From the moment the CEO of a leading Children’s Charity and Crisis centre approached me to write a picture book about domestic violence, I was filled with agitation. This was after all not your everyday topic for an entertaining children’s book. It was, and still is, however an ongoing horrifying reality of society regardless of culture or creed. And so, this story became my challenge, my tormentor and eventually one of my ultimate favourites.
Flick is just like any other youngster. She loves to chase butterflies and tussle autumn leaves but life at the end of Holyrood Lane is often violent and unpredictable due to the constant storms that plague her home causing her to cringe with dread and flee whenever they strike. Flick tries her best to quell and endure the storms’ persistent wrath until one day, with nowhere left to hide Flick summons the courage to face her fears by asking for help to overcome them.
At the End of Holyrood Lane is a metaphorical glimpse at one aspect of domestic violence and how it affects young lives. It is a tale of anxiety shown through the eyes of a small being with an intense dislike for thunderstorms, a fear shared by many young children. I hope the duality used evokes a gentle awareness for young readers who may be suffering their own domestic torment but are too scared or unsure of how to seek help and shelter from their storms.
Few picture books available today address this volatile and woefully prevalent aspect of society without overt explicitness or didactic overtones. At the End of Holyrood Lane does so in a sympathetic, non-threatening way. Once again, Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are visually arresting, emotionally incisive, and ultimately…uplifting. Pure magic.
At The End of Holyrood Lane is the SCBWI Crystal Kite Members Award Winner for the Australia New Zealand region 2019
Published: September 2018 (HB) February 2020 (PB)
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
Publisher: EK Books $24.99 (HB) $19.99 (PB)
ISBN: 9781925335767 (HB) 9781925820454 (PB)
Format: Hardcover 32pp
Ideal for: 4 – 8 year olds, schools, children’s charity institutions, DV organisations, children in need organisations
2019 NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge K-9 Booklist Level 3-4 Read full list, here.
Radio Interviews: Click on the images below for assorted podcasts of my on air discussions about Holyrood Lane.
Need help? Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 1800 55 1800 kidshelpline.com.au
This is a masterful creation that so finely balances a highly delicate topic with exquisitely gentle language and visually arresting illustrations. The uplifting message of hope and courage is brilliantly pushed to the surface in amongst the darkness of domestic violence; depicted by a metaphorical thunderstorm of torment. This issue-based book raises such important awareness and gives power to many suffering children, and adults, which is why it is one of my favourites this year. Romi Sharp, Best Books of 2018, CBCA Reading Time Reviews
This is the perfect instance of a book being what it needs to be for each reader; based upon the reader’s experiences. Anyone whose been in a verbally or physically abusive situation may be transported into the fleeing little girl, escaping anyway she can. Others will recognize their fright when a sudden, really loud clap of thunder announces an impending squall. Nicky Johnston masterfully portrays the storm so that either interpretation of the theme is possible, enabling the book to appeal to multiple readers. Sometimes, it’s easier to shy away from books with “heavy” or serious topics. But we do our children a disservice. Even if this book is not a mirror of their experience and a gentle confirmation that they are not alone; it is a necessary window into another’s experience and a way to create empathy. It also provides ideas to deal with multiple types of fears and ways to self-calm and/or permission to seek help. It’s no wonder this team won the Crystal Kite Award. Overall, this is a book that creates a mirror for almost everyone (whether abuse or fear of storms) and an important window for the creation of empathy for anyone caught within their fear. A book which should be in every library. 5 Star US Amazon Review
This insightful book is an important book for politicians to read because their decisions have huge ramifications on the lives of society’s most vulnerable – its children. Education Magazine NSW Teachers Federation
The simplicity of the words & pictures, against the complexity & heartbreak of the message, provide a very gentle exploration of an extremely painful life. Nicki Cleveland, Miss Cleveland is Reading Blog
