What people are saying:
‘A fast-paced adventure that zips along … real-life history … tantalising mythical and magical elements … and a lovely underlying message about friendship, kindness and standing up for what’s right.’
Book Trust – Books we love – June 2018
‘Wonderful characterisation meets marvellous storytelling in this brilliant adventure that will totally capture your imagination.’
‘This book is non-stop action and adventure, a cleverly constructed blend of historical drama with a touch of magic thrown in for good measure … an edge of your seat kind of story, where you simply have to find out what is going to happen next!’
Jacqueline Harris – Reading Zone
‘A stonkingly good adventure story full of excitement, magic and danger that makes for a wonderful choice for reading for pleasure … I would highly recommend this story for upper KS2 classrooms.’
Books for Topics
‘An excellent blend of events from history interwoven with magic and legend to bring us an exciting adventure.’
Parents in Touch
‘This is an engrossing adventure in which, as in all the best historical novels, the focus is on the fiction, rather than the facts.’
‘Ally has created a stunning historical story embroiled in magic, myth and legend.’
The Phoenix Comic Book Club
‘Utterly gripping, highly original and full of the same sort of amazing WWII atmosphere childhood favourites like “The Machine Gunners” and “The Owl Service” had, this is absolutely brilliant stuff.’
‘A wonderful historical story … mixed with a little fantasy, magic and mythology … Superb.’
Susan Chambers – Bookseller and Schools Events Coordinator, Waterstones O2, Finchley Road, London
‘Goodnight Mr Tom meets Indiana Jones!’
Ashley Booth – Year 6 Teacher, St. Silas School, Toxteth @MrBoothY6
‘A superb adventure story along the lines of Enid Blyton when she was at the height of her powers.’
‘Need something with a MASSIVE CLOUT of brilliance? A chunk of history? Memorable main characters? A loyal dog? Look no further. Just brilliant.’
‘A little but alot’ book blog
‘The adventure plot is … lots of fun to follow, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which always had me desperate to keep reading.’
Golden Books Girl
‘… suspenseful and gripping. The character I liked the best was Kitty, because she is kind, clever and trustworthy. I think it’s a really exciting book, and definitely worth reading.’
Sophia, aged 11 (Book review on Amazon)
The Buried Crown – Little Inspirations
Here are some of the inspirations behind my new story, The Buried Crown.
Little Inspirations #1 – The Battle of Britain
‘Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few …’ Winston Churchill
In the first in a small series of little inspirations that have helped shape my new World War 2-set story, The Buried Crown – and in the 100th anniversary year of the RAF starting this April – I’d like to pay tribute to ‘the few’ who risked life and limb to keep the German Luftwaffe at bay during the summer of 1940 after the Allied retreat from Dunkirk.
In my story, the young hero, George Penny’s brother, Charlie, is a trainee fighter pilot – a ‘sprog’ as they were called. He earns his ‘wings’ just before the start of the Blitz and is quickly plunged into battle, his courage put to the ultimate test – as is George’s. But that’s another story …
Anyway, I thought I’d share some piccies from a recent trip to Bentley Priory Museum, near Stanmore in north west London – ‘From where the Battle of Britain was won.’ If it’s in striking distance – and you get the chance – go! It’s an amazing place and a fitting tribute to all the brave young men and the brilliant ground staff – many of whom were women – who defended our skies all those years ago so that we could live to fight another day…
Little Inspirations #2 – Dragons
I do like a good dragon! Smaug in ‘The Hobbit’ has got to be one of the best. And of course J.R.R. Tolkien modelled him on the vengeful, treasure-hoarding dragon in the classic epic poem, ‘Beowulf’. But did you know the Anglo-Saxons believed there were two types of dragon? Drakes who could fly and wingless ‘wyrms’ who slithered across the landscape like giant reptiles.
These beasts have given their names to places up and down the country from Wormwood in the Peak District to Drakelow in the West Midlands. There’s even a Dragon Hill in Wiltshire.
