The Secret Starling

I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle, illustrated by Amy Geyer.

I didn’t know what to expect from this, only that I’d heard very good things about it.

Clara lives with her Uncle Edward in Braithwaite Manor, where he follows the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ line of child care, except as far as he’s concerned they shouldn’t be seen that much either and ‘care’ might be stretching things.

With limited dealings of the outside world, no friends (except Cook) and a boring routine of governesses, staying out of the way and meagre meals, Clara’s life is turned upside down when first her Uncle abandons her in the nearby village and then a boy her own age turns up expecting to stay. Coupled with the house being put up for sale, secrets about Clara’s family coming out if the woodwork and Cook’s wild and wonderful grandchildren turning up on the doorstep – Clara’s adventures are only just beginning.

Setting this in the 70s was inspired – modern enough to feel familiar, but old enough to have a classic feel too and be unimpeded by technology. For adult readers (even those not quite old enough for the 70s, ahem!), there’s the added bonus of bits of nostalgia – Woolworths, Lewis’ and Curly Wurlys!

Clara is fabulous – hopeful and impulsive, but also practical and determined. With Peter levelling her out somewhat they make an excellent main duo and Cook’s grandchildren only add to the excitement with horses indoors, gymnastics and wild fashion. There’s definitely a flavour of Pippi Longstocking to Amelia Ann, and to the book as a whole, which I enjoyed immensely.

I was also pleased to see the focus on male ballet dancers, both through Peter’s dreams for his future and the incorporation of famous ballet stars. It felt like a positive and encouraging message against stereotypical gender expectations without being contrived or clunky.

Whimsical and full of the joy of unbridled childhood, this is sure to capture children’s imagination as it whisks them along on its whirlwind of adventure and mystery. Wonderful.


8 thoughts on “The Secret Starling

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  1. I’m interested in this but I was a bit worried about the home education and the controlling uncle factor. I know not everyone home educates for good reasons but I was a bit worried about this one and whether it would make me anxious about perceptions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think it would, or rather I’d hope it wouldn’t. I don’t home ed but if it weren’t for other factors I’d consider it and have always thought of it as an overwhelmingly positive thing (there are of course exceptions but the same us true of schools) – I didn’t even think of the home ed factor, I know you woukd be more sensitive to I t, but this to me didn’t resd as portraying it negatively or stereotyping it (of anything, the governesses are generally shown to be good sorts who try abd inject a bit of fun where they can) The controlling uncle is the baddie of the book (well, one of them!) and it very much makes him look like the villain for keeping her quiet and indoors and obedient in a general way rather than making too much of a link to her being home schooled. It has a very Dahl/classic kids book style where everything is exagerrated a bit and I don’t think anyone would read it as a reflection of how home schooling is.
      I’m waffling and you gave to go with your gut, but I don’t think it woukd cause any anxiety or upset about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a relief, I think it was just the way someone framed it- as home education being a pivotal tool of the uncle’s abuse and I worried that was what the book was about!! You’ve put my mind at ease that it’s not a treatise about the bad parts of home education (as indeed there are occasionally selfish, prejudiced and nefarious reasons) but it seems a plot point that allows the protagonist a certain perspective and different freedom

        Liked by 1 person

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