Book reviewers, bloggers, parents and teachers with an interest in children’s literature should keep an eye out for the Irish novelist, Eithne Massey. Her latest work, set in Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral, tells the story of a young girl, Kai, who is taken from begging on the streets to join the choir of Dublin’s Christchurch cathedral. Although Kai is sad to leave her travelling father and her brother, Edward, she is happy to be able to stay in one place for a change. She moves in to the Cathedral and quickly makes friends with two other choristers – Tom and Jack – but she has to conceal the fact that she is a girl which is not always easy, particularly when she spends time with the Dame Maria.
Medieval Dublin comes to life in this novel entitled Where the Stones Sing. The city is portrayed as an exciting and enticing place where ships bring wonderful silks and spices and stone to the merchants of the city and horses and sheep are as likely to be found on the streets as people. It it also a dangerous place where Kai must be careful to avoid street fights. The city becomes even more dangerous when rats carry the plague ashore from ships in the port. Soon, death is everywhere and Kai’s friends are not left untouched. Inevitably her secret must come out and the tension builds as the novel reaches its conclusion.
This is warm and beautifully written story that was inspired by the Friends of Christchurch who wanted to commission a children’s book to celebrate the cathedral. The stones in the title are the stones of the cathedral itself. They resonate with the memory of songs from across the generations who have worshipped there, a device that successfully brings the cathedral itself to life and makes it a central character in the novel.
The novel is illustrated with photographs from the cathedral and there are some suggested activities for children who visit the cathedral as a result of reading Where the Stones Sing. Package a visit with a trip to the Dublinia exhibition which is just across the street from the Christchurch and you have the makings of a great day out.
Where the Stones Sing is published by O’Brien Press, 2011.
If you like Irish historical fiction for young adults, you might also like Blood Brother, Swan Sister by Eithne Massey.