The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett

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The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: This is a beautifully written story in which two historical periods combine in an exciting adventure featuring three evacuee children in World War II. Sonya Hartnett deals with themes such as loss and power in a way that children will be able to relate to. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781407137513

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In a prosperous area of London during World War II the two Lockwood children, twelve year old Cecily and her older brother Jeremy, are dispatched, together with their socialite mother, to stay with family in the north to keep them safe. On their arrival, at Cecily’s insistence, they take in a young evacuee, ten year old May. As they wander the countryside close to Cecily’s Uncle Peregrine’s country estate the two girls find two strange boys hiding in the ruins of Snow Castle and do not tell the rest of the family about their discovery. As the children attempt to cope with their changed circumstances and the fear of an approaching enemy, each evening Uncle Peregrine tells the children a dark and sinister story of intrigue in the Royal courts of long ago and so begins the story within a story. This intriguing book then goes on to combine two periods of English history in an extraordinary adventure that is not only an historical novel but a moving coming of age story too.

Cecily and Jeremy are privileged children and their experience of evacuation is different to most as they stay in a home familiar to them from previous holidays. Cecily is over indulged and used to getting what she wants when she wants it. She insists on adopting May as other children would pester for a pet and fully expects May to comply with her wishes. May, although younger, is a bright and sensible girl, in many ways wise beyond her years and does not quite fit in with Cecily’s expectations. The characters that Sonya Hartnett has created are entirely believable. The construct of setting a story during wartime allows the author to explore how characters cope with dreadful and challenging events.

Although Cecily is frankly difficult to like at the beginning we grow to understand her worry, confusion and her unhappiness as she misses her adored father. May is an appealing character who despite being a sensible and thoughtful child is most definitely not boring. As the story progresses I warmed to these children and in particular the troubled Jeremy. It is he, standing on the brink of adulthood, who finds the war the most difficult. He is desperate to do something, to contribute in some way and prove his worth. It is difficult to elaborate on this without providing plot spoilers but I found his frustration, his experiences in the Blitz and his growing maturity moving. Hartnett also sympathetically describes the children’s relationships with their parents too. As they grow from childhood to adolescence, beneath the love they feel for their mother and father, they become aware of their flaws too.

Sonya Hartnett’s writing style is beautiful, descriptive without feeling laboured and the sections about the Blitz feel authentic. At times I was reminded of C S Lewis, in particular by the voices of the children and this does have the feel of a modern classic. This book deals with big themes: love and loss, war and the abuse of power and how historical events can affect us in the present. One change can change everything. This book works on many levels and would be an excellent read for a competent reader of about 10 plus but may appeal to teenagers too. Younger children could read this as a ghost story set in World War II but for older children, who would possibly identify more readily with the characters, it would be an extremely thought provoking read. This is only the second of Hartnett’s books that I have read and I am very impressed. Highly recommended.

I should like to thank Scholastic Children’s books for sending this copy to the Bookbag.

If you would like to read something with a similar feel The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett is a very special book, similar in that several stories are told within the main plot but this time set in the First World War. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian is another moving story about evacuees.

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Buy The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett at

Booklists.jpg The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2014.


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