MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Phil Earle

Cover Illustration by Levente Szabo

Published by Andersen Press

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

The voices became noise to Joseph, static, the kind that used to crackle out of Dad’s wireless, no matter how hard he tried to tune it in.

This book in three words:


When the Sky Falls is a stunning, powerful story that absolutely gripped me from the opening lines. It is a story set during the Second World War, but at its heart, it’s a story of loss, hope, kindness and being brave enough to trust.

The characters in this story are unforgettable and found their way into my heart. Tears were streaming down my face as I read the last few pages, tears of sadness and tears of relief. It really felt like I was taken on such an emotional journey as I read this incredible story.

Whilst many children are leaving London during the Blitz, Joseph has been sent there to stay with a friend of his Grandmother as his father has left to join the War effort.  He is a hurt, angry and broken young boy who feels abandoned and rejected by those who should love him.  My heart ached for him as he struggles to trust, and shields himself from the pain of another rejection with outbursts of explosive anger and the pretence that things do not matter.

Mrs F, the lady who Joseph has been sent to live with, owns and runs a zoo with only a few animals left.  Her pride and joy is the majestic silverback gorilla, Adonis.  After a while, Adonis and Joseph bond in their shared pain and loss – this is a truly beautiful, awe-inspiring relationship which is perfectly captured, and so poignant and hopeful. 

What can I say about Mrs F?  She is a says it as it is, no nonsense, force to be reckoned with and I was in awe of her!  Each is just what the other needs, if only they can break down the walls they have built for self-preservation.   

Joseph also finds a friend in Syd and, although he tries to push her away, Syd proves determined to break down his walls through her honesty and support.  She has been through the unthinkable herself and her resilience is just incredible.  A truly amazing young girl. 

The choice that Mrs F and Joseph are faced with in dealing with Adonis as the bombs get closer to the zoo is unbearable and unthinkable, yet it is this choice that sparked the inspiration for the story and is based on a real event.

This is an exceptional, powerful and moving story which doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of war and of the challenges faced by Joseph as he struggles with dyslexia (words dance on the page), bullies and trying to find a place where he feels he belongs and where he is safe.  There is so much in this story that made me angry, especially at the way Joseph is treated by the Headmaster and at the cruelty of the bullies.  But there is also so much kindness and love in the story.  I won’t deny that it is heart-breaking and difficult to read at times, but it is also a lesson in fierce courage, kindness and hope. 

I don’t tend to compare books with others very often, but this one is reminiscent of Goodnight Mr Tom which is the book I used as an NQT in Year 6 many years ago and which is, in my opinion, quite rightly a modern classic.  This undoubtedly deserves to become a classic and, oh my goodness, how wonderful would it appear as a film! 

I cannot recommend When the Sky Falls highly enough for both adults and children.  It is perfect for children in Upper Key Stage 2 and for those studying the Second World War as, whilst they will learn lots about the realities of The Blitz, they will also be able to empathise with these characters with struggles they may also be facing.  Unforgettable and unputdownable!

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!


13 thoughts on “MG Takes on Thursday

    1. Thank you! I hadn’t intended to review this but, after reading it, couldn’t not! I always make notes for books I intend to review as I read, but with this one I finished after midnight, grabbed my iPad and quickly jotted down my thoughts. Don’t think I’ve written a review so quickly – it really is a story that hits hard, and is difficult to forget.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not one I need to review either but I really wanted to as well. Isn’t it funny that we both felt very much the same about it but had such opposite reactions to that?! I’m hoping I’ll get some sort of nonsensical incoherence up in the next few days 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ooooh, I have not taken part in this one for a while. I really should. 🙂

    This book sounds incredible and heartbreaking. I guess it’s definitely something you have to be in the right mindset in to read, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It will definitely run you through a mill of emotions, but it is well worth it as this is an incredible story. You need to find the time to read it in one sitting if you can as it really is hard to put down!

      Liked by 1 person

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