The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters, Nosy Crow, 2012.
From the publisher:
Since the death of her mother, Hannah’s family life has been chaotic. Ignored by their dad, who’s absorbed as much by his grief as by the challenges of running their hopelessly dilapidated farm, Hannah and her brothers and sisters are left to fend for themselves. While the younger kids run riot round the farm, Hannah decides she wants to do something special, something that connects her to her theatre-loving mum. She’s going to write and put on a play in the overgrown hen house she’s found in a remote corner of the farm. Then the farm is threatened with demolition, and Hannah – with her best friend – have to find a way to save it. Perhaps one of the props they’re using in the play is valuable after all..
Helen Peters has drawn on her own childhood on a farm, and her memories of writing and acting out her own plays, to create this lively story with a very convincing rural setting. Peters depicts a cast of strong and believable characters, from Hannah’s overworked and under pressure father, to her stroppy 10-year-old sister Martha, who soon proves herself to be a true ‘drama queen’. With a hint of Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain, there is much for aspiring young actors to enjoy here, but this hugely enjoyable story of family, friendship and country life will also have a broad appeal for children at upper primary level.
What do I think about this book?
Sometimes it feels as if the only fiction being written is mystical, magical fantasy. Finding a great piece of realistic fiction is a joy. This book is delightful and feels absolutely timeless – it is a story about modern life, but so gadget free, it won’t date. Helen Peters brings the farm, where this story is set, to life so realistically and vividly you can almost smell the cow dung! As for the tension in the story, I felt it physically – really willing the situation to change as I was reading. One of the strong themes running through this story is that of friendship and loyalty. This book will be great for kids 10+, years 5/6 and into Middle School.
Anyone wanting to read a great review of this book should check out this wonderful article from the Guardian here:
- Pop! by Catherine Bruton (story about 3 mismatched kids who want to change their lives through an X-factor style reality show…laughs and poignancy!)