Straight away we’re into the action. It’s 1940 and twins Patrick and Jimmy are causing mayhem on the bus. Passengers think the boys have been scrumping but when Jimmy opens his shirt … a couple of frogs escape! Next, the reader gets to meet 12 year old Nathan in 2012 as he’s moving out of London and in to the country. This is followed by a rather traumatic bombing in 1940 and Jimmy’s mother making the decision for all her children to be evacuated to the country. The first night Nathan is in his new home he is woken by sobbing. On investigation he finds one of the attic rooms looking totally different and occupied by Jimmy.
What follows is a very moving story of what life is like for Jimmy as an evacuee and how Nathan (who is also going through similar changes but with the support of a loving family) affects Jimmy’s life. At Nathan’s new school they are studying WW2 and in the school archives there’s a photograph of Jimmy and also a newspaper article that turns Nathan’s involvement into a race to save his life.
Both environments are very well written. I could just imagine myself joining in the skipping game and hiding under the table in 1940. In 2012 it was easy to feel myself getting frustrated with my Maths homework and flinging my book across the room! What I think is more important though, is the depth to both Jimmy’s and Nathan’s feelings. How Jimmy feels as he leaves his mum, waiting in the church hall at their destination and seeing his brothers and sisters being chosen – how Nathan feels about leaving his life in London, his friends, his school, the leisure things he does … are very sensitively explored.
The pace of the plot is fast and I really enjoyed the way the two worlds came together. The tension at one point is almost unbearable. I enjoyed watching the developing friendship between the two boys. I must say that Nathan is very creative in trying to get back to 1940 The reader can’t help but feel heartbroken at Jimmy’s plight both at home and school … and frustrated and powerless against Mrs Cribbens.
At the end of the story we find out from the author that certain events happened in reality. I think this story is a wonderful memoriam to her father-in-law. Shalini Boland has created an amazing story around his memories. Furthermore, I think A Shirtful of Frogs should be a recommended read for Year 5/6 as part of studying the topic of WW2! I would also recommend for any YA going through change in their lives because of the way Boland deals with this sensitively by showing that change is not a negative thing.
I would like to thank the author for providing a Kindle copy in exchange for an honest review.