Towpath tales for children
Reviewer: Kathryn Smith
AN ITINERANT lifestyle, new faces and places every day and evenings spent around a roaring stove; the link between boats and storytelling feels utterly intuitive. Hillingdon Narrowboats Association clearly thought so when it commissioned Beatrice Holloway to be their resident children’s storyteller, a project from which this book sprang.
Hillingdon Narrowboats Association devotes its efforts to helping and supporting all members of the community using a boat with disability access to run training and trips, with one aim being to instil a love of canals in the younger generation.
The three stories in Towing Path Tales follow the life of Bert, who is raised on a working boat in the early 20th century. The first is a series of encounters with a mysterious ghostly horse called Princess, who rescues Bert from a number of scrapes, including a wartime raid.
The second details one of Bert’s rare appearances at school and a rescue from the canal and the final tale is an adventure at a Christmas market with the reappearance of an old foe. All the stories are accompanied by black and white line-drawn illustrations. The authenticity of these stories is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand there is much historical colour, old dialect words are preserved and boating activities such as ‘legging’ are described. However, the casual violence meted out towards children and animals and liberal use of the dialect, without a glossary, might prove confusing so some parents may wish to read these stories with younger readers.
Finally if you’re lucky enough to live near Harefield on the Grand Union then I suggest you might want to make a note in your diary now to go and hear Beatrice perform these tales on board the boat in December. More information about the work of Hillingdon Narrowboats Association can be found at http://www.hna.org.uk/
Towing Path Tales by Beatrice Holloway (paperback, 91 pages) published by EUPublishing.eu and available at £6.99 from http://bholloway.newauthors.eu/