I can thank Kathryn of The Bookworm for recommending this one as part of our Medieval study.
It's the year 1066, and young Juliana, a Saxon thane's daughter, is on the beach when she sees the striped ships arrive. Her life changes quickly, drastically and miserably after the Norman invasion; Juliana's life will never be the same.
Enduring countless hardships, including separation from most of her family, Juliana struggles to survive and find her way. She's a realistic, tough and admirable character, one the girls and I liked very much.
Eloise McGraw uses vocabulary proper to the time period (a glossary is included in the back of the book) which adds to the authenticity of this historical novel. We enjoyed the characters, the plot, and we learned a lot, too. We shared some terrific discussion about politics, prejudice and points of view. Who was right, and who was wrong in this story? Did Harold Godwinson really swear an oath to William and later break it? Is he not the man Juliana thought he was? Or was he? Who writes history? Who gets to tell the story?
We also took a quick side-trip to look further into the Bayeux Tapestry, which plays a prominent role in the story.
Some fascinating links for further exploration of the tapestry can be found here at Bayeux Tapestry.org, and here and here, at Hastings1066.com. Not to be outdone, YouTube offers an "animated" Bayeux Tapestry. (Yes, really. Kinda fun, too, though of course, you'll ask yourself, "Who has time to do that?")
The Striped Shipsis appropriate for roughly ages 12 and up. As I read aloud, I dropped a couple of unsavory references, but other than that, no editing was necessary. The book is out of print, but I had no trouble finding a used copy for a reasonable price.