7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #674: Featuring Beth Waters

h1 January 19th, 2020 by jules


It may be 2020, but here’s one more 2019 picture book, this one released back in September — Beth Waters’s Child of St Kilda (Child’s Play). This is the detailed, 64-page story of a “lost way of life,” a book that took Waters over two years of research and was nominated for the 2020 Kate Greenaway Medal.

The sparsely populated St. Kilda is part of a small group of Scottish islands “so remote that people call them ‘the islands on the edge of the world.'” Indeed, they are described as one of the most remote parts of the British Isles. Waters gives particular focus to a boy named Norman John Gillies — born in 1925 on Hirta, the largest island of St. Kilda — but it’s more the story of the remarkably unique way of life on this island and the last community of people (including Norman John) to call it their home. “It is a beautiful, wild and mysterious place,” Waters writes on one of the book’s earliest spreads, and she then proceeds to lay out precisely why. She provides detailed descriptions of the island’s sea birds (puffins, Northern fulmars, European storm petrels, and more); the wildlife (sheep, mice, wrens, sea creatures, etc.) and how they uniquely evolved to meet their needs in such an isolated home; and the island’s settlers (including Norman John and his family) and their way of life, including the hardships of living on such an island (the severe weather) but also the benefits (no need for money and little to no crime). Waters details the settlers’ work to survive on the island; their school and church; their systems for mail (involving a sheep’s bladder, no less); and visitors to the island from the 1900s onward.

The book’s tone shifts when we read about the year 1930, when Norman John’s mother becomes ill and is sent via boat to a nearby hospital. She dies there, and so does the baby girl to whom she had given birth. There are then only 36 people left on the islands, and eventually all agree to evacuate to the British mainland. Each house, we read, leaves behind oats and a Bible, left open at the book of Exodus.

The book includes a fascinating afterwards about some of the islanders’ attempts to adjust to their new lives on the Morvern peninsula — “Granny,” we read, “who looked after Norman John after his mother died, could never get used to money. When the barber came to cut Norman John’s hair, she would pay him in hand-knitted socks and gloves” — and the island’s fate and status today. There’s even a note about the life of Norman John, who died in 2013 at nearly the age of 90. Waters includes notes about her research, as well as a sketchbook of drawings she made on the island in 2017. The illustrations throughout the book are rendered via monoprints.

Did I already mention it’s fascinating? It is. Here are some spreads from the book. …


“… Norman John’s parents had lived on St. Kilda all their lives, and their parents before them. There had been people living on the island for at least 4,000 years.
Norman John didn’t know it at the time, but he was to be one of the last.”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


“Until 1930, the ‘islands on the edge of the world’ were also home to humans. …”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“… A severe storm could leave the islanders deaf for weeks afterwards.”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“… There was a series of harsh winters when the crops failed
and the houses were damaged.”
(Click to enlarge spread and read text in its entirety)


(Click to enlarge)


CHILD OF ST KILDA. Copyright © 2019 Beth Waters. First published in USA in 2019 by Child’s Play Inc., Auburn, Maine. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) The novel I mentioned last week (that I just finished reading again, this time aloud to my daughters) just received the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

2) I very much enjoyed this:



3) Interviewing my friend over at Guessing Geisel.

4) Nashville’s Proper Bagel. Yum. Always.

5) Baby steps.

6) Wrapping up.

7) New music.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #674: Featuring Beth Waters”

  1. Oh wow, this book. I must get. I love the art work and the topic.
    Jules, hooray for bagels and new music.
    My kicks:
    1. My niece, her son, and I are going to Scotland this summer.
    2. Took a terrific class on packing.
    3. Butterfly Yellow arrived at the library.
    4. Guided students in a poetry lesson on Thursday.
    5. We had a 2 hour late on Friday even though the snow was minimal (and quite disappointing).
    6. Writing class began again.
    7. Writiing a little something every day.
    Have a great week.

  2. What a lovely and fascinating book – as well as well-researched with an impressive two years of work! It must have been so fun for Beth Waters to spend time on the island sketching, her sketchbook looks amazing.

    Jules – I love Brandi Carlisle so much & love Sam Bee for highlighting the baloney & discrimination that goes on in country music. I’m ready for a Dixie Chicks comeback.
    Bagels, yum. New music, yay!

