When the Sky Falls

Bloomsbury. Jun. 2022. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781547609307.
Gr 3-7–It’s the 1940s in London and Joseph, who is cued white, has just gotten off the train headed into the city—the opposite direction from all the fleeing children and families. Troubled Joseph is 12 years old and has recently been sent to stay in the city with Mrs. F. by his grandmother during World War II. When Joseph arrives, he learns he will be helping Mrs. F. protect the zoo she runs and the troubled silverback ape, Adonis. In an unsettling time in history, Mrs. F. and Joseph share their dark pasts and learn to grow through their love of Adonis. This book is great for middle grade students and brings a lot of tough topics to the forefront for discussion: war, dyslexia in the 1940s, death, and more. In the afterword, readers learn the book is based on a true story told to Earle from a dear friend. This is an emotionally charged novel that will help readers understand life during war. Earle skillfully builds reader investment in the relationship Joseph develops with Mrs. F. and Adonis, and his growth as a young person. This is a story that will have tweens captivated by true world events from the past that are also pertinent to current times. The writing is superb: simple yet detailed enough to allow readers to travel through time and have a light understanding of what it was like to live through war and the Blitz.
VERDICT As always, Earle delivers a tale that can accompany any book set during World War II yet brings something new with the addition of unique characters and an uncommon approach to the time period. Recommended for all collections.

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