When the sky falls

It’s 1941 during the Second World War. While everyone else seems to be evacuated to the countryside, 12-year-old Bob is sent from rural Whales to stay with his gran’s friend, Mrs D, in the city. She’s a gruff, unfriendly woman and he’s an angry boy who kicks out at everything and feels totally abandoned.

Now Bob also finds himself in the centre of the Blitz, where bombs rain down every night. The only thing Mrs D cares about is the rundown zoo that she owns, and particularly a huge silverback gorilla called Adonis. Adonis and Bob at first seem to take an immediate dislike to each other but over the course of the story, their bonds deepen to a remarkable relationship.

Bob has other battles with school, in particular bullying and his serious troubles with reading. Like so many children of his generation, his dyslexia is not recognised or understood.

This is a beautifully written historical adventure story that will take readers on a very emotional and exciting journey. The pace is fast and the feelings run high. The reader ends up fighting for Bob and Adonis all the way – and this book is almost impossible to put down. The historical details are brilliantly researched and the basic story of Adonis and what happened to other big wild animals in zoos during the war is based on real-life events.s chapter 2 Bobhad no idea how far from the station the woman’s home was, but he was starting to wonder whether they would reach it before the war ended.
The bus crawled through the streets, feeling every bump and hole with a shudder that travelled through its wheels and up into the bodies of its passengers.
Joseph fizzed and bubbled, his turned head resting on the window, adding to the vibrations.
He’d never seen anything like it: never been in the city before, any city, but in his head, it had never looked like this. He’d expected tall buildings, stretching into the sky, all brick and stone and permanent, not rubble and smoke and carnage.
His eyes fell on the first floor of one building, the front wall obliterated, fragments of chairs and tables scattered: a single framed picture somehow clinging stoically to a nail. It was a painting of a tropical beach: paradise, smack-bang in the middle of hell.
The house next to it was equally shambolic, and no less surreal. Again, the front wall had surrendered, but there was no furniture to be seen, only a capsized wooden box, from which poured Christmas decorations. Baubles sat wedged beside fallen timbers: stray pieces of tinsel blinked and shone. Bob prowled his room.
In the hours he had spent up there, he hadn’t bothered to
try and sleep. There was no point. It was too cold, for starters. The room was nothing but a small box, with an iron bedstead and an upturned orange box for a bedside table. To
Joseph it felt like a coffin with the lid nailed down.
He didn’t want to be here: in this room, this house, this city, but like everything in life, it seemed he had no choice in how it played out. At the same time, deep in his gut, he knew
he was to blame.
He did not like this woman. How dare she suggest Gran
was decent or caring? She was neither of those things. If she were decent, he’d not be here. He’d still be at home, left to do as he pleased. It had suited him fine, the way things were, and if it bothered her? Well, it just showed her weakness. He paced harder, and heavier, the room shrinking with every step until he felt he could touch each wall merely by stretching out his arms.
He made for the window and wrenched open the curtains, hopeful that the sight of outside (as alien a landscape as it was), might make him feel less trapped. But there was nothing to see, quite literally, as every inch of the glass had been covered in blackout paintThree mouthfuls in, he felt her eyes on him, frowning, of course. Was her face permanently fixed in that position, or was she saving it just for him?
‘What?’ he said.
‘When was the last time you ate?’
He shrugged. ‘Yesterday probably.’ Though he knew
exactly when and what it was: an apple stolen off a stall before he got on the train. His grandmother had made him a sandwich, but he’d dumped it in the bin without her seeing. He didn’t want anything she’d made.
Anyway, he thought, he had porridge now. And although it didn’t have enough milk or sweetness to it, he didn’t care, and he fell on it again, ramming it into his mouth until his pupils dilated. He was careful not to let her see though – after all, the woman didn’t care about him. She was on his gran’s side. She’d made that only too clear.
‘You might as well have mine too,’ she said, spooning her porridge into his bowl.
‘What’s wrong with it?’ he spat through a full mouth.
‘Nothing. Not hungry, that’s all. When you’ve finished, you can get your hands in that bucket. There’s suds already in there, and a brush. Your clothes will think it’s their birthday.’
But Joseph had no idea how to go about getting clothes clean. And even when he tried (just to get her to leave him alone) she found fault in his every move.
‘Don’t be wringing it out like that, not till you’ve soaked it properly . . .

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