School for Skylarks is an enchanting, moving children’s book.
I selected this novel hoping for an enjoyable story set in a school. School for Skylarks delivers on this but also on so much more, making it an exceptionally rewarding read. World War II in all its ramifications is explored: the evacuation of children; commandeering of accommodation; the war effort including knitting, nursing and aid parcels; shortages and hardships; and soldiers’ experiences of warfare – all this is mentioned in the book, not in any text-book manner but as part of a rich, authentic story. Other themes include loneliness, friendship, divorce, growing up and growing old, and running away from and facing up to trouble.
Again, please don’t think that these themes are set out in a dry or formulaic fashion. It is part of the fabric of the wonderful story of Lyla Spence, whom we meet at the age of eleven when she is left at the home of her eccentric, superb Great-Aunt Ada. The wonderful household at Furlongs, including a butler with a wooden leg, a stuffed armadillo and a ferret called Bucket, are soon joined by Garden Hill School for Girls (thanks to Lyla’s backfiring machinations). The school scenes are beautifully drawn, with Lyla experiencing some of the common ups and downs of school life, including trying to make friends and being ostracised, and we also read magical scenes of how Violet the horse comes to live on the first floor of the house, and of how the girls are taught to mark their teachers for their enthusiasm and skills.
Lyla is a furious, infuriating, engaging character and I hope to meet her again. I will seek out more novels by Sam Angus, and I will recommend School for Skylarks to all.
I received this ebook free from NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Books. I gave it 5 stars.
School for Skylarks was published in the UK on 27 July 2017.