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.
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.
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.