I was sent a copy of this to review (thank you Usborne), and was keen to see how it was, especially after enjoying other recent suffrage-inspired titles (notably Make More Noise and Things a Bright Girl Can Do). I hadn’t realised at the time that this was a) a new edition of an older book or that b) the book was part of a series, but I’m very glad it is (part of a series that is).
Originally published as ‘Polly’s March’ as part of the Historical House series in the early ’00s, this is one of 6 books written by Linda Newbery, Ann Turnbull and Adèle Geras. Each book tells the story of a young girl living at 6 Chelsea Walk, but all at a different point in history, and each would appear to champion the following of dreams and self-belief. This is the only book I’ve read in the series (so far!) but as and when the others are re-issued (mostly later this year I think) I’ll be diving back in.
In ‘Girls for the Vote’, Polly’s best friend and upstairs neighbour Lily has just moved away and Polly’s fed up. She has no-one to play with except the (seemingly) awful Maurice from downstairs and she has no intention of spending her time with him! Resigned to spending her summer holidays bored and lonely, she gets a pleasant surprise when her new neighbours arrive, but her parents are less than thrilled…
Polly longs to be an explorer. But in 1914, women’s rights and choices are limited – something Polly learns when she befriends her new neighbours, two suffragettes.
Polly’s parents are appalled, but Polly is intrigued. The more she thinks about their cause, the more determined she becomes to join their protest march. But will she dare to defy her parents and do what she thinks is right?
As Polly meets her new upstairs neighbours, Violet and Edwina, she discovers more and more about the fight for Votes for Women: both the peaceful protests and the more forceful ones, hunger strikes and the ‘Cat and Mouse’ act, and famous women in the cause: the Pankhursts and Emily Davison.
If this book is anything to go by, this series will fill a gap perfectly, both in terms of books with strong female main characters, and in a more general sense in that it is perfect for those readers just ready to move on from ‘younger’ chapter books and onto more solid ‘MG’ territory, but not quite ready for some of the longer books or those with considerably older subject matter yet. Likewise, it will be a great way into various historical times and events – a brilliant ‘springboard’ onto other historical fiction (Emma Carroll anyone?!) or non-fiction reading.
Striking a great balance between historical facts, setting the scene realistically for the time period and the ever-relatable occurrences and emotions of everyday life, this is a quick but enjoyable read with a likeable main character. Friendship, courage and determination with a dash of early rebellion set at a turning point in history.