Page 155. " If you close your eyes very tight you can imaging you're Wilbur the pig "

Three pigs sleeping
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThree pigs sleeping - Credit: Montag Zen
It's rather unsurprising that Meggie and Mo even play games which revolve around books- the two they are talking about here are Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (no relation!)

If you want to test your own literary knowledge, there are more quizzes than you can shake a stick at (including a ridiculously large number of Harry Potter ones) on this website.

Page 162. " The tower of the church looked as if wind and weather had been wearing the masonry down "

Sizilien 702 Erice, Duomo
Creative Commons AttributionSizilien 702 Erice, Duomo - Credit: Allie Caulfield

Italian villages and towns are full of old Medieval churches- here's one in Sicily which might give an idea of how this church looks (apart from the tree!)


Page 163. " Hanging a stinking rabbit's foot round your own neck "

Having a rabbit's foot as a sign of good luck is just one of the millions of superstitions which human beings have developed to explain their fortunes. Here's a long list of some of the other good and bad omens that have developed over the centuries.

Page 165. " like the Pied Piper in the story "


Pied Piper
Public DomainPied Piper

Strange as it may seem, the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (in which a piper goes into a German town and lures away all of the children- a poetic version of the story by Robert Browning can be found here) is generally thought to have some basis in truth. Some historians think that the town might have been a victim of a serial killer, or a plague which targeted children, but the most common theory is that the children were willingly led away by a man who wanted them to settle in the East of Germany. It is even possible that the "children" aren't actual children at all, but just people of all ages from the town who decided to move away from their overcrowded homes and settle in an underpopulated area of Eastern Europe. As illiterate peasants in a world with no phones or even a reliable postal service, people at the time would have had no communication with those they left behind, so it's difficult to say for certain where they went. However, whatever the truth, it almost certainly didn't involve a man magically luring rats out of the city- that bit got added a lot later, presumably after the residents of the town had forgotten what really happened.


Page 173. " When people start burning books they'll soon burn human beings "

Book burning is a common but controversial way of protesting people's moral or religious objections to things that others have written down. It has been practised throughout history, with the most famous recent example being the Nazi book burnings in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, where around 18,000 different books were labelled "subversive" by the government and huge rallies were held to burn copies of them.

One fictional example of book burning which highlights why many people find it so unpleasant is the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (from which the opening quotation of this chapter is taken). Here is one scene which deals specifically with censorship.

WARNING: you may find the last minute of this video disturbing.