The Piper by Danny Weston is the winner of the 2016 Scottish Book Trust Award for Older Readers (12-16yrs) .
When Helen visits her grandfather in his care home to celebrate his birthday, he surprises her by talking about his childhood. As she listens, he recounts the events in 1939 when he and his sister were evacuated, for their safety, from Dagenham (near London) to the countryside. They ended up staying in a remote farmhouse on the Romney Marshes and soon discovered that the threat of bombs falling was less frightening than the secrets swirling around the marsh.
The evacuation of children from London to the countryside during WW2 was known as Operation Pied Piper – an interesting name given that there is something rather sad and sinister about the tale of Pied Piper. This story echoes the disturbing elements of the original Pied Piper legend and it is an unsettling read – ideal for readers who like a little bit of a scare and plenty of suspense. The language is lovely and, for those interested in history, the fact that French prisoners of war were used to dig large parts of the Royal Military Canal is true and a link is provided at the end of the book so that the reader can research further.
Overall, this is an interesting retelling of the story of the Pied Piper. The suspense keeps you reading and the horror is chilling enough to scare without giving the reader nightmares. The added bonus is the language – the fifth line of the book has this lovely description: “a soft wash of moonlight filtering in” – which draws the reader into the story and makes reading this book a pleasure – albeit one which might make your skin crawl!
The Press Release from the Scottish Book Awards which you can read below provides some information about Danny Weston. But what YA books have inspired him and why? Here are his top five Scottish YA novels – do you agree with his choice and his comments?
Keith Gray – Ostrich Boys.
I love this tale of a group of boys who take the ashes of their dead friend to the town after which he was named. It’s moving without being sentimental and features a truly heartbreaking conclusion.
Alex Nye – Darker Ends.
This chilling ghost story set in modern day Glencoe, expertly cranks up the suspense as two youngsters wait in a lonely storm-bound inn for their parents to return… it’s a creepy and compelling tale, right up my street!
Barry Hutchison – Invisible Fiends: Mr Mumbles
Hutchison walks the fine line between horror and dark comedy better than almost anyone, as Kyle’s imaginary childhood friend returns… with a vengeance. The first book in a brilliantly written series. Start at the beginning and read them all!
Elizabeth Wein – Black Dove, White Raven
In 1930s America, a tragic air crash causes two children to relocate to Ethiopia. I found Wein’s book moving and lyrical, a compelling story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit – it also taught me lots about early aviation.
Nicola Morgan – Fleshmarket
This book gripped me from page one. Set in Edinburgh in the 1800s, it examines the period in unflinching detail – it also concerns the exploits of Burke and Hare, a couple of villains I have written about myself. Be warned – this is not for the faint-hearted!
The Press Release
Edinburgh-based author Danny Weston, who lives in Tollcross, won the Older Readers (12-16 yrs) category for his book The Piper. Published by Andersen Press, the book follows Peter and his little sister, Daisy, who are evacuated from London to the countryside and find themselves on an isolated farm in the middle of a treacherous marshland. As Daisy gets drawn deeper into the secrets of their new home, Peter starts to realise that something very sinister is going on. What is that music they can hear at night? And who are the children dancing to it?
Danny has published three novels (under the name Philip Caveney) with Edinburgh-based publisher Fledgling Press. These are time travel adventures, all set in Edinburgh at different points in its history. The first book Crow Boy is set in Mary Kings Close, Seventeen Coffins is all about the tiny coffins found on Arthur’s Seat in 1836 and the most recent book, One For Sorrow, is all about Robert Louis Stevenson.
Commenting on his win, Danny said:
“I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award, especially because it has been voted for, not by critics and industry insiders, but by the people who matter most; the young readers for whom the story was actually written. Thanks to everyone who voted for ‘The Piper’. You have rocked my world.”