I find the most interesting and educating novels are
those created from threads of history. This is one of those.
Nina is a twelve-year-old who has come from Australia
to London to stay with her Aunty Bee for a year, while her parents travel to
Antarctica. She is angry and resentful at their sending her away and is
determined not to be happy.
Bee lives on a barge and takes walking tour groups
around London where mudlarks used to be. The elderly and impoverished Molly’s
dilapidated barge is stationed next to Bee’s. Molly is a mudlark who for years
has lived off her findings.
When Molly first sees Nina, she recognises her as one
of us, people who can see things and others who have passed on, that in the
past, scavenged for a living. She also has a ghost living with her.
She finds a thimble and has a vision of how life
was when women sewed by hand using needle and thread. Confiding in Molly, she
is warned about indulging in going back to the past using found objects the
river has washed up.
Of course, Nina ignores all warnings and is
bewitched by her ability to time travel at will. She experiences the Frost Fair
of 1814, the Suffragette era, and becomes an evacuee of WW2.
When she loses the gas mask that took her back to
the war days, she is unable to get back to the present and home to Bee.
It is only with the help of the spiky Tom, his
stolen bike, and the offer of the boatwomen of war time, that Nina can return
to London from the countryside and find the lost gas mask which will transport
her back to the present.
This is a great read, well-researched, and full of
adventures through history that leaves the reader enriched in knowledge and
Title: The Mud Puddlers
Author: Pamela Rushby
Publisher: Walker Books, $16.99
Publication Date: 4 April 2023
For ages: 10 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Fiction