– Short Review –
Girls for the Vote is short and accessible, while at the same time fast-paced and fact-packed. It tells the story of Paulina (known to all as Polly) Stubbs, a twelve-year-old girl in 1914, who finds her neat and uncomplicated world upturned when two new neighbours arrive to live upstairs from Polly and her family.
– Long review –
The new neighbours are a pair of young women, Edwina Rutherford and Violet Cross, and it very quickly becomes apparent that they are more than they appear; the women are suffragettes (or, as Violet prefers to be known, ‘suffragists’), who regularly clash with the law. Edwina has spent time in Holloway Prison, and when her story begins she has just been released in order to recover from a recent hunger strike.
As Polly’s friendship with Edwina and Violet develops, Polly begins to embrace their fervent belief in women’s equality, and she soon starts to help them in the production of ‘Votes For Women’ banners – all without her parents’ knowledge.
Polly’s mother is about to give birth and her condition is delicate; when Polly’s activities upstairs become known, then, Polly is forbidden from having any further contact with Violet and Edwina. Fired up with newfound confidence, however, Polly figures out a way to attend a suffragette rally in nearby Hyde Park in order to support the cause and her new friends – but when the march turns into a riot and she is injured and separated from everyone she knows, how will she manage to get home?
Linda Newbery’s Girls for the Vote is a well-written story which packs an emotional punch. It deftly describes its historical moment, and not simply in light of the suffragettes’ quest – The Great War is just beginning, and we get glimpses of battalions of young men being shipped off to France, amid jubilant scenes and the ill-placed confidence that the war ‘will all be over by Christmas.’ Polly is a rounded, complicated and very real character, who shows courage and grit as well as vulnerability and loneliness, and I loved marching beside her.
Girls for the Vote is published by Usborne and available to purchase here.
Linda Newbery wrote her first novel during the summer holidays from her job as English teacher in a comprehensive school. Now a critically acclaimed full-time author, Linda has written over twenty novels, been shortlisted twice for the Carnegie Medal, and is the winner of a Silver Medal Nestle Children’s Book Prize and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Linda does much of her work in a writing hut in her garden but is often distracted by her own four cats …
Visit www.lindanewbery.co.uk to find out more.
Reviewed by Sinead O’Hart
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