Review of VALENTINE JOE by Rebecca Stevens, published by Chicken House


A sweet and spooky timeslip story for 9+

Fourteen year old Rose has a lot of issues to contend with since Dad died. But her trip to Ypres with Grandad  brings unexpected joys and sorrows. As she learns about the shocking toll of the First World War, Rose visits the “neat rows of identical gravestones” and notices the grave of one particular young soldier, Valentine Joe, who was one of the youngest known soldiers to die there. Soon Rose stumbles upon a side street, and slips back in time. Rose encounters Joe, and discovers his story first hand. She witnesses  the scary and sad times facing the young soldiers in the Great War. Surprisingly, romance blooms and Joe finds a special place in Rose’s heart forever.

Rebecca Stevens tells this story in such an easy, comfortable style that you glide through the story, not wanting to put it down. It’s an extremely readable text, and is absolutely perfect for teachers and parents to read aloud to youngsters. My 11 year old, described it as “very heart-felt and engaging” and he read it with relish.

Here’s an extract:

“She shivered. There was a sort of shimmer in the air and she imagined she could feel the pulse of something under her feet, like a heartbeat or the bass-line of a song heard from a long way off. It was as if the old city was lying asleep beneath the pavements, and, like Sleeping Beauty, was waiting for someone to come and wake her up.”

As a primary school teacher I would say that this is a perfect tool for introducing WW1 to Year 5 or 6: a great stimulus for a topic, and definitely just the thing for Guided Reading. There are numerous places in the story which would be ideal for modelling writing.

This will be to WW1 what Berlie Doherty’s “Street Child” is to the Victorian era, without a shadow of a doubt.

Chicken House-I hope there will be more books to come from Rebecca Stevens!

Pippa Wilson 8th May 2014


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