As the story was developed, representing the Showman way of life to primary pupils became not only a deep passion for its authors – Michelle Russell and Richard O’Neill – but a point of unity for young reviewers at Thorntree Primary in Glasgow.
Working with Christine Stirling, an education liaison officer for The Scottish Showmen’s Guild, the Primary 6 and 7 pupils enthusiastically helped to review and develop the book. Having gathered their thoughts on the project, Justine Horn, the school’s Deputy Head, explains on behalf of the pupils why the book was such a significant focus for them.
“They felt that previous books had misrepresented the Showman community”
Q. Why did Thorntree’s pupils decide to take part in this project?
A. The children got involved to work on the book as they felt that previous books had misrepresented the Showman community. They were upset because people may make judgements about Showmen based on untrue stories, and have the wrong idea about fairground families and culture.
Q. Why is it important that the community is represented effectively in books like this?
A. Being better represented makes the children feel that stereotypes will be dismissed; that people will have a more accurate understanding of the honest, hardworking and trustworthy people that Showmen are, and how they work to make their living.
Q. When reviewing the book, what aspects of the community did pupils feel were well represented?
A. They think Showmen-specific vocabulary is well-used throughout the book. They also think proper credit is given to how hard Showmen families work. The children thought that representing their way of life in summer/winter seasons was a good thing to explain too.
“The children hope that showmen will be seen as the kind and honest business people that they are”
Q. What do your pupils hope people reading the book will take from it?
A. The children hope that showmen will be seen as the kind and honest business people that they are. They are happy that people will see that family is very important to the Showmen community, and that their children are respectful of the other people in their families. They also want readers to understand the importance Showmen put on their children having a good education.
“Their voices have been heard”
Q. What do you and your pupils like most about ‘The Show Must Go On’?
A. I am really pleased that the children were passionate about getting this book right, and that it is something they are happy to be part of. I think their voices have been heard.
The children liked the memory box idea that is in the book, and thought the ‘dialectogram’ illustrations were really useful for the reader. They also liked the fact that the book was a much more realistic account of the Showman way of life than they have read elsewhere. They would be proud to have this as a reading book in school, and think it is a good way for their peers to find out more about the Showman culture and way of life.
Our thanks to Justine Horn and the wonderful pupils of Thorntree Primary School, for contributing to the project and this article.
‘The Show Must Go On’ is written by Michelle Russell and Richard O’Neill. It is illustrated by Mitch Miller, who is also from a Travelling Showmen background.
‘The Show Must Go On’ is part of the Bug Club Independent Lime Plus series, which gives high attaining children age-appropriate fiction and non-fiction stories to help them to work at greater depth. Order copies for your school or setting here.
Find out more about Bug Club Independent Reading here.