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When the Sky Falls

Phil Earle
Andersen Press
Age 9-11

It is 1941 and while most children are sent out of cities into country, Joseph is sent to London and into the care of Mrs F,  a strong, caring, self-contained woman, preoccupied with her fight to keep her zoo with its remaining animals open.  Joseph is angry and anxious about his dad who has left him to fight for his country. Gradually his feelings change, and he discovers what it means to connect, care, and be cared for.

Young readers meet an excellent cast of characters, including an appealing  gorilla called Adonis in this moving and dramatic war time story which gives lots for children and adults to talk and think about together.

Watch a trailer


Talk about the story

Talk together about:
▪︎ Which character you find most interesting
▪︎ Which scene was most memorable?
▪︎ Something that surprised you
▪︎ The feelings of the different characters at different points in the story
▪︎ What would you both like to happen after the story ends?

Things to make and do

Draw a scene from the story
Suggest your child choose a scene from the story, which has stayed with them to illustrate.

Make a poster to save Adonis
Give your child a large piece of paper and pens. Imagining they are Syd or Joseph they could make a poster to save Adonis the gorilla when he is under threat in the story.

Be a reporter
With one of you as a reporter and another as of the characters from the story Mrs F, Joseph or Syd role play an interview about what happened to Adonis and the zoo or, alternatively what happened at Joseph and Syd’s school and his encounters with Bert the bully and Mr Gryce the head teacher.

See our print-off activity book with some of these ideas and other activities

Find out more

Find out more about author Phil Earle Phil Earle – Front – Phil Earle

Read another book set in wartime by Phil Earle While the Storm Rages

Phil Earle has also written books for younger children, including:
Demolition Dad
Superhero Street
Super Dad’s Day Off

Read another story set during World War Two:
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll

Listen to Phil Earle speak about the background to the book here A Vlog from Phil Earle all about When The Sky Falls – YouTube

Read an article about London Zoo during World War two
ZSL London Zoo during World War Two | Find out about humans and gorillas
Gorillas and Humans – Gorilla Facts and Information (

Find out about more gorillas  CBBC – ROAR Clips, The Gorilla
Gorillas: What is being done to save them? – CBBC Newsround

Find out more about London during the Blitz
London: The Blitz, September 1940–June 1941 | Historic England
London Blitz Facts | London Blitz WWII | DK Find Out