Of summers past

Set in the beginning of the 20th century, this book takes you into a world where girls and women are not worth considering, where are no aeroplanes or antibiotics and there is no plastic either. Imagine that!

Updated - March 06, 2023 04:31 pm IST

Published - March 06, 2023 07:11 am IST

The third book I picked up from the shelf was intriguing. The cover showed a steam engine spewing smoke into a blue summer sky and two children waving goodbye to a boy getting into a train. I opened the book and read the first few lines: More than 100 ago, in the time of gas lamps and candlelight, when shops had wooden counters and the streets were full of horses, a baby girl was born. Nobody was pleased about this, except the baby’s mother.

Whaaaattt! I said to myself, was there a time like that? Could anybody not be happy about a baby being born? I quickly scanned the pages and was surprised that indeed there was a time like that!

In case you haven’t met me before, my name is Biblidander and I am the monster that sits under your bed at night.

This will be my reading for the night, I said to myself. I spotted a packet of potato chips and a bar of chocolate on the study table. I took that too, giggling to myself thinking of Arjun’s (I am at his house tonight) reaction when he doesn’t find his snacks. I crawled under the bed and then realised I should have swiped a cushion too. But it was too late for that, as I could hear footsteps outside the door. Sure enough there he was. He jumped onto the bed and I was bumped on my head. I had to stifle my “ouch!”

I settled down with the book. It was called The Skylarks War written by Hilary Mckay. It is a beautiful story about two children Peter and Clarry who grow up without a mother and a father who doesn’t care. The best part of the book for the reader as well as Peter and Clarry are the summers they spend in Cornwall with their grandparents and their charming cousin Rupert.

When September arrives, it’s back to boarding school for Rupert and Peter. For Clarry, it’s back home to a lonely life with an absentee father. But she does not sit around and mope. There is always something happening and the arrival of the post brings a lot of excitement into her world. The other important characters in the book are Vanessa and Simon.

This humdrum life is disrupted when war breaks out. Clarry is worried when Rupert is sent off to the front. Are the idyllic skylark summers coming to an end? There is a lot of information on World War I and, if you are not clued up on it, this is a good way to get interested.

Hilary McKay won the Costa Children’s Book Award for this book, in 2018. All I can say the book definitely deserved the prize.

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