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The Skylarks’ War

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,665 ratings  ·  345 reviews
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 f ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Macmillan Children’s Books (first published May 3rd 2018)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,665 ratings  ·  345 reviews

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Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy well written children's stories about families and loss
This story engaged us from the start, in fact the first part of this book that covers the characters childhood was perfect. We started with the birth of Clarry and then with the loss of one parent and the other three not being interested the three children are pretty much on their own. Such real characters, wonderful descriptions, happiness, sadness and such humour. We loved the descriptions of the perfect summers enjoyed by Rupert and his cousins Peter and Clarry with grandparents who also didn ...more
Sean Smart
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing and moving story. My wife read it first and couldn’t put it down. She kindly passed it on to me and I read it in a day. I am a history teacher and often have issues with books set in the World Wars as the writers tend to make obvious errors but this was beautifully written and I felt captured the mood of the war years.

I was moved almost to tears in places. It reminded me of so many amazing books like; War Horse, the Railway Children and maybe Swallows and Amazons. With All quiet
Lydia Bailey
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is written for 9-12 year olds but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! It has won so many awards I really wanted to see what it was all about. I knew I’d love it for the Cornwall references alone, but it is also a beautifully written account of a young family who all become teenagers during the Second World War & who are torn apart in various ways, not just the obvious ones. Many of the issues are pretty deep & would soar over the heads of the average 9 year old but written in such a way that i ...more
These are the kids from Binny in Secret, right? I’m not making that up?

Anyway, this is a short book, but it FEELS big. It also feels old school, the way it follows Clarry from childhood to adulthood. I miss books like that.

It also doesn’t pull it’s WWI punches, wow.

I recommend it.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is so meticulously plotted that I don't quite know how to untangle what didn't work for me from what absolutely did.

I'll start by saying that, as a war book, this isn't as successful to me as The Road Home or Rilla of Ingleside. It's too contemporary for that. Something about it screams "historical fiction" instead of "product of its time." Part of that might be Clarry, who's oblivious for a good chunk of the book, which blunts its impact. Part of that is the way the book tries to be every
Very much a deserved winner of any book award. Slow and steady in pace, Skylark's War gently promenades us through the early years of our protagonist, Clarry as she spends her youth between her insular and deeply self-centred father (I realise there is more here than McKay lets on) and her grandparents on the coast. As we peer at this world over Clarry's innocent and ignorant shoulder, we see it change and darken with the advent of war and the loss of those that she loves. Relationships change a ...more
Jessica Gilmore
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Occasionally, very occasionally, you read a book that slips so perfectly into the canon that it seems as if it was always there. That you read it as a child, reread it over and over, until it forms part of you along with Anne Shirley and Jo March, the Fossil sisters, Jo Bettany and Veronica Weston and Nicola Marlowe... the Skylarks' War is such a book.
Clarry's birth coincides with her mother's death, and her father, who only misses out on tyranny through indifference, thinks it's a shame she did
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
'Clarry was 3 days old when her mother died.'

The Skylarks' War is a poignant narrative following the lives of Clarissa ( Clarry), her brother Peter and cousin Rupert. Growing up at a time when the world outside was amidst turmoil, the three and their friends build happy memories together that are at stake during the world war. The 'pity of war' that Owen once wrote about has been brought out once again from the perspective of a kids growing into adults. Although the book does get a bit draggy o
Brona's Books
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
...I quickly realised why this book had won The Costa and was amazed it hadn't won more - yet.

Clarry, Peter and their older cousin Rupert are characters to take into your heart forever. Told through the innocent childhood eyes of Clarry, McKay is able to tackle some heavy issues. Family dysfunction, bullying, sexism and feminist issues, homosexuality and the hardships of war are all in this book. McKay hints at stuff, leads us up to a point, but she never tells us or explains. She leaves us to w
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hilary McKay's storytelling is so very lovely; the structure of her sentences so supple and clear; her characters so utterly real. You don't have to want to be there with them, you are. This is called Love to Everyone in the US; but I like the British title better.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is what a children's book ought to look like.
It's probably a very good thing I don't have children, as I would immediately have been like, "Here, child of mine, I REQUIRE you to immediately read this excellent book absolutely brimming with parental neglect, self-inflicted injuries, the horrors of the Great War, tragic unrequited love and all the pains and joys of growing up too soon and looking out for each other because you cannot trust the grown-ups to do it - yes, yes, don't worry, it's billed as a children's book and it has wonderful f ...more
jenny ☆
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
Whoa. Okay. This book.

The Skylarks’ War is a beautiful children’s novel, the latter half of which is set against the backdrop of WWII. We follow Clarry Penrose, her beloved brother Peter and favourite cousin Rupert, from childhood to adulthood while World War II is raging.

Where to begin with unpicking this book? First of all, the prose is absolutely, gloriously beautiful. From the descriptions of Clarry's 'Skylark summers' in Cornwall to the gutting depictions of the front lines. One particular
Marcy Thomas
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews
This is a difficult one because I have two friend who love and adore this book, even to the point where they cried over certain scenes and swear it is the best thing since slice bread, so for me to admit that I did not like it at all is probably going to get me killed. When you do come with your pitchforks, please be gentle with me...

