Unlike most people reviewing this I have never read any of Noel Streatfeild's children's books. I was drawn to the book because the other two Persephone Classics I have read have both been wonderful, and I am pleased to say this did not disappoint at all either. The book charts the effect of WWII on the Wiltshire family, which, when we first meet it on a summer holiday in Eastbourne, consists of four happy children (Laurel, Tony, Kim and Tuesday) with a caring and wise industrialist father (Alex), a charming and beautiful but narcissistic mother (Lena), ably assisted by an loving old nanny, and a perceptive young governess (Miss Glover). The outbreak of war breaks up the family as the children are first sent to stay with Alex's parents, and then later to boarding schools. Unfortunately, the cover of the 2009 edition gives away a key turning point in the plot - I wish I could have read the book without knowing it. This is a book for adults: although it is largely about children, it is not suitable for anyone under about fourteen or fifteen.
Saplings follows the development of all four children, though we perhaps care most about the two eldest, and Laurel in particular, but we also get to know a range of aunts and uncles.
Nobody reading this novel can fail to understand its main lessons: that children need a stable home or base; that adults should not dispose of children without consulting their wishes, or at least explaining to them why they are doing what they are doing. However, "Saplings" is far from being overly didactic: not the least of the pleasures of this superbly insightful novel about children, is that one of the characters is a novelist who is famed for her understanding of children - but who in practice is fairly hopeless with dealing with them.
In short, highly recommended, one of the best books I've read in a long time, and one I shall probably reread sooner rather than later.