|An enticing cover!|
July 2017, MacMillan Children's Books, 352 pages, Paperback, Review copy
Summary from Pan MacMillan
It is 1939. When Lyla is evacuated from her home in London to her Great-Aunt’s enormous house in the West Country, she expects to be lonely. She has never been to school nor had any friends, and her parents have been at the centre of a scandal. But with the house being used to accommodate an entire school of evacuated schoolgirls, there's no time to think about her old life. Soon there is a horse in a first-floor bedroom and a ferret in Lyla’s sock drawer, hordes of schoolgirls have overrun the house, and Lyla finds out that friends come in all shapes and sizes.
I rarely (if ever) say this but Lyla's tale needs to be made into a film. It just has to! There are 2 scenes that made me cry and want to hug her and the people around her. The first is after she gets used to not being the only child in her aunt's house, when her depression lifts a smidge and their support showers her with love. That's all I can say for that one-the 2nd is when there's a big event for Aunt Ada. Both scenes are phenomenally moving, tissues will be needed and I want everyone to read those moments because they are epic.
While I prefer to shy away from war stories, Lyla is kind of safe being with her Aunt Ada in the country, even if she is there under protest. I suspected the truth of certain story elements had layers to them, but it's only at the end do the layers reveal the full extent of the subtle hints throughout the story which I only guessed 1 correctly. I'm already looking forward to rereading this bittersweet tale with a dippy relative (or 2, as Lyla is only a smidge more sane than her aunt-why else would she take a horse up stairs??) to seeing what was hidden from me in the first read.
The way Lyla copes with difficult emotions made me smile in sympathy, she is definitely the rowdiest member of the school when she joins it, though with a pet ferret she will never be ordinary. She is eager to fit in, something that shee doesn't feel happens until touching moments closer to the end. Thankfully a girl with a love of mischief eventually befriends Lyla, being there even when Lyla pushes her away when life gets too much (something that happens more than once). The range of emotional situations that get examined aren't solely war based, and are something all readers will be able to relate to at least one.
I love how Lyla's pet is a bit unusual, and the parts with her father are breathtakingly wonderful, despite her reaction to most of them. I've read Sam's books before, and most definitely will read more in the future, but with breaks between them as amidst the humour there is a lot of raw emotion at work, especially where war elements are examined, one which was fairly new to me. Read it!!
Find out more on Sam's website.
Check out Sam's other books which I've reviewed a few years ago (this includes a Q&A with Sam) A Horse Called Hero by Sam Angus (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E)