My book review of 'The Skylarks' War' by Hilary McKay

by Hilary McKay
Recommended age: 8+
The Skylarks' War
by Hilary McKay

There are some books where as soon as you’ve finished them, you want to turn back to the first page and begin again.

This is one of those books.

I was a little late in reading, and recommending, this book, as it was published a couple of years ago and has received rave reviews, and sold in great numbers ever since. But sometimes I worry that a book won’t live up to the hype.

This one does.

A beautiful, cheery, nostalgic cover and an intriguing title. What have the soaring summer skylarks got to do with the horrors of war?

Aimed at readers aged 9-12, this story had me completely gripped and delighted. It’s funny, clever, witty, thoughtful, and also poignant and, naturally with the necessity of touching on the atrocities of the first world war, there are some troubling moments but these are lightly and sensitively presented.

The scene is set with the birth of one of the central characters, Clarissa, and we follow her childhood, without a mother and with a cold and distant father, as she seeks joy and sunlight in summer holidays with grandparents, brother and cousin in Cornwall.

Between holidays, there are terms in boarding school for the boys, and a push by Clarry for her right to education as she sits in the kitchen and keeps house.

Eventually the war changes everything. The boys are young men and enlist, and the girls become nurses.

Clarry’s sunny nature continues to see only the best of every situation, and her desire never to lose hope is a powerful message for us all.

This is the most wonderful book. It is full of fun and friendship while also addressing issues of grief, loss, war and a changing society. Please read it!

Year 6 at Woodbridge Primary School read this book together in spring 2020.

Review date: October 2020