before I was born – but is recent history that is so important. Emma Carroll has expertly woven a must-read for older children that will help them to understand the global nature of politics and how the nations of our world impact each other as they strive for power.
Nothing exciting ever happens in World’s End Close. At least that’s what Stevie Fisher and her best friend, Ray, used to think. They had to rely on Ray’s overactive imagination and stories they made up themselves to bring a little bit of spark to the routine of their lives.
Then they meet Anna – a girl hiding in the coal shed. Who is she? What is she doing there? Who is she running from? Anna is a girl of so many questions but no answers. Stevie and Ray find themselves on an exhilarating adventure where they must do all they can to protect Anna without their families noticing.
At the same time, the grown-up world is bursting with worry over the mounting Cuban Missile Crisis. Special reports from the White House across the Atlantic and frightening newspaper headlines are filtering down to the children who are trying to make sense of everything they’re hearing. Is there going to be another war? Are their lives actually in danger? What will happen if someone pushes the “red button”? Is there even a button to push? Nuclear bombs are all anyone can talk about and strange things are happening at the American airbase near their home. It’s all getting too real and too close!
When Stevie learns a secret that is just too dangerous to keep, she is faced with the ultimate dilemma. Speaking up is risky and she doesn’t trust the power of her own voice. but the impact of keeping quiet is unthinkable.
Reading historical fiction by Emma Carroll is all encompassing. The story surrounds the reader with the atmosphere of the time period – every detail coming to life on the page. In The Week at World’s End, the reader is transported to 1960’s England with all of the culture, fashion and trends that made it such a unique and significant time. Mods, Scooter Girls, Rock and Roll, standing up for what you believe in … everything that was so important to young people is a key part of this narrative. Yet nothing is shoe-horned in. It all combines naturally to help tell the story.
A significant aspect of this book is the challenges faced by Ray and his family as mixed-race people in 1960’s England and the influence of Martin Luther King Jr and the rallies in the US at this time. This is treated honestly and sensitively with the blatant injustices ringing through.
The Week at World’s End would be an incredible class read in Year 5+. With so much opportunity for children to question and discuss, it would be fascinating to see what they make of this week in history when the whole world held its breath. I certainly can’t wait for my own children to read it so we can talk about everything inside. This is not just a book for readers who love historical fiction. There is so much to explore in terms of politics, war, media, racism, secrets, truth and finding your voice. This is a book to be read and shared for a very long time.
Thank you to Faber Children’s for this wonderful story!
Publishing: 2nd September 2021
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