The Blitz Next Door, by Cathy Forde (Kelpies, a Floris Books imprint, 2015)

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.37.54 AMWhat the book’s about

We discussed this historical fiction novel, set in present day Scotland, with its time-bending elements in our blog on 1 March 2016, which so happens to be less than two weeks before the real life 75th anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz that gives this book its title.

Two activities for ages 8-12, by Francisca Goldsmith

Activity 1: Group Book Discussion Prompts

This book is an excellent choice for book discussion groups involving children ages eight to twelve. Conduct your book reading as you normally do, whether independently across the time between the discussion book’s announcement and the meeting or together in chapters across several meetings, before turning attention to exploring the local historical events that may be forgotten in your community.

To prepare background support for both the book and the discussion, you can share these media pieces with group members from the Clydebank Blitz exhibit at The Museum without Walls.

Questions to explore in discussion and in follow-up programming:

  1. Why do you suppose Pete had not heard of the Clydebank Blitz when he was going to school in London?
  2. Pete’s dad has shared his love of Elvis Presley’s music with him and we hear that name and a couple other 1950’s American rock ‘n’ roll performers mentioned during the book. What music from when they were kids do your parents and grandparents share with you by humming or singing or sharing old recordings?
  3. How would you have felt if you were Pete and you kept hearing, seeing, and even talking with someone who could not possibly still be your age, even though she appeared to have remained a girl for 75 years? What advice would you have given Pete if he had discussed Beth’s presence with you?

Activity 2: Rediscover Local History

Clydebank, Scotland, isn’t the only neighborhood where big history has happened and then been forgotten beyond its borders, of course. After reading and discussing The Blitz Next Door, you can facilitate some local history sleuthing by the book discussion members.

Supplies

  • Newspapers reflecting very local news, no more recent than ten years, along with any equipment needed to search them, such as a microfilm reader or the local library’s index to the paper
  • Print out of map of a neighborhood close to the group discussion location, showing details such as all street names and building footprints (You can create this in Google maps)
  • Throw away cameras, unless all group members have smartphones to use (if someone doesn’t, everyone receives a disposable camera to use for this activity)

Activity

Every historical investigation begins with knowing a very little detail about the present that must have an explanation in the past. If your locale doesn’t present a glaringly obvious nugget of national history, ask the group to brainstorm events of which they’ve heard that happened locally and before they remember or maybe even were born.

Choose an event for focus: it may be as dramatic as a neighborhood demolition or a fire, or as simple as the family who produced sextuplets who are now young adults.

How will the investigation of local history move forward?

  1. As a group, define the subject you will be investigating
  2. Include questions the group has about the event
  3. Make a list of keywords to research in the local paper from the time period of the event
  4. Find the event’s exact location on the map

With all of the background information developed, your group of sleuths is prepared to investigate this piece of local history. Depending on the locale and the event, you may need to keep the investigation inside and pursue surfacing the story from the materials you have on hand. In other settings, you may be able to extend this exploration more elaborately, by arranging a visitor who was there and can share his or her first person account, or you may be able to allow the kids to go to the location as it is now to take photos to compare with those from the time of the event.