The Travellers is a new series about the gypsy community, written by Rosemary Hayes, author of over 40 children’s books. Her debut novel Race Against Time was shortlisted for the Kathleen Fidler Award, but her most recent endeavour is something that we at Ransom, think is even more exciting!
This is a series of four books based around a social minority: gypsies. Although inclusivity of the disabled has been explored in literature such as Maggot Moon and racial equality in Noughts and Crosses, for example, this social inclusivity is something that is not often explored in fiction for children. Due to this, these books can easily be considered innovative. I certainly think so anyway! Before writing them Rosemary spent a significant amount of time with a traveller community, finding out the truth behind the myths we are so used to hearing. While Hayes does not shy away from the often negative stigma surrounding the traveller lifestyle, she portrays something that is far more accepting and wonderfully understanding in her writing. You cannot help but feel she is speaking from experience in these books.
The first in the series, Tess, is written from the point of view of a local girl who is intrigued by the gypsies, first and foremost, because they have horses. She is pony mad but cannot afford to ride. Her only chance to do so is to befriend the gypsies, but not everyone sees things the way Tess does and not everyone approves of her fondness for the town’s new residents. This books looks at the longings of one girl, the hesitance of one group of people, and the fear of another, drawing views and opinions from many different walks of life. This is great for children as it instills an understanding of unfair judgement, personal grudges, and right vs. wrong. It also explores how things are not just black and white – something that is a good solid learning curve for young readers and aids in the teachings that can come as such a shock in adult life.
The second book is entitled Mike and is written from the point of view of a gypsy boy who has found himself in trouble with the law. This embracing of some negative attitudes towards the traveller community is what provokes the honest, down-to-earth feel in Rosemary’s books. It reminds us that she has not put rose tinted glasses on her audience, but rather has told us the truth. The third book, Lizzie also tells us a tale from a traveller perspective, but this time one of a need for education. This is something that non-travellers are told of on a daily basis – that gypsy families will not let their girls study, that women are lowly, and that men are dominant monsters who control their wives and daughters. The bravery, yet again, of Rosemary Hayes to embrace such a sensitive topic results in a tale that is definitely worth a read, with its exciting plot and enlightening conclusion. Ben, the final book in the series takes on yet another view point, this one probably being the most familiar: hatred. Ben dislikes the gypsies, particularly Mike who has welcomed Ben’s sister Tess with open arms into his community. Ben gets himself knee deep in a world of shadows and crime though, and soon discovers that the gypsy boys he has put so much energy into fighting, may be his only chance at a good life.
The cross-section of views explored here is vast and so teaches our younger readers that there is more than just one opinion, and certainly more than just one right opinion. This here, is the benefit of inclusive literature. The opportunity to explore and understand the lives of others, and to learn how to live in a world where there is not just one ‘type’ of person. You may say this is just a series of books, but I say that it is something that will teach the next generation to be better, more thoughtful, than ours.