The valley of lost secrets by Lesley Parr

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To be evacuated during wartime would have been very difficult for children. Jimmy and his younger brother, Ronnie, are sent to a Welsh mining village in September 1939 and must adjust to many changes. For Jimmy, the responsibility for his brother, the unwanted change and the insecurity he feels makes for an unpleasant beginning in his new 'home'. His resentment is palpable. And his hosts Alun and Gwen seem to have a secret that has made their lives very difficult in the small Welsh town. Ronnie soon settles into his new home, but it isn't until Jimmy discovers a skeleton, finds a new friend and fends off a local bully that he too feels that being in Wales is a good place to be.

This is a beautifully written historical story essentially about the love of brothers and how love and friendship can be found even when you are not looking for it. Because of its war-time evacuation setting, this will be unfamiliar to most young Australian readers, but the story will resonate as it evokes an era of pain and suffering that even children had to endure. With an underlying pathos and an element of fear and uncertainty because of their hosts' secret struggles, the mystery of this story is intriguing. I will be actively recommending this debut novel to readers aged 10-14.

Themes: World War II, Evacuation, Wales, Brothers, Secrets.

Carolyn Hull