The best books, and At the End of Holyrood Lane is one of those, provide (a) window with a dash of humor and/or a parallel theme that makes the book appealing and relatable to most readers. This is a perfect instance of a book being what it needs to be for each reader; based on what the reader brings with her/himself. Nicky’s watercolor illustrations are delightful; shifting from the sunny pastel colors to the deep grey, blue, and black of the thundering storm. She masterfully portrays the storm so that either interpretation of the theme is possible, enabling the book to appeal to multiple readers. It’s no wonder this team won the Crystal Kite Award. Overall, this is a book that creates a mirror for almost everyone (whether abuse or fear of storms) and an important window for the creation of empathy for anyone caught within their fear. A book which should be in every library. Maria Marshall, #PPBF Blog
The story juxtaposes Flick’s vibrant, optimistic nature and happy play times with the violence that interrupts her life. As a result, the story cleverly balances darkness with light. As such, it is well suited for children who unfortunately experience domestic violence or other types of trauma and problems in their life, as well as those who haven’t had to go through such tough times but who can learn how it could be a reality for others. Ultimately the book focuses on hope and how reaching out for help can make a huge difference. Kellie Byrnes, Just Write For Kids Blog
Vivid language and personification heighten the intensity of the storms, giving them force and raging emotions. The watercolor illustrations that accompany the text fill the pages, leaving no space without a purpose.Expressive illustrations and text rich with poetic vocabulary share a sensitive story with a message about asking for help when a situation feels scary. Kirkus Reviews
A landmark book on a subject which is a no longer a hidden, tragic aspect life. The skilful use of thunderstorms and stormy skies as metaphors, coupled with simple and yet powerful illustrations makes this a book which should be on the shelves of kindergarten and school libraries and used as an instructive talking time in classrooms. Beautifully done and presented. Janet Mawdesley Blue Wolf Reviews Children’s Books
Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnson, the couple behind the poignant story of The Fix-It Man, have teamed up again to bring us a book that uses the analogy of weather to explore the issue of domestic violence and its impact on the children in the family who are so often invisible as the storm’s fury strikes, often without warning. Sharing At the End of Holyrood Lane as a class story may offer an opportunity to allow children to discuss those things they are scared of, their own personal “storms” and perhaps Flick’s courage in asking for help might inspire another little one to disclose something that will bring them respite too.With its soft, supportive illustrations that encapsulate and extend the sensitive, subtle text superbly, and endorsed by a number of agencies concerned about the children caught in the middle of domestic violence such as Act for Kids, RizeUp, Paradise Kids, and Think Equal, this is a conversation starter that may bring a lot of comfort, help and hope to the children in our care. Barabara Braxton, ReadPlus & The Bottom Shelf
At the End of Holyrood Lane is enigmatic. Different children will be able to interpret the story in different ways. I think this is excellent. Kudos to both author and illustrator for a successful creation that I hope will enrich many children’s lives. Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook
The language is powerful and emotive, perfectly capturing the fear that a child might feel in both a thunderstorm and an abusive environment — a very clever duality that makes this an excellent book for all children, regardless of their experience. This is an important book for children, especially those who have experienced the terrible reality of violence in the home. Bec Blakeney CBCA Reading Time reviews
This story will prompt discussion about domestic violence, confidence, hope, support, trust, love, resilience, feeling safe, decisions, speaking out and making a difference…its pages will provide a warm hug and the courage to speak out. Georgie Donaghey Creative Kids Tales Blog
Alongside Nicky Johnston’s gorgeous watercolour illustrations, Powell captures the sheer vulnerability and isolation that children can experience when they feel as though they are no longer in control of the world around them. The simple imagery and evocative descriptions convey the central message that when you’re feeling helpless and insignificant, reaching out for help can make everything that little bit better. Amber Jepsen 15 yo courtesy Deescribe Writing Blog
Coomera author has dared write a book tackling the topic considered taboo for kids. John Affleck, Gold Coast Bulletin March 2017
Light in the Dark. Storm metaphors…are the key to deliver what many think impossible – a picture book for young children about domestic violence. John Affleck, Gold Coast Bulletin September 2018
I LOVED this book and all the careful thought put into the words and illustrations. Emotions leap out of the pages in a way only someone with intense empathy or understanding could portray. M, Domestic violence survivor and mother
