A mystical novel about three siblings finding, then losing, then finding their ways home again.
In the middle of the Blitz, 10-year-old Evelyn Hapwell imagines “a haven of silence and golden light,” wishing to go “Anywhere but here.” She and her two siblings, Philippa and Jamie, are magically summoned to the Woodlands, greeted by a majestic stag named Cervus, who tells the children that “a Woodlands heart always finds its way home.” This refrain is repeated throughout the novel, as it alternates between the children’s adventures in the Woodlands (war, peace, negotiations with corrupt royalty) and their subsequent attempts to readjust to normal life when Cervus sends them back to London. Five and a half years of their experiences collapse when they’re transported back to the middle of the bombing they had escaped, their parents none the wiser. Evelyn, who believes that hers is truly a Woodlands heart, struggles to cope, whereas Jamie and Philippa are happier to be back home. Halfway through, the focus switches from traumatized Evelyn to cool, collected, and competent Philippa, who is a far more intriguing character with a more strongly realized plot than her sister. Main characters are white and there is significant ethnic diversity in secondary characters.
The slightly lackluster fantasy at the center of this novel provides an interesting perspective on war, trauma, and recovery. (Fiction. 13-17)