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Published: 17 Sep 2020

Paperback / softback, 346 pages

Recommended for age 9+ and 11+

By Eve McDonnell

Published by Everything with Words

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t's January 1928, the day before the great flood. There's a snowstorm and the river is about to burst its banks-fourteen souls will be lost. Can Glory an orphan with only one hand and her time-travelling friend Needle and their pet crow change the future? Is there anyone among all those people entombed in the snow-shrouded town who will listen?

A story of courage, determination, time-travel and a magical crow! The river is about to burst its banks, the town is engulfed by a snow storm, fourteen souls will be lost, unless Needle and Glory can change fate.

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Eve McDonnell talks to Nikki Gamble about art and writing, mudlarking, the Great Flood of 1928 and how they come together in her debut novel, Elsetime.

Reviewed by Roy James

Elsetime is set in 1864. Mudlark Needle scours the riverbank for treasures his mum can sell at the market. With his dad away money is scarce. Luckily, his crow, Magpie, is adept at finding shiny objects in the mud. They chance upon an object more curious most and Needle ends up in an ‘else-time’: 1928. He strikes up a close friendship with apprentice jewellery maker, Glory. And together they embark on warning the town of a flood that will devastate the community and take the lives of fourteen souls.

Sitting in the time-slip genre, Elsetime follows in the footsteps, but not in the shadows, of some classic children’s literature. Books such as Tom’s Midnight Garden, Charlotte Sometimes, and The Children of Green Knowe are but three. Eve McDonnell’s text sits nicely alongside these as a great example of storytelling. And as with these, the attention to detail and rewarding end is brilliant.

Filled with memorable characters, Elsetime has you rooting for the two protagonists from the moment you meet them. Needle and Glory jump from the page and stand-out as individuals. Uniquely, Needle has the condition synesthesia, where various senses are stimulated rather than one. For Needle, this means he sees colours when people are speaking and it gives him a more accurate picture of people’s emotions. Similarly, Glory isn’t without her uniqueness either, and she doesn’t let her wooden hand hold her back. No matter how frustrating it can sometimes be.

Above all, Elsetime has a great deal of heart, with love and courage at its core and floods the reader with emotion. Consequently, It’s the kind of book which reminds you what the real treasures in life are. Appealing to UKS2 readers, it’s a candidate for your next class read. Be a crow and drop this treasure onto their laps.

I work as a librarian across two primary schools, and I tutor English Literature and Language at a secondary school. I was recently awarded a PGCert from Oxford Brookes University in Children's Literature.