It is a stunning book – in every way – metaphorically, the writing is lyrical and inspirational and the illustrations are awe-inspiring. Dimity again dares to touch on what is normally a forbidden subject for children: the devastation of domestic violence. With delicacy, and ultimately hope, Dimity’s lyrical words and Nicky’s evocative illustrations touch on hope in the midst of terror. With beautiful metaphors and symbolism this book brings to light awareness of children who suffer and who are vulnerable in our society. We are excited to add this deeply touching story to our Paradise Kids Library. Deidre Hanna, Founder CEO Hopewell Hospice Services and Paradise Kids
Although it’s sad and the subject is heavy, the fact is… a book is a very real, factual, and supportive resource such as this book is very much needed and appreciated. Not only does this wonderful book show children (and adults) that there are others experiencing storms, and they are not the only ones (one would hope it will help just a little), it also shows that even though it may be a small glimmer, there can be a glimmer of hope at the end of these very dark tunnels. The illustrations in the book are gorgeous and so skilfully shared with us. Each page beautifully fits the words of the author and each brings a whole new depth to the story. The illustrations draw you in and make you almost feel the air crackling around the young protagonist. You just want to reach into the page and lift her to safety. Tab, Forevability Reviews
The End of Holyrood Lane is a beautiful, non-didactic exploration of family violence. Unlike many other books broaching the subject, it deals with verbal abuse directed at the child protagonist. The illustrations show the parent figure in silhouette as a storm, and the other adult figure as a refuge from the storm. Highly suitable for teachers to read to Early Primary classes. Dr Zewlan Moor, Byron Bibliotherapy
We are so blessed to have such quality writers for children in this country who are unafraid to tackle difficult subjects. Sue Warren Teacher Librarian Just So Stories
This quietly powerful story is an extended metaphor about domestic violence in a child’s life.The book’s practical message of ‘get help, it works’, comes across in a powerful but understated way that children can relate to. This sensitively written book will be a useful resource for all those working with children. Mia Macrossan StoryLinks Children’s Books Reviewed
At The End of Holyrood Lane is a beautiful story about a little girl who is terrified by the storm that chases and scares her but when Flick reaches out for help she finally becomes safe and the sunshine comes out. Dimity Powell should be commended for the gentle way in which she approaches the challenges faced by so many children growing up in a house of violence. RizeUp is proud to support Dimity and her beautiful story and we are sure it will touch the lives of so many children and their parents in a positive way. Nicolle Edwards CEO Founder, RizeUp
I think…the poetry and vivid use of language is exciting and will encourage creativity and love of language in young children. Above all, Dimity’s skills in and focus on mediating social and emotional skills and competencies to children, will encourage them to see help in dark times and help them to navigate through stormy weather and understand that it will pass. Leslee Unwin Founder & President Think Equal
Congratulations to Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston for creating At the End of Holyrood Lane, as it is timely in sending a message of hope to a child witnessing the scourge of domestic violence in their family. At last, attitudes are changing and the tide is starting to turn against family violence. Part of this change will include children seeking help directly when the adults in their life are unable or unwilling to protect them. Children’s books such as this have a role to play in the process of helping a child, through metaphor and subtle example, to gain some understanding and in encouraging them to seek help at an early stage. Gary E Poole Registered Psychologist & Regional Director Act For Kids
This new picture book by Australian duo, Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, uses stunning visual metaphor to offer a ray of hope to kids facing dark days. Australian Teacher Magazine, Important Resource recommendation
Wonderfully evocative and heartfelt (as you would expect from Dimity, who is such a talented wordsmith). And it’s been illustrated by the wonderful Nicky Johnston with her lovely, gentle pictures. George Ivanoff Author
This is a soulful yet uplifting story about the detrimental effect domestic violence has on children . Nicky Johnston’s illustrations transform the text into beautiful visuals that enhance the author’s words and create a harmonious fusion of words and images. A book…with a confronting theme magnificently executed…that will awaken awareness in young children who may recognize similarities in Flick’s life and theirs. It’s a must for every school library and home bookshelf. Anastasia Gonis Kids’ Book Review
