Book Reviews

Book Review: When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle

Publisher: Anderson Press

Genre: Children’s, Middle Grade

Release Date: 3rd June 2021

Format reviewed: Paperwork own copy (a gift)



War is raging.

And one angry boy has been sent to the city, where bombers rule the skies. There, Joseph will live with Mrs F, a gruff woman with no fondness for children. Her only loves are the rundown zoo she owns and its mighty silverback gorilla, Adonis.

As the weeks pass, bonds deepen and secrets are revealed, but if the bombers set Adonis rampaging free, will either of them be able to end the life of the one thing they truly love?

Inspired by a true story.

My Review

I would give this 10 stars if I could.


‘When the Sky Falls’ by Phil Earle is just incredible. It’s a gorgeous piece of storytelling and I can honestly say this is my favourite read this year – in fact in a long while – and I’ve read a lot of books I’ve really loved. But this is the first book hangover I’ve had in ages.

The characters, the complexity, the love, and the rage are all so engaging and it’s so beautifully captured in this World War II story. It’s a true example of how literature can capture life and humanity – the raw pain of injustice, the struggle to keep going, the ache of loss and the way that hope and love can still offer a way out of anything. I’m making it sound really heavy and I guess it is in many ways, but it’s written with a lightness of touch – a simple story with characters that come to feel like friends, all set in a backdrop we know well but with a whole new take on it.

The fact it’s based on a true story only adds to its beauty. I can see why the author sat on this idea for a few years and how the fact it was waiting for him after a personal trauma has clearly shaped the quality of this book.

It took me a little while to move on from that last page and it’s still with me months later.

I definitely recommend this middle grade novel to children, teachers and parents everywhere! Joseph and his journey will capture the hearts of readers young and old, and I really hope this book continues to get the recognition it deserves.

I’ll be checking out more books by Phil Earle now.

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