I read this to my son at bedtime and we both loved it. It was gripping at times and hard to put down. Quite moving too; I loved the section at the end where the author talks about her father-in-law's experiences as an evacuee. The time slip worked very well.
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. Also recommended for any adults who enjoy YA novels!
Shalini Boland has a natural gift for story-telling; her voice is vivid, alive and infectious; her narrative has drive and impetus, making it hard to put down. WWII evacuation left its mark on a whole generation; some had it good, many did not. The twist in the tale here is how Nathan from the present is drawn into Jimmy's world from the past - while there is terror, drama and darkness, there is also humour and impishness, reaching a highly satisfying, well-thought out climax without ever cloying it with sentimentality. A Shirtful of Frogs combines fact with fiction in a deeply compelling way, and deserves to join ranks with the likes of the Children of Green Knowe, Tom's Midnight Garden, The Ogre Downstairs and many other children's classics, old and new. Having said that, it is a book for all ages and would make an excellent film.
After a charming beginning, this book surprised me by turning into a real page-turner. My heart was pounding as I worried about what might become of the hero, Jimmy, as his friend Nathan tries desperately to help him - from a different time in history. It gave me an insight into what it was like to be an evacuated kid during WW2 - and it turns out the countryside was not the safest place to be, even without London's bombs.
A wonderful study in empathy, I think boys in particular would really get a lot out of this book, and it's perfect for anyone studying WW2.
What a gem of a book this is blending war time drama with a modern day twist. The characters are well rounded and the sorry flows nicely with good pace and a sense of humor. I would thoroughly recommend a Shirtful of Frogs as a refreshing read and one that gave me some wonderfully colorful imagery. Top notch and a nice read before bedtime, suitable for adults and children alike. D.J Milne
I loved this, a well crafted story that so reminded me of some of the wonderful stories I read as a young teenager of wartime Britain from a child's perspective. The timeslip element works extremely well and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read. The narrative is well told and absorbing, and the dialogue flows realistically. A great title too. What makes this story so interesting is that the author has chosen to base the main wartime character, Jimmy, and his treatment on the real life experiences of the author's father-in-law, evacuated during The Blitz, contrasting his and his sibling's existence very effectively with the relatively 'cosseted' treatment of the main protagonist, Nathan, depicted from the modern era. If you have young teenage children, I think this story should particularly appeal, though it is worth a read at any age.
I really enjoyed this book, I can't really say too much without giving much away, but I did cringe at the dog poo episode. Great for understanding the blitz and WW2 evacuees and how it must have felt being given to a family where you were neither wanted nor loved.