The Skylarks' War

Hilary McKay

The Skylarks' War
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The Skylarks' War

Hilary McKay

Winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2018

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert.  But normal life resumes each September - boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

The Skylarks' War is a beautiful story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War 1, from the award-winning Hilary McKay.


For all the children who loved The War That Saved My Life and its sequel by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, this beautiful story is an excellent addition to the genre.

Clarry and her brother live a dreary London life with their disengaged father. They yearn for their Cornwall summer holidays with their charming cousin at their grandparents’ house. It is the early 1900s and not only are girls deprived of an education and professional prospects as adults (unless they are servants) but Clarry also has to endure emotional negligence and loneliness, particularly when her brother is sent to boarding school. Despite all this, the delightful Clarry thrives because she is resilient and hopeful, and in her quiet way achieves her goals.

One of her first goals is to get an education, and while her father does not see her worth, other people do. Then World War I rears it tragic head and a time of uncertainty, anguish and separation begins. But it is also a time of possibility for women as the war effort needs all the help it can get and so many will get their chance to shine.

The Skylarks’ War is a terrific read and I loved every minute of it. Ages 10+

Alexa Dretzke is the assistant manager and children’s book buyer at Readings Hawthorn.

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