    Jone – what lovely synchronicity for your trip! Hooray for snow days even if there was really not much snow, and writing every day.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Still recovering from my knee-thing & can’t drive yet, so feel very lucky to have friends willing to drive me places. (Uber/Lyft too, but friends are way more fun to run errands with.)
    2) Having movie marathons at home with friends – mix of action and rom-coms – National Treasure was a fun rewatch, and while watching Bad Girls (the old western with Madeleine Stowe, Andie McDowell, Mary Stuart Masterson and an 18 year old Drew Barrymore) I think we figured out a better re-write for it, which was also fun.
    3) Time to really rest and relax
    4) Spent time yesterday making a Happy playlist on Spotify and its a real mix of songs/styles/sounds with the goal of creating feelings of fun and joy and happiness. And dancing.
    5) Finding the soundtrack to Living Out Loud on Spotify and listening to that a lot, so good. Love when Queen Latifah sings old standards.
    6) Green shoots in tiny pots on my kitchen windowsill, a good reminder spring will come.
    7) Had a print of Daisy blown up & framed, hung it in a prominent location in the house and now every time my eyes land on her smiling happy face it makes me smile. Such a small thing that brings so much joy – I’m looking to create more joy whenever possible in 2020.
    7.5) The sun is out this morning.

    Have a wonderful week Imps!

  3. One Bonus kick I forgot – read an article in the L.A. Times this morning about an architect and the potentially zero net energy home he designed and built – which is a very cool concept in and of itself – but the best part was a photo of the doors for the entrance and the note that the architect, “Dan Brunn imagined the door as a “hug” to embrace and bring people into the home.”
    Here’s to the doors and people who embrace us into their homes and lives.

  4. Happy Sunday, Imps!

    Hello Beth!

    Jules: Baby steps are important. Yay for new music!

    Jon: Have fun in Scotland this summer!

    Rachel: Sending healing thoughts. Yay for fun, joy, happiness, and good music!

    My kicks:
    1) Accomplishments
    2) Invitations
    3) Opportunities
    4) Safety
    5) Music
    6) Sight
    7) Rest

  5. Jone, let me know if you like the novel! Also, SCOTLAND! That sounds like an excellent plan.

    Rachel, love that you’re re-writing the film (one I’ve never seen, and I’ve gotta fix that). Hope your recovery is a quick one. And that quote makes me think of a favorite song lyric (from The Innocence Mission):

    “And you live your life with your arms stretched out
    Eye to eye when speaking
    Enter rooms with great joy shouts
    Happy to be meeting”

    Little Willow: That sounds like a very Little-Willow, very balanced kind of week.

    Have a great week, you all. The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced a WEEK FROM TOMORROW! Exciting.

  6. Little Willow – thank you for the healing thoughts! I love your list this week – seems like it was a good week for you – and I especially love that your list starts with Accomplishments and ends with Rest. Ahhhh.

    Jules – thank you as well for quick recovery thoughts! And thank you for the new song! I love those lyrics so went and found the song and added it to the playlist. Bright As yellow is a good fit for that playlist.

    If you want to see the doors intended to hug, the article (with pictures) is here:

  7. Child of St Kilda looks intriguing, Jules. I’m not focusing solely on 2020 titles until I delve into some more 2019 titles. I will move Yellow Butterfly to the top of my stack. Thank you.
    Jone: I love that you’re working with poetry students
    Rachel: Having a print of Daisy is a wonderful way to experience joy.
    Little Willow: Hooray for rest.

    My kicks:
    1. Shifting priorities
    2. Deep snow
    3. Sunshine
    4. Friends
    5. Great books
    6. and 7. Walking with Mulan

    Have a super week everyone. And yes, looking forward to the ALA Youth Media Awards.

  8. Rachel: I looove that dramatic, huggy door!

    Margie, we have some snow flakes today. Not much. I saw your blog post about shifting priorities. It makes good sense. You’re a treasure.

  9. Thank you, Jules. You’re the treasure in every respect.

  10. […] Julie Davidson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at her acclaimed blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books. The above blog was posted at 7-Imp on January 19, 2020. […]

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