Book name: The New School at Scawdale
Author: Angela Brazil
Publisher: Blackie and Son
Genre: Children’s book
Publication Date: 1940
Star Rating: 5/5
The New School at Scawdale was published after the outbreak of World War Two.
Angela Brazil realised that something slightly different, and definitely topical, was needed to meet the needs of her loyal fans during wartime.
The New School at Scawdale opens with a timely reminder of the deep connections between England and Australia.
Aileen Carey is half British and half Australian. She was left with her maternal grandparents when her father, mother and brother returned to England.
That was years ago, but the combination of expense and time required to fetch Aileen meant that she remained there.
Aileen is now going to be reunited with the parents she hardly knows and meet her new siblings as well.
This must seem so strange to a modern readership, but in those days there was a lengthy sea voyage between England and Australia. Aileen’s story must have been by no means unusual.
The opening chapters are devoted to Aileen’s reunion with her family and the inevitable challenges that presents.
After a while, the family are able to enjoy a summer holiday together, albeit under the shadow of the clouds of war.
They, and many others, are taken by surprise when war is declared in the first few days of September 1939.
Aileen, her mother and siblings remain in the cottage in Scawdale in the north of England that they have rented for a holiday.
They are joined in the area by some evacuees. Everyone settles in and tries to help the war effort as best they can.
They go to a local school which has been started at Thorghyl Hall to accommodate the pupils of an existing boarding school.
Aileen and her siblings go to the local day school at home, so there is plenty of tension surrounding getting used to each other.
The New School at Scawdale was an excellent mix of everyday family life, international tensions and concerns over the war and relatives, and boarding school challenges and fun.
Angela Brazil produced an inclusive story where every young reader could feel a sense of belonging. This was just what was needed in the early years of the war, bringing everyone together with a gentle reminder that we were all on the same side.
The sensitivity of the early chapters was also really moving. Aileen has to travel across the world, alone but for the children’s hostess onboard ship, for months on end. She must leave the familiarity of her home and her grandparents for an uncertain reunion with her parents and the siblings she can barely remember or has never met.
This was a serious topic to address, however familiar it must have been to readers of the time, and it dovetailed seamlessly into the wider narrative of the war in a very emotionally intelligent way.
I loved this story and would highly recommend it.
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