When the Sky Falls

Written by Phil Earle
Review by Valerie Adolph

Young Joseph Palmer arrives in London when other children are being shipped out, away from the dangers of the WW2 Blitz. He does not want to be there. He is angry: at his mother for leaving him, at his father for going to fight in France, at everyone, but mostly at his inability to read. The letters in his schoolbooks dance on the page, making him the butt of cruel jokes and known as lazy and unmotivated.

Looking after him now is Mrs F, a gruff, no-nonsense woman who runs what is left of a small zoo containing only half a dozen animals, notably a huge silverback gorilla named Adonis. A connection grows between Joseph and Adonis. Joseph scrounges for food for the underfed gorilla, and trust between them grows. But Joseph knows that if a bomb should destroy the cage, the gorilla would have to be shot for the safety of the public. And the bombing is getting ever closer.

The fate of zoo animals during warfare is an uncomfortable truth seldom addressed in fiction. Nor are the effects of dyslexia often given such dramatic and immediate presentation. The combination in this novel works well in building a tense and emotionally satisfying tale that readers of all ages will find engrossing. Basing it on a true story, the author has woven into the story elements that draw in the reader with their raw truth and appeal to our deepest feelings: the need for and search for love and trust. And their fragility.

The author selects and develops his characters—especially Joseph, Adonis and Mrs F—with understanding and skill. His themes are clean and understandable without being preachy. This is a book of great beauty. A bonus in the end matter is the link https://www.american-dyslexia-association.com.