top of page

'Midwinter Burning', a historical time-slip MG novel by Carnegie- medal winning author Tanya Landman, is a stunning achievement: hypnotic, eerie, warm and classic in tone.  A great transitional story for Christmas and the New Year, this is a magnificent children's book about hope, of light triumphing over darkness, of friendship overcoming conflict. I cannot recommend it highly enough - one to return to every midwinter!

When Alfie Wright is evacuated to a farm in rural Devon run by kind old Aunt Bell and her gentle giant of a son, he can’t believe his luck. The War seems a long way off, and among the cows and pigs and geese Alfie's happier than he’s ever been – especially when he makes friends with one of the local boys, Smidge. But Smidge is not all he appears. And the mystery that surrounds him seems to be connected to the Midwinter Burning, an annual ritual held at the Standing Stones, high up on the cliffs...

Tanya Landman writes with awe-inspiring power. She is a masterful storyteller and I'm simply blown away by 'Midwinter Burning', the first book I have read of hers. And I cannot help but compare her to classic authors for children like Penelope Lively ('The Ghost of Thomas Kempe') or even Alan Garner ('Elidor) for conjuring so much atmosphere and imaginative feeling. Of course, a child being evacuated at the beginning of the Second World War and having an adventure in a strange new place has been explored many times, but Tanya Landman makes it feel fresh and surprising. The context of the darkness of war threatening the land alongside the pagan and Christian rituals of Midwinter and Christmas symbolically works - suffusing the story with foreboding and a deep sense of place and history. Without giving too much away, the use of time-slip, connecting Alfie to prehistory and Smidge, is woven in cleverly and subtly, and it is so hypnotically gripping. It may be eerie, but it is also warm and full of hope about why friendships, love, matter even at the darkest points. I loved Auntie Bell and Smidge.


Mix 'Stig of the Dump', 'Elidor' and 'The Dark is Rising' in a Second World War setting and you begin to get the idea! Mystery and tension builds, leading to a nail-biting climax that ties everything in the plot together brilliantly well. It just has eloquent, heart-thumping power.

If you need a book to pull you out of the darkness of winter, then this is a superb place to start. Truly brilliant.

bottom of page