And now for something completely different

I’m going to try something new – adding book reviews to “Rear in Gear.” While I’ve always linked up to Goodreads, I’m going to begin featuring book reviews of children’s books here. What? You say plenty of folks already do that? And you could see my reviews if you wanted to?

True. But I’m going to change this up a bit by adding a touch more commentary – and hopefully beginning to review these books for kid readers, and not just kid lit readers.

First up:

The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
Hartnett has created a lyrical story of World War II that incorporates the tale of the Little Princes in the Tower. Accompanied by their mother, Cecily and her older brother Jeremy are evacuated from London to live with their Uncle Peregrine at the start of Germany’s bombing campaign. Jeremy wants nothing more than to do something brave and unselfish to help the war effort, while cosseted Cecily thinks only of her Daddy, left in London to do his important war work.

When they arrive at Peregrine’s village, Cecily insists on taking one of the refugee children from the train to live with them, much as if she were picking out a doll. But May is her own person, and when she goes exploring in the countryside, Cecily feels compelled to follow her, leading both girls to discover two mysterious boys hiding out in a nearby ruined castle.

Hartnett’s writing is lovely, but I suspect adults will enjoy this more than children. Cecily is rather too unlikable a protagonist, and May too inaccessible for most children to empathize with. Hartnett uses the story within a story technique well, and the plot moves along quickly with enough twists to keep the reader turning pages. But in the end, The Children of the King is unsatisfying, despite the many thematic layers and beautiful prose.

Two stars – meaning “it was ok” – because this is going to be a book that adults recommend to kids. Some kids will like it because there’s a few good plot twists, and what’s not to like a bout a good ghost story? But I’m betting this is one historical novel that becomes a “have-to” read and not a “want-to” read. Looking for WWII era historical fiction? Try When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, The Amazing Story of Adolphus TipsShadow on the Mountain or the classic Number the Stars. Code Name Verity is great, too.



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