'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Review: The Mud Puddlers

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. 

Bored out of her mind, Nina agrees to go with Bee on a tour. She gets hooked against her will. She feels the river is calling her and can’t wait to go again.

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 wanting more.

The Mud Puddlers
Author: Pamela Rushby
Publisher: Walker Books, $16.99
Publication Date: 4 April 2023
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760655808
For ages: 10 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Fiction