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Anna At War by Helen Peters

Anna at War by Helen Peters front cover

Anna at War by Helen Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a little concerned at the start of Anna At War because I have a loathing of introductions. We are familiar enough with war-fiction; it’s no new topic for children’s literature, and Peters’ writing is so deliciously solid and fabulously readable that it does not need this. It really doesn’t.

I also need to let you know that I only get picky like this when the book is good.

Anna At War is a very good book. Admittedly, it takes a while to find its feet, but once it does we’re away. The story bowls along; Anna’s fabulous, the situation she’s in is horrible, but she’s a fighter. Strong. Powerful. Brave. Braver than I’d ever be under the circumstances. And the final few scenes of the book made me cry. Excellent. That’s all I want. Peters is a treat, and this story is just really well done.

But oh, that introduction. It just holds the story back and, in a way, tells you a little bit too much about what’s to happen. And I don’t want you to think that it’s a bad introduction, because it isn’t. Peters writes with care, kindness and truth throughout her work – but this introduction is an endnote. It’s context, a reminder of the truth that lies behind these horrors, and a warning to never let them happen again.

I know I’ve banged on about the introduction a lot, so here’s the part where I reinforce how good the rest of it is. Anna is a lovely heroine, and Anna At War is reminiscent of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Carrie’s War. It’s also interesting in how it touches on some very big issues such as spy fever and the fear of imminent invasion. As a whole these are done with a gentle bigness. Does that make sense? I’m not sure it does, but Peters can do it. She can talk about these big issues, and make them relevant. Small. Accessible. The big fears of the world expressed in a school playground.

Like I said, the good books make me picky.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

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Book Reviews

Evie’s Ghost : Helen Peters

Evie's GhostEvie’s Ghost by Helen Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a story to tell you about this. I was chatting with one of my lovely librarian colleagues about the books I was going to review and mentioned ‘Evie’s Ghost’. It turned out that her daughter had adored Peters’ The Secret Hen House Theatre and had gone so far as to buy a copy of it for a friend for her birthday. Now that says a lot for me. I love children’s books, but I’m not a child. A recommendation from those ‘on the ground’, as it were, is an important and wonderful thing. I value them. Immensely. And so when I came to read Evie’s Ghost I was so pleased to see that Peters was worth it. This book, a sort of Tom’s Midnight Garden meets Charlotte Sometimes, is charming. Intensely.

Evie has been sent off to stay with her godmother whilst her mother has gone off on honeymoon with her new husband. Bearing in mind that Evie doesn’t know her godmother, at all, it’s all a bit awkward. However, the first night in the spare room changes everything. Evie goes to bed in the present-day and wakes up in 1814. She’s a housemaid, forced to scrub and clean and do thousand tasks whilst being painfully encouraged with the odd clip around the ear. But she’s gone back in time for a reason. Something awful is about to happen in this house and it’s up to Evie to solve it…

One of the great things about Peters’ writing is that she manages to juxtapose the everyday with the fantastical. You believe Evie’s journey between times, and you recognise her reaction. The sensibilities of a modern child, with running water and amenities, is neatly juxtaposed against the historical context of 1814 where quite a few things are different. There’s a lot of history and period terminology looped in this, and it’s handled really well. It’s a charming, pacy, rich adventure story. I rave a lot about the books that Nosy Crow produces but they have an eye for story. That transferable, rich, layered sense of story. Evie’s Ghost is such a solid and rich story. I read a lot for this age, and I’m always intrigued by those stories that catch me by surprise. This did, and I loved it. I also really welcomed how Peters … (view spoiler)

I love how I’m coming across some smart and genuine time-slip stories at the moment. Maybe this is the next thing? If they’re all as good and as well told as this, then I’ll be very happy.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy. Evie’s Ghost is out at the start of April.

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