Stowing Away with the Vikings
Stowing Away with the Vikings
Don’t go on a Viking raid unless you have nerves of steel.
The Vikings are feared all over western Europe for their surprise attacks by sea. When they leave their homes and farms and “go a-viking,” they become fearless pirates, out to win riches and glory in faraway lands.
They come out of nowhere! At least, that’s how it feels to their victims.
Their longships are designed for sudden, sneak attacks. A longship can swoop right onto a beach, allowing the Vikings to leap off and race into a village or monastery with almost no warning.
And what do they do when they get there?
They rob! They grab food, grain, cattle, money, wine, jewelry- whatever they can find. What they can’t steal, they burn!
In this updated version of Adventures with the Vikings (2001), a sudden blast of hailstones pushes the Binkerton kids, twins Josh and Emma, and younger sister, Libby, right into the doorway of the Good Times Travel Agency. Having been there before and found themselves in places and times past, the children want to beat a hasty exit before the “magic” happens again, but Libby reaches out to touch a guidebook about Vikings, and, instantly, the kids are transported to the Age of Vikings in what is now Scandinavia. As before, the stipulation made by Julian T. Pettigrrew, the weird and eccentric proprietor of the travel agency, is that the children cannot return to the present until they have read the entire guidebook.
The children begin their adventure by visiting a Viking home before embarking on a journey to a “Thing”, a multi-day assembly of free men, women and children. At this event, the children observe how the Vikings make laws, settle family feuds and exact punishments, but afterwards, there is time for entertainment in the form of sporting contests and stories. When Josh and Libby stow away on a longship, they find themselves sailing to a raid and to a Viking town while Emma, left behind, boards another ship, hoping that the two ships will pass close enough to one another so that she can reunite with her siblings. Eventually, Emma sees her chance and jumps overboard. Tied up with thralls (slaves), the children persuade the thralls to move as one group in order to get closer to the guidebook so that they can finish it and get back to the present. What a surprise for Mr. Pettigrew when the kids return to the travel agency, bringing with them several new “friends”.
Through the Binkertons’ adventures, readers will learn about Viking society, their clothing, homes, food, entertainment (including some rather barbaric sports), longships, weapons and armor, religion, trade and alphabet.
This book’s format is very successful for a number of reasons. Firstly, the top part of each page is a graphic novel whose colourful comics, short dialogue and exciting plot will appeal to reluctant readers, yet there is a considerable amount of information in the guidebook section in the lower half of the page. Secondly, the book can be read in a few different ways: graphic novel only, guidebook only, or the entire page at once. Bailey presents the fiction and the nonfiction in a familiar, conversational style using kids’ language and a large dose of humour. The writing is fast-paced, lively and well researched.
Bill Slavin’s fun and engaging pen, ink and watercolour illustrations add vibrancy to the text. They are jam-packed with interesting details which not only add humour, but also provide another level to the text which begs subsequent readings.
At the back of the book are several Q&A pages about the Vikings as well an index and a list of related books, museum websites and DVDs.
Sure to hook both reluctant and avid readers, Stowing Away with the Vikings is a thoroughly enjoyable read that will have youngsters eagerly awaiting the next installment in the exciting adventures of the Binkertons.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.