Lily and the Rockets begins in the summer of 1917, where we meet Lily Dodd who lives in Woolwich, South London. The reader travels with Lily on her journey of discovering her inner greatness as a football player for none other than, the female Arsenal Rockets. The journey is not an easy one; it is overshadowed by betrayal, fear, intimidation, loss, love, and rejection.
I could not put this book down. I was hooked from the start, mainly because I have taught in and around the Woolwich area for nearly seventeen years now. I have to admit that I never knew the female Arsenal ‘Rocket’s’ football team ever existed. What is more, I never considered what it was like during World War One when the women of Woolwich worked in the munitions factories along with the Woolwich Arsenal. I drive past this old military site every day and overnight it has taken on a glorious glow of intrigue for me. I am desperate to learn more about its history and hopefully meet a descendant of one of these inspirational women. As a teacher, if this book has done this to me, you can only imagine my excitement at what reading this book will do for the children in my school.
This local history opportunity is not all, however. This book has been beautifully crafted. Lily is a humble, brave and sensitive protagonist. Throughout the plot, she shows great wisdom and generosity of spirit. Through her friendships we learn more about the challenges for not only the women but the soldiers, we are transported to a time when attitudes towards women are verging on alien yet dealt with in a very accessible and intelligent way by the wonderful author, Rebecca Stevens. I also love the Shakespearean motif of the gender-bending female protagonist. Like Viola in ‘Twelfth Night’, Lily must overcome gender limitations to survive and prevail. Like Viola, Lily is pure of heart and must control her infatuations while playing her new gender role. Like Viola, Lily is forgiving and can identify with the male and female within her.
This book is an absolute must for any Key Stage 2 reading area. This is a fantastic novel through which young people can explore the plight of women, have their perceptions challenged, locate themselves with their historical counterparts and dig deeper into the challenges, confusions and difficult choices faced by all young people. It’s also a must for any true Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur fan keen to gain a deeper understanding of the history and resilience of their football teams.
You can listen to a podcast of Rebecca Stevens talking to Nikki Gamble here
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