I think the fact that I went into this with such high expectations didn’t help either. I’d been hearing great things, only for my excitement to die down the more I
I feel like each book of Hilary McKay’s is a gift to the twelve-year-old I wish I'd been. (I actually don't think I would have had the sophistication at that age to appreciate her stories adequately.) She gives us a cast of earnest, messy characters, often caught in difficult family situations, who seem to thrive on their shared devotion of each other.

I believe this is her first historical fiction, and while we got more than a glimpse of horrors of the Western Front during the Great War, it was
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Darn you, Hilary McKay! You made me cry.
First, I love McKay's writing and will follow her anywhere. When her Binny books first wove in a historical thread, I was completely surprised and intrigued. Now here is the story of the Penrose cousins, front and center, which answers all the questions first posed in "Binny in Secret." Hilarious, touching, tragic, and hopeful: it's all there. McKay's trademarks are there, too: dysfunctional parents (for which she makes no excuses), kids with a full range
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think I am in love with Peter
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Two words...Absolutely. Marvellous!
Stephen Connor
This book is some feat, beginning in 1902 and finishing after the end of World War I.

It largely follows Peter and Clarry, siblings whose mother died 3 days after Clarry’s birth. Their father never seems to recover from this and is a distant character, a figure in the shadows and one not at all aligned with his children’s wishes. They love him just the same.

Peter injures his leg when he is young, meaning he cannot enlist at the outbreak of war. He is studious, a fatherly figure for his younger
Louise / Daisy May Johnson
Endlessly beautiful, in that way that only Hilary McKay can be, The Skylarks War is perfect. I thought it might be on page ninety-seven, and then when I finished it and let out a great gasping sob at that ending, I knew it was. This is rich, wild and lovely storytelling, and reading it is like reading something you have known your entire life. I wonder sometimes at how McKay can do this, and then I realise that I don't need to wonder. I simply need to be glad that she can, and does, and that boo ...more
Nick Swarbrick
A loveable book, and one to return to, this has at its heart the YA author’s device of half-telling the adults’ story. A distant father turns out to have lots of pulls on his emotions, not just guilt when his wife dies so shortly after giving birth to the protagonist; some of the adults, too, can see more of the difficulties faced by “mummy’s boy” Simon; the strained relationships across class boundaries broken by the disruption of WWI are seen as opportunities by some, as others by threats and ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so much and can't wait to read some of the other books by this author. The characters grew dear to me and I was rooting for all of them. The emotional trajectory moves from humor to practicality to heartbreak. It is a truly fine read!
Katy Noyes
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Quite a poetic, understated but moving WWI family story.

This takes a serious look at the impact of war on various members of a slightly eccentric family. An unwanted daughter and elder brother grow up with a distracted father, visiting their cousin during summers in Cornwall, both struggling to find their own paths in education and then ultimately into the Great War.

Clarry and Peter make an incredibly likeable pair. Clarry is ultimately our protagonist, though Peter and cousin Rupert also featur
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
A charming, old-fashioned family story. Everything about the book is strong – the characters, the historical setting, and the lovely writing, but the key word is “old-fashioned.” Think Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, and Little House in the Big Woods for comparison books. The first two are over 100 years old, and the third is getting close. And here is where my rating slips from 4 to 3.5 stars. Anne and Heidi and Laura are so full of sparkle and love that the old-fashioned has become classic. Clarr ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
In some ways, I found this book delightful. A few of the characters were marvelous, especially Clarry. The setting are so real - the joyless narrow house, the schools the children went to. I mostly enjoyed this book as a grown up, but it bothers me that the publisher would say this is for ages 9-12. I wouldn't give it to anyone under 14. The horrors of war, complex relationships, and characters that make poor decisions make this a book best suited for mature readers.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Go get this book and read it. It is so hard for me to find a YA book that moves me at all these days, but this one is it. It is so so beautiful and touching and the character development is so impressive. It handles war in a way that shows its terribleness but doesn’t overdo it and could be handled by younger kids. I don’t know how many students in my class(6th grade on level) that would devour it, but for the special hearted, it would be lovely.
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'll be the odd-ball out here and give this book 2 stars, it was just ok for me. Forgettable
Gabrielle Schwabauer
Profound in its understatement, as always, though a little more simplistic than a lot of McKay's other writing. I don't think this one will hold my heart the way the Cassons or even Binny do, but I appreciate McKay's consistent ability to capture truth and depict relationships within the confines of the everyday, through quick snapshots that somehow paint a wide swath of color.

I love Peter.
Listened to this with my daughter. We both loved it. Some serious storylines and not always an easy read. Maybe not one for young children.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'd heard so many good things about this book before picking it up that I knew I was in for something special when I finally did. Achieving the Costa Book Award for the children's category also added to my eagerness to read it. It didn't disappoint at all, and gave me a wonderfully nostalgic feeling throughout, not just because of the historical setting that was so perfectly summoned on the page, but for the writing style itself. I'm not usually too fond of novels that are mostly telling or summ ...more
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NZ Intermediate S...: The Skylarks' War 3 12 Oct 14, 2019 06:14PM  

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Hilary McKay was born in Boston, Lincolnshire and is the eldest of four girls. From a very early age she read voraciously and grew up in a household of readers. Hilary says of herself as a child "I anaesthetised myself against the big bad world with large doses of literature. The local library was as familiar to me as my own home."

After reading Botany and Zoology at St. Andrew's University Hilary

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