Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

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Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Stunning time-travel story which packs a real punch despite its short length. Massively recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Chicken House
ISBN: 978-1909489608

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Rose’s grandfather Brian takes her to Ypres to pay their respects to his dead brother, but while there she notices the grave of a 15-year-old boy, Valentine Joe. Tormented by thoughts of such a young lad dying so tragically, she wakes up that night and looks out of the window to see the strange sight of a 1910s town, and a soldier marching. Slipping back in time, she meets Valentine Joe himself – but why has this happened, and what will the future be for these two children?

I should probably take a tip from fellow Bookbag reviewer Jill Murphy's review of Half Bad by Sally Green here and declare an uninterest. I don’t like time travel stories, but picked this up anyway as I’m trying to read as many as possible of the World War I books being released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

And wow, I’m glad I did! Small in terms of number of pages, this is decidedly big in terms of themes and emotional weight. In many ways this is reminiscent of Jenny Nimmo’s classic The Snow Spider. Just as Nimmo expertly interwove the magic of her story with the grief suffered by a family, here Stevens does a similar thing with the time travel. Rose starts the novel in mourning for her father and clearly unable to deal with his death, and through her interactions with Joe – and a rather special dog – her outlook changes. It’s hard to go further than that in describing things, to be honest, because this is such a slim volume, but it’s one I’d recommend to all teens, old and young – and adults – whether or not they’re interested in time travel stories generally. There’s something for pretty much everyone here, with action, historical accuracy, a tender, chaste romance – which develops wonderfully well considering the length – and a story of Rose finding strength to deal with her own problems.

Her and Joe are a lovely couple of leads here – Rose is plucky despite her grief, and her confusion at finding herself thrown back in time, while Joe is stubborn, mischievous and loyal to a fault. Brian and Muriel, the lady who owns the hotel they’re staying at are sweet supporting characters, while Tommy the dog stole my heart.

It also has one of my favourite endings of the year, managing to be simultaneously heartbreaking in many respects and surprisingly uplifting in others. It's a hugely powerful novel.

Massively recommended, a really stunning read.

There’s no time travel in Girl With A White Dog by Anne Booth, but it’s another deeply moving story with its roots in tragic events. Another of my highest recommendations of the year.

Buy Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens at Amazon.com.


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Irene Knox said:

I have recently read this amazing book. It has been such a long time since i have really conected with a book and Valentine Joe has trully given that back to me. I finished it in one day with an overload of tears rushing down my face as it neared the end and Joe ran into battle. I love this book so much that i am planning on visiting his grave in the future. I thank you Rebecca Stevens for producing such a magnificent book and hope there will be another similar one to come.