Reviews /

Angel of Grasmere

Authored by Tom Palmer
Published by HarperCollins Publishers

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As a Key Stage 2 teacher I am always on the lookout for books that not only engage young readers but also educate them about significant historical events. Tom Palmer’s Angel of Grasmere is an exemplary piece of historical fiction that accomplishes both, making it a highly recommended addition to any Key Stage 2 classroom. It is a gripping piece of historical fiction that brings to life the tension and challenges of World War II through the eyes of young Tarn. Set in the picturesque yet perilous English Lake District in July 1940, the novel intertwines personal loss with the broader horrors of war.

The story begins with Tarn grappling with the loss of her brother, who was lost during the chaotic retreat at Dunkirk. This personal tragedy sets the stage for a tale rich in emotional depth and historical detail. Tarn and her friends, amidst the fear of a Nazi invasion, become aware of mysterious acts of kindness happening around their community. These acts are attributed to a mysterious figure whom the locals dub the ‘Angel of Grasmere’​.​

The narrative structure alternates between Tarn’s perspective and the enigmatic ‘man’ performing these good deeds, adding layers of intrigue and empathy as the characters navigate their wartime reality. As the identity of the Angel is revealed, Tarn must confront new truths and find a way to reconcile her grief with the unexpected goodness around her.

Tom Palmer excels in creating relatable and deeply human characters. Tarn’s journey from sorrow to a renewed sense of hope is both touching and inspiring. The inclusion of secondary characters like Peter, the farmer’s son, and Eric, an evacuee, adds richness to the narrative, highlighting themes of friendship, resilience, and the complexity of human emotions during times of crisis. He

Palmer masterfully weaves themes of friendship and resilience throughout the story. As Tarn and her friends navigate the uncertainties of wartime Britain, they form strong bonds that help them cope with their fears and losses. These friendships are central to the story, demonstrating to young readers the importance of support and camaraderie during tough times. The character of the Angel of Grasmere, who performs anonymous acts of kindness, further underscores the theme of altruism and community spirit, offering valuable lessons in empathy and bravery​.

The setting of the Lake District is vividly brought to life in Tom Palmer’s writing. The descriptions of the natural landscape provide a beautiful and contrasting backdrop to the grim realities of war. This not only enriches the narrative but also introduces children to a significant region in England, potentially sparking interest in geography and local history. The detailed references to the surrounding areas add an authentic touch, making the story more immersive and educational for young readers​.

Angel of Grasmere is a valuable resource for teaching history and literacy. Its engaging plot and well-developed characters ensure that children remain captivated while learning about an important era. The book also promotes critical thinking and empathy, as students reflect on the actions and motivations of the characters. Given its historical accuracy, emotional depth, and educational value, I highly recommend Angel of Grasmere for Key Stage 2 readers. It is not only a compelling read but also a tool for teaching resilience, the significance of history, and the beauty of the English countryside.