When the Sky Falls (Hardcover)

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When the Sky Falls By Phil Earle Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

Set in a British town during WWII, this emotionally gripping work of historical fiction tells the story of 12-year-old Joseph, who’s sent to live with a stranger, Mrs. F, when his father goes off to war. Joseph, angry and unhappy, immediately clashes with Mrs. F, not particularly fond of children and struggling with her own secrets and scars, who loves only the run-down zoo she oversees and its silverback gorilla, Adonis. The intersection of these three lives forms the heart of a compassionate story of war, loss, and finding redemption in unlikely places.

— Kathy Herbst


A boy and a gorilla create an unbelievable bond in this powerful WWII tale for young readers, for fans of Alan Gratz and Michael Morpugo.

“A wonderful story of hurt, kindness, and what it means to be human in an inhumane world.” -The Times of London, Children's Book of the Year

In 1940, with his father off to war, Joseph is sent on a train out of his British town into the care of Mrs. F., a gruff woman with no great fondness for children. But he soon discovers her softer side when she takes him to the rundown city zoo and he learns she is the only one who ever checks in on it.

Many of the animals have escaped, been released, or have sadly starved . . . but not Adonis, a huge silverback gorilla. Adonis is strong and ferocious-and a danger to the whole city if a bomb should fall and damage the fence that keeps him in. But as Joseph struggles in his new school and starts to spend more time at the zoo, he finds, unexpectedly, Adonis becoming a loyal new friend.

From acclaimed author Phil Earle comes a touching historical fiction story of how a boy and a gorilla find redemption in each other amid the toughest of circumstances.

About the Author

Phil Earle was born and raised in the north of England and is the author of twenty acclaimed, award-winning books for children and teenagers. He has worked as a caretaker, a drama therapist, a bookseller, and a publisher, and loves talking at schools and festivals around the world. He lives on the side of a very steep hill with his partner, their five children and two dogs.

Praise For…

“An extraordinary story with historical and family truth at its heart, that tells us as much about the present as the past. Deeply felt, movingly written; a remarkable achievement.” —Michael Morpugo, author of War Horse

“I knew I was going to love it from the opening lines.” —Printz-winning author Marcus Sedgwick

“Phil Earle writes from the heart: a story about love and friendship and how animals can connect people in the darkest of times and allow them to heal.” —Gill Lewis, author of Wild Wings

“Complex, dark, intense and mysterious, When the Sky Falls is an astounding work of fiction. The characters have the knotty awkwardness of real people, and the whole book has that unfakeable feeling of truth.” —Anthony McGowen, Carnegie Medal-winning author of Lark

"This is a story that will have tweens captivated by true world events from the past that are also pertinent to current times. . . . Recommended for all collections." - School Library Journal, starred review

"A gripping wartime story that moves the soul." - Booklist, starred review

“Equal parts gripping and emotionally devastating, Earle's (The Bubble Wrap Boy) detail-rich novel explores the healing power of hard-won interspecies friendship amid a harrowing depiction of wartime grief and resilience.” —Publishers Weekly

“The novel leans heavily into the theme of personal relationships and is suitably action packed.” —School Library Connection

“Earle has readers rooting for stubborn Joseph, charmed by his new friend, Syd, and touched by Adonis' impressive strength and depth of feeling. . . . An unusual, moving war story with excellent writing and compelling characters.” —Kirkus Reviews

““A wonderful story of hurt, kindness, and what it means to be human in an inhumane world.”” —The Times of London

Product Details
ISBN: 9781547609307
ISBN-10: 1547609303
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 320
Language: English