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Siobhan Dowd’s short story first appeared in an anthology published in 2004. It has lost none of its power to move and the sheer depth and emotion packed into this spare narrative is still breath-taking. The book tells the story of Jim, a young Traveller boy, his experiences at the Buffer school (Buffer is what Travellers call non-Travellers) and his developing friendship with a girl called Kit. The story, told through Jim’s eyes, is vivid, affecting and, though it has more than its share of sadness, ultimately uplifting. Emma Shoard’s equally sensitive and powerful ink and wash illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text and this is a book to treasure. ~ Andrea Reece
Siobhan Dowd was a passionate defender of human rights and was particularly interested in Traveller communities and the experiences of Traveller young people. She said of her writing: “The protagonists in my stories aren’t human rights heroes in the conventional sense. They are ordinary people living in England and Ireland who find extraordinary ways to overcome the difficulties in their lives and for me that’s the essence of any good story: it’s where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.”
Emma Shoard says, “It’s been wonderful to find out about the lives of Irish Travellers through Siobhan’s story and her characters. I’ve loved bringing them to life through my illustrations and hope that readers will fall for Jim and Kit the way I have.”
Jim Curran is a Traveller child newly settled in the town of Dundray. In school the Traveller kids suffer at the hands of teachers and other pupils alike, called 'tinker-stinkers', 'dirty gyps' and worse. Then the punches start. The only friendly face is Kit, a settled girl who takes Jim under her wing and teaches him to read in the great cathedral chamber of the cave below the town. With Kit and the reading, Jim seems to have found a way to exist in Dundray, but everyday prejudice and a shocking act of violence see his life uprooted once again.
The story behind this book: Many years ago, the author and editor Tony Bradman approached a contact he knew from the campaigning writers’ organisation PEN to ask for recommendations of writers who might contribute a story about Traveller children to an anthology on racism. That contact was Siobhan Dowd, and she tentatively offered herself to write the story. ‘The Pavee and the Buffer Girl’ would become her first published work.
In the words of Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd “was a woman who worked for human rights charities, who set up the Siobhan Dowd Trust so that after her death the money her books earned would go to help children who needed it, a woman who wanted to tell this story so much, she offered herself – an unpublished writer – as a candidate.”
Patrick goes on to say, “I don’t think she wrote a story about Irish Traveller children because she wanted to preach to us. I think the story burned within her. And I think the reason it burned within her was because it was also an act of compassion, of empathy, an act – dare I say it? – of love.”
Siobhan’s career was cut tragically short by her early death from cancer. The Trust she established in her last days continues the work of taking books to those who cannot access them, like Jim in this story, and his mam.
You can find out more about the Trust at siobhandowdtrust.com.
The Pavee and the Buffer Girl is published by The Bucket List at Barrington Stoke, following on from
previous successful graphic novel Alpha.
smart, clear-eyed, unsentimental tough but full of truth - Patrick Ness
|Publication date:||2nd March 2017|
|Publisher:||The Bucket List an imprint of Barrington Stoke Ltd|
|Year Groups:||Key Stage 3|
'The protagonists in my stories aren’t human rights heroes in the conventional sense. They are ordinary people living in England and Ireland who find extraordinary ways to overcome the difficulties in their lives and for me that’s the essence of any good story: it’s where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.' – Siobhan Dowd 'In 2007 Siobhan Dowd was voted one of the twenty-five British writers for the future (only three were children’s writers). Everybody should read her.' –David Fickling, the author's publisher Siobhan Dowd was born in London to Irish ...More About Siobhan Dowd