On the Bookshelf...

The Valley of Lost Secrets

Lesley Parr

When Jimmy is evacuated to a small village in Wales, it couldn't be more different from London. Green, quiet and full of strangers, he instantly feels out of place. But then he finds a skull hidden in a tree, and suddenly the valley is more frightening than the war. Who can Jimmy trust? His brother is too little; his best friend has changed. Finding an ally in someone he never expects, they set out together to uncover the secrets that lie with the skull. What they discover will change Jimmy – and the village – forever. A mesmerising mystery about bravery and brotherhood from an outstanding new voice.

The Valley of Lost Secrets is a gem of a book. Set in the steep Welsh mining valleys, it hides away a story that is both comforting and exciting in equal quantities.

It's a slow burner of a book told with a gentle voice that evokes books of the past. Similarities with Carries War and Goodnight Mister Tom are a little unfair for a debut author, yet this book holds up to the comparison. Indeed this book sits along these two book very well and deserves to be talked in their illustrious company.

Being evacuated from war torn London, Jimmy and his brother find themselves with their friends in a South Wales mining village, complete with a name with more 'L's than they know how to pronounce. Jimmy finds it hard to cope with the upheaval, yet his brother copes better taking the transformation with ease.

Luckily, Jimmy and Ronnie are billeted with Mr and Mrs Thomas. Although not a conventional couple, even being treated as pariahs by villagers, they settle slowly into village life. A chance discovery of a skull in a tree leads them into a mystery though.

This is a wonderful story, slowly picking up the story in a way that mirrors Jimmy's settling in process. It tells of friendship and betrayal, of finding out who your true friends are. Jimmy slowly adapts to the new normal and you heart goes out to the boy who finds life so difficult.

To say I loved this story is an understatement. It build on me and the final few pages are very emotional. A book that would suit 7 to 11 year olds but would be loved across the generations. A great book for a class read whilst studying the war. A true modern classic.

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Review by
AJ Steel
June 11, 2024

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