A powerful book that effectively uses a modern-day narrator to hook readers into a moving historical story.
Thirteen-year-old Lily normally looks forward to travelling to the Lake District to visit her grandparents. A committed country / fell runner, she adores the landscape and has always been close to her gran. This year, however, is different. Gran has Alzheimer’s and may not even remember who Lily is. Added to that, Lily is due to compete in an important under-15s fell race and fears she’ll again allow herself to be beaten by her rival, Abbie. Fortunately, Lilly finds the strength she needs to cope and compete when she discovers her great-great-grandfather’s diaries from the First World War. He too was a gifted fell-runner which, as Lily is about to find out, was a skill that proved to be very important in the last hours of the war.
Published in time for the centenary of the November 1918 armistice, this is a powerful dual narrative story. Author, Tom Palmer, effectively uses Lilly as a modern-day narrator to hook readers into this moving historical story. Lily’s interest and observations help us identify with her great-great-grandfather’s story while diary entries are used to give us his voice directly.
The advantage of this approach is that we have both voices but there is no scope for confusion. This is important as Armistice Runner is part of Barrington Stoke’s super-readable series and total clarity is, therefore, crucial. (In case you’re not aware, Barrington Stoke focus on super-readable dyslexia-friendly books that use clear well-spaced font and thick off-white paper to improve accessibility. While generally short and targeted at a specific audience, in my experience the are normally cracking stories and Armistice Runner is no exception).
This book is, however, more than just a good read. It incorporates a number of important themes including loyalty, competition and endurance along with a sensitive portrayal of Alzheimer’s and the potentially devasting effect this can have on both individuals and their families. There is a particularly moving moment when Lily notices the fear in the faces of her parents and realises they don’t have all the answers.
For me, however, the most impactful part of the book occurs in the final scenes described in the diary. Lily’s great-great-grandfather has been told that the Armistice has been signed but the war around him is continuing and it is his task to prevent further unnecessary bloodshed. His confrontation with a group of French villagers, including a mother who has lost her sons in the war, is especially poignant. I’ll leave you to read what happens and simply admit that I had tears in my eyes as a read this section.
This is a companion book to Over the Line by Tom Palmer so, if you enjoyed this and are looking for your next read, that might be a good place so start. Alternatively, why not try one of the author’s other titles for Barrington Stoke including Ghost Stadium, Secret FC, or the Rugby Academy or Wings series.
Publication date: September 2018
Publisher: Conkers (Barrington Stoke)
Author’s website: Tom Palmer