Dragons like nothing better than to find a big mound of treasure, curl up round it and set to guarding it. And they can get very angry if someone tries to take it from them, as Bilbo and his friends found out to their cost. These gorgeous gold and garnet dragons on the helmet, shield and sword-belt of the 7th century Sutton Hoo ship burial treasures – now in the British Museum – were the inspiration behind my own dragon legend in The Buried Crown …
Little Inspirations #3 – Ravens
I must confess to being rather partial to including animal characters in my stories. I gave the hero in my first book, Black Powder, a white mouse for a best friend. And in my new book, my hero, George Penny, adopts a maltreated farm dog called Spud. But in this story, there’s a raven too. Unlike Spud, it doesn’t have a name though, being rooted in the mythic Anglo-Saxon world that leaks into the 1940s-set story.
As birds of carrion, Anglo-Saxons believed ravens were harbingers of battles – and deaths – to come and that is true in my story. But I have also drawn on the role of ravens in Norse myths as messengers, like Huginn and Muninn, the pair of raven spirits who fly across the world and bring information back to the god, Odin.
Is the raven in The Buried Crown real? And where does it come from? I’ll leave you to make up your own mind!
Little Inspirations #4 – Yggdrasil, the World Tree
I love trees – they’re such great characters and so when I got the chance to include one in my new book, I couldn’t resist it. Here’s where my hero, George, gets to meet it for the first time:
‘George held his breath and battled towards the shelter of a large, windswept tree. As he drew closer, it loomed over him, its spiky-leaved branches snatching at the air like the tongues of a thousand darting snakes. He peered beneath them into the damp, mossy blackness.
‘Spud? Are you in there, boy?’
The tree is an old yew – one of my favourite trees – and I’ve chosen to link it to the Norse myth of Yggdrasil, or the World Tree, which reaches up with its branches above the sky and down through its roots into three separate worlds including the underworld of the spirits: Niflheim.
In the Yggdrasil myth, a great dragon called Nidhogg lives in the spring beneath the root that leads into underworld and you will recognise this if you read my story. The Yggdrasil of Norse legend is usually referred to as an ash tree but as yew trees are linked with burial sites in Britain, I have plumped for one of these instead.
To give you a bit more of a flavour, here is a great old Yew tree we bumped into – though not literally! – on a walk we did recently near where we live…
Little Inspirations #5 – My evacuee dad
The hero of The Buried Crown, George Penny, is named in honour of my 85 year old dad whose memories of being an evacuee during the Second World War are part of our own family legend and lore.
The picture shows my Dad (the boy with the white-blonde hair in the centre) with his older brother, my Uncle Alan (on the right) and a friend, in the town in Pembrokeshire, West Wales where he was evacuated to from London. He was actually evacuated twice – once in the early part of the war, and then again after a Doodlebug dropped on his street, wrecking his bedroom and very nearly killing him and my uncle. But for an iron bedhead, I wouldn’t be here and neither would my book! A sobering thought…
Like George in my story, my dad lost his mum – my grandma – when he was young. Tragically, she died of cancer while he was only eight years old and still away in Wales. She was called Amelia Sherrick. Although I never knew her, it gives me great pleasure that the Sherrick name appears on the front cover of the book.
Little Inspirations #6 – A very special group of people
The character of my heroine, German Jewish refugee, Kitty Regenbogen, was inspired by the stories of the 10, 000 mainly Jewish children who escaped the clutches of Hitler and his Nazis between December 1938 and early September 1939 on the Kindertransports.
The children, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other countries in Occupied Europe, had to travel to new temporary homes in the UK without their parents and in many cases, their siblings too. It was only at the end of the war that many of them discovered the terrible news that some – or all – of their families had been murdered in the Holocaust.
Known as ‘Kinder’ (‘the children’ in German) – the surviving members are now all in their eighties and nineties.
I was very privileged to meet some of them while writing Kitty’s story and to be invited to come back and talk to them at a meeting of the Kindertransport Group of the Association of Jewish Refugees once The Buried Crown had been published.
Sir Erich Reich, their chairman, who escaped from Vienna, has written his own book called ‘The Boy in the Statue’, about his memories of those times. He is one of the children featured in the Kindertransport sculpture by fellow ‘Kind’ and recently deceased, Frank Meisler. And Bernd Koschland, who kindly read the chapters of my story draft relating to Kitty’s experiences to confirm they rang true, was recently awarded an MBE for services to Holocaust education.
It was an honour to be amongst such a brave and inspirational group of people as they prepare to mark the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransports later this year (2018).
The photos in this post were taken by my talented friend and professional photographer Elizabeth Doak
For more about where my ideas came from for The Buried Crown check out my Author Q&A on The Reading Zone here.