Friday, 22 September 2017


Emelin by Jackie Randall (Schillings), PB RRP US $7.75  
ISBN 9780995379718     
Note: 'Emelin' is sold at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft NSW. Also as an ebook and paperback and at Australian pricing starts at $14.50.
Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

The time is 1398. Emelin is an eleven year old orphan girl with an incredible gift for creating illuminated manuscripts. She lives with her Uncle, Calibor, who taught her the craft. Life’s a struggle and money is scarce. Then Calibor receives a wonderful commission: Geoffrey Chaucer asks him to illustrate The Canterbury Tales. Other illustrators, jealous of his luck, attack Calibor and leave him to die. Emelin has the manuscript, her uncle’s tools, his precious pigments and an advance from Chaucer to complete the task in three months.

She knows she cannot stay safely at home so she sets out, in the bleak winter weather, to find somewhere to work. She joins forces with a boy named Wolf and they journey together to Reading Abbey.

Emelin’s abiding fear is that she will end up on the dead cart, and be buried in a pauper’s grave, unmourned, unnamed, unknown. This doesn’t happen. Feisty Emelin faces many trials and tribulations and eventually triumphs. Geoffrey Chaucer is so delighted with her illustrations that he offers her permanent employment.

At the book’s end, the murderer of Wolf’s father is still at large and there’s a hinted mystery about Emelin’s precious brooch. Hopefully this means there will be more books to come.

Jackie Randall’s research is meticulous. The book is full of careful detail. Readers are almost able to SMELL what it must have been like to live in medieval times. There is also fascinating information on how illuminated manuscripts were made. Emelin is an interesting, attractive character, precociously talented for someone her age. In the past girls did grow up more quickly than they do today.
Overall, the book is easy to read with plenty of action, although some sections have a potential for suspense that isn’t fully realised. A way to add value might have been to include a section of Teacher’s Notes or Historical Facts.

Emelin is recommended for readers 10+ years, especially those interested in history and art. 

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