I commend your work in tackling the difficult subject of domestic and family violence, as it relates to and impacts on children. Additional support is needed for children who experience domestic and family violence. Thank you for taking an active part in making a difference to those children experiencing domestic and family violence. Dr Kylie Stephen Director Women, Violence Prevention and Youth Strategy and Partnerships Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
I’ve been wary of ‘self-help’ books for years … but this is not one of those. Dimity tackles the subject of domestic violence, physical, mentally or emotionally, with sensitivity and skill. Nicky Johnston’s beautiful illustrations shine throughout as well. It’s no easy subject to broach in a children’s book, but in the hands of an aware, wise adult reading aloud to a young child, it could be a tool for discussion, or even just an opener to allow children to ask for help; to let the vulnerable know they are not alone.Thank you, Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston for tackling this subject, and for creating this beautiful book. Sheryl Gwyther Author, Artist, former child educator, Sheryl’s Blog
If there ever was a story that so finely balances a highly delicate topic with exquisitely gentle language and a resolution that makes your heart swell, it’s At the End of Holyrood Lane. Highly evocative and dramatically moving, the value of this book to homes and schools is unquestionable. Romi Sharp Boomerang Books Blog
Dimity and Nicky’s collaboration has produced a timeless book to share with children in a sensitive and subtle manner in conquering a frightening storm. It is also an educational tool for older students where parents and educators open a discussion on the dark secrets hidden behind closed front doors. If At The End of Holyrood Lane‘s’ front cover is never opened, neither will the front doors to domestic violence. Maria Parenti-Baldey StoryLinks Children’s Books Reviewed
This book uses the storm metaphor to gently reach out to children who are facing their own torments, particularly those children living with domestic and family violence in the home, but also will resonate with children battling their own inner storms. The Bub Hub Crew The Bub Hub
I love how Dimity’s passion for words shines through her work. They always warm my heart. Her words are like a gentle hug, wrapped with love to bring joy. Interview with Robert Vescio Author Robert’s Time Out Blog
Flick is an endearing protagonist, gracefully romping about the pages with her flower crown, ribbon, and plush unicorn, and readers will be hoping everything turns out all right. Soft, imaginative illustrations help create the “everywhere and nowhere” atmosphere for the story…Tulsa Book Review
(At The End of Holyrood Lane)… is aiming to tackle the issue using visual metaphor to offer hope and confidence to those feeling in the dark.
Full of enthusiasm and hope.Your book is beautiful , expressive and entirely suitable. Harvey Mountford, Poet
Appealing illustrations in a book that will inspire confidence. Margaret Hamilton AM The The Children’s Book Cottage Pinerolo
This new picture book from Dimity Powell, beautifully illustrated by Nicky Johnston, provides a safe metaphor (with its subtle analogy) for children in just such a situation (of abuse) and enables caring adults to explore strategies by which these victims can begin to feel secure. Poetically written with much onomatopoeia and beautiful language it is a book worthy of sharing even if not in a ‘pointed’ way but just to explore children’s fears in general. I highly recommend it for your young readers from Prep upwards and would suggest that you also bring it to the attention of your school guidance officers/psychologists. Sue Warren Teacher-Librarian Just So Stories
This is a sensitive book with a message of hope, bringing to the fore a child’s perspective of domestic violence and how it makes the child feel. This book should strike a chord with any child who has experienced any domestic violence and will afford a glimpse of such a situation of anyone who hasn’t. It is beautifully illustrated with gentle pictures that convey the varied emotions of this story.The uplifting ending will give hope to readers...Anne Helen Donnelly Buzz Words
Endorsed as a resource to help children witnessing domestic violence, this gentle story explores coping with fear in general. Sandy Fussell Sunday Funday Telegraph Reviews
Picture books are also a way to gently explore subjects that might otherwise be too difficult for a child to speak up about. Anouska Jones, EK Books, Publisher Spotlight for SCIS – The Healing Power of Picture Books
What a joy it is to finally get my hands on a copy of this book. I’ll be sharing this book with my littlest members of the family in the southern states. Dimity is a beautiful person inside and out and her collaboration with Nicky Johnston adds a triumphant touch to the pages of the book. Jill Smith, JillWrites Blog