The late days of Paisley’s once-thriving textile industry make a textured backdrop to this story of two different, but determined, children, who put their families first when the adults around them are not up to the task.
12-year-old Jim has already had two jobs and an eventful childhood, when his weaver father’s credit runs out, and the family face the indignity of eviction and a move to the Poorhouse, where more heart-break awaits.
But Jim’s weaving heritage is more than just a job, and – in a bid to protect his almost eight-year-old brother from a frightening move to the men’s block – he embarks on a quest to trace a Paisley-patterned shawl that his father made, which he believes contains an inheritance that can turn their lives around.
Unfortunately for Jim, Jessie, the wealthy daughter of Jim’s father’s employer, also has has a claim and attachment to the shawl, and when she spots him lurking in her garden, she seems set to thwart his plans.
Through the shared and contrasting experiences of the two children, Lindsay Littleson conveys an empathy for 19th century life that her readers are set to share, and she makes clear that – while the challenges the children face are very different – both battle prejudices.
Thorough research gives this story a strong sense of place as well as time, with local landmarks like the Grand Central Fountain, and Gilmour Street Station featuring, but it is the descriptions of everyday poverty – especially Jim’s experiences in the Poorhouse, that ring most true. The fact that Littleson’s ending provides resolution, without a fairy-tale transformation in fortunes, ensures it has an authentic feel that some historical children’s books lack.
A Pattern of Secrets, by Lindsay Littleson, Cranachan