Nordy Bank, by Sheena Porter, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's timeslip story, Nordy Bank, by Sheena Porter, won the UK's Carnegie Medal in 1964, and a US edition was published a few years afterwards, but it doesn't seem to have become well known and loved.  This is a pity, because it's a haunting book....

It's the story of six kids, boys and girls, ages ranging from 10-15, who plan a camping trip together in the hills of Shropshire.  The hill they choose for their camp is home to Nordy Bank, an Iron Age hill fort.  They aren't a close group of friends; three are siblings, one is their cousin.  Margaret picks shy Bronwen as the friend  she wants to come, and Peter picks Joe, a farmer's son who actually has experience with camping.  

It starts with a lot of bustle getting ready to set off, and getting the camp set up.  But gradually a dreamy strangeness, almost creepiness enters the picture.  Also out in the hills is a lost Alsatian, a police dog who has been retired, still muzzled.  Bronwen's personality begins to change, and she knows things about the fort as if she'd lived there.  And when the dog tries to enter the camp, she, a girl who loves dogs passionately, leads the charge to drive it away as it was a wolf.  And Margaret realizes that Bronwen has slipped in time, or possibly been possessed by the past.  

Bronwen knows, in a somewhat foggy way, that something is happening to her, but we never see much from her own point of view, so it's never entirely clear how much of her has fallen into the past.  It's certainly enough to make her words and actions eerie and disturbing!  Fortunately, this is a temporary thing, and once she's away from the fort again, she becomes her own dog loving self, and is able to help the poor starving Alsatian (the last section of the book goes off in a different direction from camping and time slipping, and becomes police dog rehabilitation focused...which is a bit jarring).

Not surprisingly, given the plot, this is a book that centers on this one particular place and it's history of war after war.  Nordy Bank is real, and though I've been close to it, I've always been driving through Shropshire, and never done any walking there.  I would very much like to visit it!

A bit of the book I particularly liked is that Bronwen brought along Warrior Scarlet, by Rosemary Sutcliff, and reads it to both herself and bits out loud to the others.  It ties beautifully in with both the dog plot and the ancient Britons part!

In any event, although the time travel part isn't quite as crisp as I'd have like, staying in the realm of strange dream seen mainly from the viewpoint of other characters, I can say with conviction that if you like vintage children's books, dogs, and ancient Britain, you may well enjoy this one, at least in mild sort of way..  I did, though I wanted more--more of the camping, more of the relationships between the kids as they got to know each other better, more of the past infringing on the present.  Not more of police dog rehabilitation though; that was covered in plenty of detail....Whoever reviewed it for Kirkus, however, did not like it at all--"A flip, untidy plot, totally unconvincing during its fantasy stage and conducive to in-difference throughout."  The full review is worth a read!


  1. This sounds like a great setting for a time travel story. Thanks for telling me about this one. I will try to check it out.

  2. It sounds great, and my mother will like it too.

    1. happy to lend it to you when we finally get to meet again in person!

  3. We have to go to the bookstore as planned! Nice feature last week:



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