Ad­ven­tures in his­tory

Chil­dren’s au­thor Ally Sher­rick is in­spired by Sut­ton Hoo

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

Wartime Suf­folk. Air­craft leave air­bases for raids on Europe. There’s a threat of in­va­sion and a feel­ing that even neigh­bours can’t be trusted. Two chil­dren, an evac­uee from Lon­don and a refugee from Ger­many, via Kin­der­trans­port, dis­tract them­selves with a fan­tasy about hid­den trea­sure on the hill. But their games be­come much more sin­is­ter when it seems they are not the only ones search­ing for a buried crown.

Set around Sut­ton Hoo, the River Deben and the Suf­folk coast, The Buried Crown is a grip­ping story for chil­dren by award-win­ning au­thor, Ally Sher­rick, draw­ing on the myths and leg­ends of the An­glo-Saxon finds be­tween the wars.

“I’ve been fas­ci­nated by Sut­ton Hoo over the years,” says Ally. “It’s so at­mo­spheric, and it is such an amaz­ing story of how the site was ex­ca­vated and the finds kept safe be­fore war broke out.” It fea­tured in her me­dieval his­tory course at univer­sity, and Ally viewed the trea­sures many times at the Bri­tish Mu­seum be­fore fi­nally be­ing able to visit the site when it was opened by the Na­tional Trust. But it was an MR James ghost story that gave Ally the idea for her book.

“Like all writ­ers, I’m a bit of a thief and all the el­e­ments melded,” she says. “A few years ago I read A Warn­ing to the Cu­ri­ous, about a lost crown of Anglia. If it’s dug up and taken, Eng­land will be in­vaded. When you over­lay that idea with the

‘I grew up vis­it­ing cas­tles and ru­ined abbeys and we played games’

Sut­ton Hoo dis­cov­ery, and the world of An­glo-Saxon mythol­ogy, it’s a story just beg­ging to be told.”

The Buried Crown, pub­lished this sum­mer, has been warmly re­ceived by chil­dren, teach­ers and par­ents as a book that en­cour­ages read­ing for plea­sure, and in­tro­duces el­e­ments of his­tory. “I grew up vis­it­ing cas­tles and ru­ined abbeys and we played games where my dad pre­tended to be the King of Wes­sex,” Ally says. “I don’t find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine my­self in the shoes of peo­ple liv­ing in an­other time. Chil­dren, typ­i­cally, want things to hap­pen very quickly in a book, so you’ve got to hook them in on the first page, the first sen­tence. I’m writ­ing for chil­dren aged 9-13, and they want lots of ad­ven­ture and ex­cite­ment, with char­ac­ters they can re­late to.”

Ally worked in mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions un­til re­dun­dancy gave her the op­por­tu­nity for a ca­reer break. She stud­ied for an MA in writ­ing for chil­dren and her first book, Black Pow­der, was pub­lished as a re­sult of a com­pe­ti­tion. She had to pitch the story in 10 words or fewer and won with ‘boy must join gun­pow­der plot to save father from hang­ing’. The prize was that Barry Cun­ning­ham, founder of Chicken House pub­lish­ing com­pany and the man who dis­cov­ered JK Rowl­ing, would read the story. “I thought I’d get great feed­back, but I was over the moon when he of­fered me a two­book deal!” Ally is now work­ing on other ideas, and hopes to con­tinue with the his­tor­i­cal themes. She trav­els widely to talk to chil­dren about her books, and has pro­duced teacher’s notes, ac­tiv­i­ties and dis­cus­sion top­ics for her web­site. De­tails about re­search she has car­ried out are in­cluded in the book.

“You have a re­spon­si­bil­ity when you are writ­ing for chil­dren,” she says. “But I hope, above all, I’ve de­liv­ered a riproar­ing story which will in­spire young read­ers to go dig­ging in the past for sto­ries of their own.”N The Buried Crown’ is pub­lished by Chicken House

LEFT: The mounds at Sut­ton Hoo at sunset

ABOVE LEFT: Bur­ried Crown

ABOVE: Ally Sher­rickBE­LOW LEFT: The strik­ing An­glo Saxon hel­met mo­tif on the front of the ex­hi­bi­tion hall at Sut­ton Hoo, the An­glo-Saxon royal burial site, Wood­bridge, Suf­folk.

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