There has already been so much praise for 'When the Sky Falls' but I wanted to add to the buzz. Sometimes a book comes along that simply blows you away and leaves you close to tears - this is one of them. Phil Earle has written a profoundly moving, extraordinary children's book set in the Blitz.
1940. Joseph is sent to stay with Mrs F in London; a stern, though compassionate woman who is desperately managing a local zoo as bombs start to rain. Joseph grapples with his emotions while he gets used to London life and starts in an austere school. Then he meets the mighty, angry Adonis - a gorilla. With Mrs F they must guard his cage in case it gets damaged by a blast and he escapes. But when the sky falls, will Joseph be able to pull the trigger?
There are many children's books I think are brilliant and that I have enjoyed, but not many make me well up with tears by the end. 'When the Sky Falls' did. It is so engrossing, so raw, so real in its depictions of characters, danger and emotions that it's impossible not to be affected by its sheer power. A comparable title that comes to mind is 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness. Although time periods and subject matters are different, the intensity of their main characters reflected through a wild creature is comparable. Because both books are about how we can manage our emotions in extreme circumstances and the choices that we make to grow. Phil Earle does this magnificently. Details of the Blitz are astonishing but its the relationship between characters, human and animal, the empathy, the depth of feeling that makes this such a remarkable achievement.
There is not much more for me to say than for you to go and read it, if you haven't. It is easy to throw around labels, but 'When the Sky Falls' really should be revered as a modern classic. This is what children's fiction is all about. This is why storytelling matters. Superb.