On the Edge of the Seat Reading

06 May

We just finished reading “They Came on Viking Ships” by Jackie French

and it was wonderful!

I remember reading this book years ago and it’s equally as good years later.

My boys thought so too.

The story is centred about two strong female characters – Freydis, daughter of the Viking “Eric the Red” and Hekja, Freydis’ Scottish thrall (slave).

Hekja, takes us with her from when she was captured by the Viking raiders, to her life as a thrall in Greenland and finally to her experiences in a Viking settlement in Vinland.

It’s an excellent book for introducing or wrapping up a unit on Vikings.

It covers so much territory and even gives little informative footnotes at the bottom of the pages.

053 (Small)

A small warning though – there are a few almost inappropriate snippets in the book.

They allude to certain things but they never describe or go into any details, so it’s a relatively ‘safe’ read.

It seems like all of Jackie French’s historical novels for children do this.

These ‘additions’ used to annoy me when I was wanting to read her books to younger audiences,

but, with older children, I appreciate the additional ugliness a little more as it presents a truer picture of the times.

It’s a very fine line though so I always read her books aloud.

This gives me the choice about whether to censor or not.

055 (Small)

I loved watching my boys react to this story as it neared the end.

I always allow them to sit on the floor and quietly play as I read,

but as books reach their climax you can see their eagerness for the story

as they stop what they are doing and move closer and closer to the book.

The room gets quieter and quieter and barely a muscle is moving

as we read those final chapters.

By the end, my boys are sitting right beside me on the couch,

almost leaning over the book as though physically putting themselves into the story.

And the final words on the final page of the final chapter are always a mixture of pleasure and pain –

pleasure at having completed a journey

and pain as the journey comes to its inevitable end.

We felt like that about this book.

I think this is why it’s always hard to start a new story,

we’re still mourning the completion of the last one.






Posted by on May 6, 2015 in History, My Library


7 responses to “On the Edge of the Seat Reading

  1. Jen

    May 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

    We have just moved house (again) to Victoria from W.A. and long story short, I had to get rid of 90% of my books 😥 So I need to get books back into our home. Do you have a list somewhere of what would be the, say top 20 you would recommend for boys with a wide age range?

    • Amanda

      May 7, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Oh yes please, I would love to see that list!

    • Tracey

      May 11, 2015 at 3:50 am

      I’ve thought long and hard about this book list but my heart just couldn’t make such a book list. It just seems so wrong to categorise books in such a way. It’d be like making a list of top twenty flowers. Each flower is a worthy thing and deserves to be on such a list for its varying merits (unless of course its a weed and even some people like weeds!). Such a book list would be tainted by all manner of things. I may very well hate a wonderful book just because I was forced to read it at school! Remember, I can’t stand Narnia and all of the important folk say that it’s wonderful. I beg to differ. 🙂 I also find that my favourites change constantly, according to what I have just read and loved. I also get in a mood for certain books. At present, we’re in a China mode and reading everything we can get our hands on. If forced to write such a list at the moment, it would definitely have a very oriental flavouring. So a list just doesn’t seem to be the way to choose books. Yes, I use other people’s list to hunt for titles I haven’t heard of before, or to compare books that seem to be popular amongst different folk, but ultimately I just follow my heart when selecting books.

      If you could only buy twenty books right now to start rebuilding your shelves, I wouldn’t buy the 20 top books from anyone’s list. I would buy the latest book in a series I know my kids love, books by authors we know and love, books about things that interest us right now, a book the kids ask to buy, a book that screams to be purchased when you read about it online, or books that have no real ‘need’ to be bought other than you want them. I think our heart is the best selector of books, and no list can possibly compare.

      If I can give one piece of advice for buying books, generally don’t bother buying them from mass market book stores. I’ve found that most of the popular books on the market, aren’t worth our time or our dollar. Of course, if you dig deep enough you may still find a few treasures there (I often stop to look, just in chance). But generally you have to track down a better quality book store or go online where you have access to all things under the sun. Sad to say, as I fear for the life expectancy of bookstores, but until they stop desperately seeking the attention of those who aren’t readers (by stocking all manner of attention grabbing trash), and ignoring those who’ll spent their last dollar buying books, real readers will have to purchase elsewhere. Consequently, bricks and mortar books stores may become a thing of the past.

  2. lisricho

    May 11, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Just a little side track… there was an article in the National Geographic on Greenland, last year I think it was, and it was saying how there was evidence of settlement quite a bit further north than there is now. This made me wonder about ‘global warming’. If it is too frozen to live in those places now, but they manage did years ago, perhaps it was more globally warm back then and the fuss being made about it now isn’t necessary?

    • Tracey

      May 12, 2015 at 4:36 am

      I’m pretty sure that’s an agreed upon notion – that places we can’t live now were more temperate and livable back then. I think part of the problem for us comes with our immovable societies. In the past, when the environment became inhospitable, perhaps they just picked up and moved on, using resources from the land to establish settlements in more suitable places.

  3. Zoe Williams

    May 11, 2015 at 7:25 am

    So glad I read your blog. I had pencilled in Leif the Lucky for our Vikings unit next year, thinking the Jackie French book with a female main character might not be so great for my son, but having read your recent posts I think I’ll skip Leif and go with this instead. And thanks for the warning about almost inappropriate content. I might have to pre-read and skip a few bits as mine are only young.

    • Tracey

      May 12, 2015 at 4:30 am

      My boys don’t seem to care about the gender of the central characters, as long as the story isn’t too much about relationships and girly stuff. But then again that would make me go green at the gills as well.

      We didn’t mind Leif the Lucky too much. It’s definitely on a much lower comprehension and reading level to the Jackie French book, but it’s still a good book, despite the error we noticed.

      Bear in mind with Jackie French’s viking book that characters are brutally murdered and the main character suffers a lost of losses. There are a lot of tough issues in the book, like when the main character realises that her value was little more than the value of an animal to the Vikings. If your children are too young, Leif the Lucky or another title might be the better option. Maybe read it first and decide for your family whether it’s suitable.

      One thing I did notice with my boys was that the topic of Vikings was much better suited to an older age group in general. We’ve studied Vikings twice now, once when they were younger and once just now. When they were younger we had to tread gently and could really reinforce all of the stereotypes of a Viking (and some of them turned out to be wrong – like the horns on their helmets!). It wasn’t until now that we could read their mythology and understand who they were and why they lived the way they lived. I’m really starting to question introducing certain topics to the littler guys.


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