The Valley of Lost Secrets

Written by Lesley Parr
Review by Valerie Loh

Twelve-year-old Jimmy and his naïve younger brother, Ronnie, are evacuated from wartime London to the safety of a small rural mining village in Wales. Surrounded by strangers in this tight-knit community, Jimmy is reluctant to bond with the kind couple who house them. Jimmy is homesick, protective of Ronnie, and is challenged by his unreliable friend and a surprising new ally. When he discovers a skull hidden in a tree his world becomes scarier as the mystery is unravelled.

This is a beautifully written fast-paced story that grips the heart with the myriad of emotions these rehomed children experience. Poignant for today’s young reader, as the wartime drama highlights the horror, and the effect global events have on every aspect of these young people’s lives. The setting is easy to visualise, as is the contrast with the city life they have left behind. The village culture and pace are so different from what these children are used to, which is another divide for some of the villagers and Jimmy to bridge, understand and build trust.

Many topics are addressed as Jimmy’s story is revealed, such as: bullying, bigotry, anxiety, loss, the burden of secrets kept, and changing friendships. All are sensitively explored as the adventure unfolds.

The totally credible characters capture reader empathy as the issues are explored honestly, but ultimately the book leaves the reader with understanding as prejudices are overcome, lies are uncovered and the mystery of a death that has shadowed a life for years is explained and resolved.

This heartfelt novel entertains young and older readers alike, leaving a lasting impression of hope. I think it will do so for many years to come. Highly recommended.