When the Sky Falls

(1 customer review)


It is 1941 and the war is raging.  London is suffering in the blitz.  So it is not the best of times for 12 year-old Joseph to be sent to live there by his grandmother, where he is to be taken in by the eccentric and mysterious Mrs F.  Not only does Mrs F not seem to like children, she certainly doesn’t seem very welcoming of Joseph.

Joseph has had a hard time in his short life.  He feels that everyone that matters to him has left him, and now his beloved father has gone to war.  As he struggles to readjust to life in the city, he is staggered to learn that Mrs F is the owner and manager of a zoo.  The zoo is closed, but some animals remain – notably Adonis, a silverback gorilla.  Mrs F is desperately trying to find another zoo to take Adonis and the other remaining animals.

Meanwhile, Joseph is coming to terms with bullying boys at school and a cruel headteacher, Mr Gryce, who rules by the cane.  It can’t get much worse for Joseph, but he finds solace in a growing understanding of the power and dignity of Adonis, with whom Joseph finds strong parallels to his own life.

When the Sky Falls is an excellent, powerful and moving middle grade novel that had this reader gripped throughout and is very much recommended.

Winner of the Books are My Bag award from independent book shops, like Bookwagon Limited.

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When the Sky Falls

Phil Earle

(Andersen Press) 

When the Sky Falls is set in the early years of the Second World War.  London is going through the worst of the blitz.  Into this maelstrom arrives Joseph, sent by his grandmother to live with the mysterious Mrs F.  Joseph has had a troubled childhood to date; in his mind, everyone he has ever cared for has left him.  Now his father has gone to war and he has ended up in the last place he wanted to be.
Mrs F does not even seem to like children.  Bizarrely, she runs a zoo with very few animals – animals that she is desperate to keep safe.  Most of the animals have been sent to other zoos, but the last few remain. Joseph is sorely tempted to just run away (again), but in this strange city where would he go? Instead, he finds himself inexorably drawn into Mrs F‘s life and the life of the zoo. In particular, he is drawn to, though also terrified of, Adonis, the powerful silverback gorilla. Every night when the bombs fall, Mrs F rushes to the zoo. She risks her life to try a s keep the animals safe.  She knows that, if the very worst happens and the zoo is bombed she will have to take exceptional and radical action.
Meanwhile, Joseph is sent to a new school, where he encounters bullies Bert and Jimmy.  Furthermore, the brutish headmaster, Mr Gryce, has targeted Joseph for punishment.  Joseph reluctantly makes a friend of Sydney, an orphan who is at least partly looked after by Mrs F.
This is a deeply moving story of Joseph’s journey of self-discovery.  Author Phil Earle not only tells a brilliant story of a child’s emotional development but has also added an important and true dimension to World War 2 stories.  Inspired by a true story, this really is an exceptionally powerful and empathetic novel and is thoroughly recommended.
Phil Earle is a prolific and talented author of children’s books for all ages.  Bookwagon stocks many of his books, including a second WWII set story, in While the Storm Rages.

1 review for When the Sky Falls

  1. Paula Hale

    Outstanding! One of the best books of the year. After seeing so many recommendations I read this and can confirm it is every bit as brilliant as everyone said, I could not put it down. I think I have been through every emotion possible with Joseph, Mrs F and Syd. A future classic here.

    • Bronnie

      Isn’t it brilliant? Thank you so much, Bob

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