Title: The Battle of Cable Street
Author: Tanya Landman
Illustrator: Sara Mulvanny
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Historical
Book format: Paperback
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Description:  STEPNEY, lONDON, 1930s
When fascist thugs come marching down your street… When antisemitic bully boys attack your family and friends… When you’re just a poor and pwerless kid from the slums… Do you run away?  Hide?  Or do you stand up and fight?
Life has always been hard for Elsie and her brother Mikey.  But with Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists on the rise, things are about to get even harder.  As lifelong friendships are torn apart, Elsie and Mikey find they have some tough choices to make.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is such an important book that all young people should read!  It’s the 1930s and Elsie and her brother Mikey enjoy spending their time with some of the other children who live in their tenement in Stepney.  While Elsie and the others have fun playing silly games, a politician called Oswald Mosley is gaining more and more support.  At first, eight year old Elsie doesn’t understand even who Mosley is, but over time as she grows up and more supporters of Mosley begin make their anti-Jewish views known, Elsie ends up discovering just how horrible Oswald Mosley is, and when Mosley threatens to march near her home, Elsie and her brother plan to do something about it.

The Battle of Cable Street book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

I really enjoyed this book from the first pages.  Elsie narrates her own story as she and her brother enjoy their days playing with the other children in the area.  At first Elsie’s life seems a lovely and uncomplicated one, and when things happen such as the mention of Oswald Mosley or later what happens with a local Jewish boxer, she doesn’t really understand what is happening or why her father and grandmother are so angry and upset.  But as the story moves on through the few years leading up to 1936, Elsie grows up very fast and she and her brother Mikey soon discover just how much power Mosley has and how taken in so many people are by him.

To be honest, I had never heard of the Battle of Cable Street until only a few years ago, and that was only from one program on television.  At school I had never been taught anything about what happened here in Britain and how much support Oswald Mosley had and how anti-Semitic a lot of people were in the 1930s.  This book is such a brilliant way of learning about what happened, and it’s done so brilliantly from the point of view of Elsie, who, like many readers, doesn’t understand everything at first but is soon shown just how dark Mosley and the British Union of Fascists is and it’s an interesting and quite dark read.

I like what happens in the story, with the focus being on Elsie and some of her friends.  The way that the anti-Semitic views of some people shows up in her own life among the people she knows is interesting and I like the way we later find out what one of Mosley’s rallies was like and how dark things got for anyone who had an opinion against him.  The story is good, although a lot of dark things happen, with a lot of anti-Semitic views and some violence, even towards children and teens, the book is a powerful one though for showing what people were really like and doesn’t shy away from showing just how brutal the views and actions of many people were, as well as the interesting inaction by the Police.

The story has a good and interesting ending, culminating in the Battle of Cable street and what happened is explained well, with a brilliant ending for Elsie and her family and friends (and for everyone in Cable Street else too).  I like the positive ending the book has on the whole but also how it does tell of the realities of what happened in the 1930s and how easily people can be swayed into thinking and acting in dark ways against their fellow neighbours and friends.  The story is quite dark and as I have already said it does have some violence.  It’s not very graphic but does explain what happened with some violent actions towards children and teens as well as adults in the story and also shows some horrible anti-Semitism and other things people were saying at the time, but it’s such a powerful read and one which I think everyone should read, adults as well as teens, especially if you’ve never heard of the battle of Cable Street before.

The book is dyslexia-friendly which means that it can be read by anyone but is especially made to be easier for those with dyslexia and other visual problems to read.  The pages are extra thick, with a creamy/yellow tint to them making it easier to read.  As well as this, there is also a special font used in the book, larger than usual text and all paragraphs are separated for easier reading.  The book is only a little over 100 pages making it a good quick read too and perfect for reluctant readers who are daunted by bigger books.  There is a lovely illustration, the same as appears on the front cover, shown at the bottom of each new chapter.  I really like this image and the interesting detail you can see.  It depicts well what happened at the time!

Overall this is such a good and important book to read.  It introduces a very dark time in British history which everyone should know more about and it does this in a way that is so easy to understand.  I love Elsie’s character and how she is determined against Mosley and his followers, and how throughout the whole story there is so much support in Stepney for fellow neighbours.  But I also like how the true realities of the rise of fascism in Britain is shown, and how it so easily can happen again if we aren’t careful.  There are some author’s notes at the end which are good to read and give an insight into why they wrote this book.  As I’ve said before, I would recommend this book to everyone, from young teens to adults as this is such an important and powerful read and to be honest I really think this is a title that should be on the shelves of every school library so everyone can find out about this dark time in our past, in an easy and accessible way, and hopefully stop it from ever happening again!

What do you think of this book?  Have you ever heard of the battle of Cable street?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