While the Storm Rages is a thrilling and emotional adventure set at the start of the Second World War. Phil Earle’s writing is wise and kind, utterly believable, both hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad in the turn of a page. There are children and animals you grow to love, friendships made and tested, courage found and lessons learned, this is a wonderful book and a perfect follow up to the award winning When the Sky Falls.
When Noah’s Dad sets off to fight Noah makes him a promise, to keep their beloved family dog, Winn, safe. If Winn is safe, Dad says, then he will come home safely too. Noah is determined to keep that promise come what may so when the government advises people to have their pets put down in readiness for what is to come, coupled with the knowledge that he is soon to be evacuated himself, Noah makes a decision. He and his best friend Clem run away with their pet dogs accompanied by school bully, Big Col, a large snake and a donkey. The ensuing adventure is full of drama, courage, loyalty, loss and resilience.
The story begins with a gradual build up highlighting the bewilderment of people during the worrying days in the build up to the announcement of the outbreak of war in 1939. We sense the anxiety, the worry and the tension as families say goodbye to those departing to fight and the shock to children, and indeed to their parents, as they realise they are to be sent away from their families as evacuees.
This at times reminded me of The Incredible Journey, a story I loved as a child, as the animals make their way to a new, safe home. However the animals in this story are not alone, they have Noah and his Dad’s cherished boat, the Queen Maudie to help them on their way. In truth Noah would flounder without the sensible counsel offered by Clem, their partnership will bring both smiles and tears to readers’ faces. Phil Earle’s dialogue is at times hilarious and he captures the voices of these children so well. The children make mistakes, sometimes big and dangerous mistakes but never was the saying ‘but their hearts are in the right place’ more apt. Any review has to include the wonderful animals who do become characters in their own right. Winn, Noah’s steady and loyal dog, Frank, Clem’s aged but determined dachshund, Col’s python, Delilah and Samson the hat wearing donkey may sound like a comedy act but I defy any reader not to care enormously about their welfare as the story progresses.
There are many emotional moments, sadness and heartbreak along the way but all three of the children develop as we read their adventure. Big Col is more complex that one would first think and the revealing conversations he has with his new friends are compelling and moving. The well paced plot ensures a great balance between drama and tenderness, courage and frustration making this a story that many will want to read and I can see this being another book that will be popular in schools.
Although different in many ways to When the Sky Falls there are some similarities to notice. The bond between humans and animals, the solace found in the comfort offered from unexpected sources and the vulnerability hidden by bravado in some people. Phil Earle creates people who feel real; impulsive children, stressed mothers, kind friends, adults both helpful and threatening play their part and this gripping story has love at its centre making it an emotional and immensely satisfying read.
While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle is published by Andersen Press on 2nd June. Highly recommended.
Wonderful review Anne; yet another to add to my wish list once I’m through my chartership application 😊
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Good luck with the chartership, Veronica, it’s a lot of work for you. This lovely book will be waiting for you when you finish!
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After purchasing the book read it just in a week, Lovely heart warming story about a young lad and his dog. Easy read and I enjoyed the references to the previous book When The Sky Falls. Great books to read to your children.
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