Blog tour: ‘Elsetime,’ by Eve McDonnell, cover by Holly Ovenden.

Brace yourself for a thrilling race against time to save the lives of fourteen souls whose lives will otherwise be lost in The Great Flood of 1928.

Glory (an orphan with one hand and a talented jewellery designer) lives in Inthington in 1928.

Needle (a time-travelling mudlark with very special talents) lives in Inthington in 1864.

Together, with the help of treasure-hunting crow Magpie, the pair have to convince the town to believe them when they say there’s a flood coming which cause the loss of 14 souls. But who’s going to listen to a grubby pair of children?

This was an absolutely gripping read: atmospheric, dripping in jewels and with descriptions so vivid I could picture myself gazing around the jewellery emporium in wonder and shivering in the snow under the bridge.

A truly fascinating read inspired by a real flood in 1928. I loved the glimpses into the hierarchy of society in times gone by and the strong themes of friendship and loyalty. A brilliant read for anyone aged 9+

Now it’s time to to find out a little more about the inspiration behind Needle’s best friend – Magpie the crow:”

Elsetime – Away with the birds!

by Eve McDonnell.

In Elsetime, twelve-year-old Needle has a special bond with a very special crow– a crow he named Magpie. When Needle meets impetuous jeweller’s apprentice, Glory, she is quick to tell him naming a crow ‘Magpie’ is a daft thing to do! But Needle explains how magpies are known for their obsession with finding all-things-shiny, and his crow would, as he tells Glory, “spot a muddy penny’s sparkle from a good mile, better than any magpie I know.” Magpie joins Needle as he hunts for treasure hidden deep in the mud and pebbles of the foreshore, and she alerts Needle to a find by flapping her wings overhead. Magpie gets up to plenty of tricks too, and as you will see in Elsetime, she likes to bring gifts to Glory to help with her struggling jewellery designs.

The inspiration for Magpie came from two hooded crows that still visit our bird feeders in my garden. We named them Flotsam and Jetsam because, just like the lost (flotsam) or unwanted (jetsam) treasures that float across the ocean to land on our beaches, the two visiting crows would leave small gifts at our feeders in return for nuts and seeds. Ok, so they mightn’t be leaving antique gold rings or sparking lost gems, but, at first, I thought I must be imagining things – surely it was just a coincidence that another triangular piece of metal was sitting on the edge of our bird bath? 

But then came another, and another!

They were mostly pieces of metal, pottery and glass but they soon evolved – my favourite being a tiny Spiderman head! Such clever crows!

A quick google told me this arrangement we have with a pair of crows is not unique – not only are they known for bringing gifts, crows hold funerals and can recognise your face! They make tools out of wire or wood and hide them for future use. They understand that dropping pebbles into a container of water will rise the water level so they can take a sip or eat whatever insect floats on top! Crows have even been known to deliberately wait for a traffic light to go red before dropping a hard-to-crack nut in the path of cars. Once cracked by tyres, they swoop and eat the nut. Crows in a flock use a specific dialect, too, and know to change it when travelling outside their territory. Maybe we should do this on our holidays too!

In Elsetime, Magpie the crow communicates with Needle using both squawking and body language. Needle is still learning her language but has quickly recognised several meanings, such as stomping her feet as though urging a worm to come to the surface means trust me. Turning her head to one side and tucking one leg up to her belly, means all is good. Of course, this language is unique to Magpie, but experts have identified a fascinating list of recognisable bird moves. 

Maybe let Elsetime inspire you to be away with the birds! Short of becoming a bird-whisperer, it might be fun to translate a few of our feathered friends’ thoughts. Next time you see one, do as Needle does – pull out the flaps of your ears, open your eyes, and really listen!

– thank you so much for that fascinating piece. I’d love to be able to understand the language of birds!

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Everything With Words for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*

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