Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter - guest post by Carol Cisman

Mollie Hunter's books are perhaps not as popular as they used to be, but they are really good reads and have Scottish settings. Carol Cisman, one of my colleagues, is a big fan and has written this guest post on A stranger came ashore.
This classic children's tale is based on the folklore of the Shetland Isles and, although first published in 1975, its morals are as relevant today as they were then. I first read it as a youngster at school and enjoyed reading it again as an adult as much as I did then.

It tells the story of a stranger, Finn Learson, coming ashore during a storm to the village of Black Ness on Shetland, supposedly the only survivor of a shipwreck. He is taken in by the Henderson family: Robbie, the 12 year old hero of the story, his parents Peter and Janet, his older sister Elspeth, Tam the sheepdog and Old Da, Robbie's grandfather.

Old Da is full of tales of the Selkie Folk, seals who can take on human form to come ashore and charm unsuspecting villagers with captivating yarns of travel and treasure. Robbie has always been fascinated by these and it soon becomes clear that there is more to Finn Learson than meets the eye. He doesn't trust him and soon enough his fears are confirmed. Robbie realises that he is one of the few villagers not taken in by the charms of the stranger and he turns to his schoolmaster for help when he discovers that Elspeth is in grave danger.

Mollie Hunter uses traditional language which conveys a sense of history and the time in which the tale is set. A mysterious and gripping story of the forces of good and evil and of the magic of land and sea, it ends with a thrilling twist which will continue to capture the imaginations of older children and young adults alike.
If you are inspired by Carol's review to read this, or any other Mollie Hunter books, we have a good selection in the library. For other Scottish-set books, see our web page on Children's Literature in Scotland.

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