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The Valley of Lost Secrets

Written by Lesley Parr

Key Stage 2 Crime / Mystery Historical Fiction

LoveReading View on The Valley of Lost Secrets

A classic story of adventure, secrets and discovery

January 2021 Debut of the Month

Lesley Parr’s story of evacuees is rich in atmosphere and a sense of place, and uses its wartime setting to explore themes of community, understanding and self-forgiveness. Along with other children at their school, Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie have been sent hundreds of miles away from London to the safety of a small mining town in South Wales, and it couldn’t be further from what they know. Jimmy is determined they won’t stay long, and that the place won’t change him, even as it’s transforming his classmates: Florence Campbell for example, who is free to become someone else, far away from her abusive family. The village has its secrets though, and the discovery of a set of bones in a tree leads Jimmy to solve a decades old mystery and, in the process, to help those living with loss and guilt. The place and its people are carefully and skilfully evoked, with the adults, particularly Jimmy and Ronnie’s new ‘family’ of Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun the miner, likely to be as fascinating to readers as the younger protagonists. The mystery will certainly keep readers gripped but it’s the characters and the place that will stay with them.


Evacuees are a rich source for children’s adventure stories, examples include Michelle Magorian’s classic Goodnight Mister Tom, and Jacqueline Wilson’s more recent Wave Me Goodbye.

Andrea Reece

The Valley of Lost Secrets Synopsis

September 1939. When Jimmy is evacuated to a small village in Wales, it couldn't be more different from London. Green, quiet and full of strangers, he instantly feels out of place. But then he finds a skull hidden in a tree, and suddenly the valley is more frightening than the war.

Who can Jimmy trust? His brother is too little; his best friend has changed. Finding an ally in someone he never expects, they set out together to uncover the secrets that lie with the skull. What they discover will change Jimmy - and the village - forever. 

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The Valley of Lost Secrets Press Reviews

With echoes of Carrie's War, and Goodnight Mister Tom, Parr brings her own fresh voice to what already feels like a wartime classic. This story is quietly brutal and brilliantly heartfelt. I absolutely ADORED it. - Emma Carroll, author of Letters from the Lighthouse

Evocative and heartfelt, The Valley of Lost Secrets already reads like a classic. A celebration of kindness and friendship at a time of upheaval, it's gripping, heart-breaking and yet full of hope. I loved it with all my heart - Liz Hyder, author of Bearmouth

An evacuee story with all the makings of a classic. - Anna Fargher, author of The Umbrella Mouse

A story of friendship, love, loss and belonging; of looking at people deep past their exterior, and of the love and pain in a human heart. There's a cracking mystery at the centre of it, but it was the Welsh backdrop and Jimmy's journey to acceptance that stayed in my heart long after I'd closed the book. - Nizrana Farook, author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

A gripping mystery, overflowing with heart - The Valley of Lost Secrets is one of the very best books I've read this year. - Carlie Sorosiak, author of I, Cosmo

What a wonderful book. A brilliant debut - warm and tender, simple in the best way, historical fiction with a light touch. - Ross Montgomery, author of The Midnight Guardians

An absolute triumph of warm, tender-hearted, timeless storytelling - Lesley Parr has created a story that feels like it has always been here... and one that I'm sure will still continue to be read many years from now. - Sophie Kirtley, author of The Wild Way Home

The Valley of Lost Secrets vividly evokes the uncomfortable reality of being an evacuee in a new place very different from home, as experienced by 12- year-old Jimmy. This warm, sensitive story celebrates the Welsh community at its heart, but also shows the complexities of living in a small mining town where everyone knows everyone else. I particularly loved the way Lesley describes the landscape and its people. The story moves along at a compelling pace, the historical background is lightly touched in, the characters are memorable. And the ending is truly satisfying. - Julia Green, author of The Children of Swallow Fell

Beautifully written, this story of two brothers from London struggling with homesickness and the mysteries of their new surroundings is one of the best books I've read this year. Human, warm, funny, thrilling, and above all, compelling, The Valley of Lost Secrets leads the reader effortlessly into a convincing world of wartime Wales. We follow Jimmy as he makes sense of his new surroundings and uncovers a secret that relates to the lovely couple who have taken him and his little brother into their home. Along the way, he has to deal with new realities that challenge all the things he thought he knew. Friends that become foes, and old foes that become friends. I massively recommend this for ages 9+. - Fleur Hitchcock, author of The Boy Who Flew

The Valley of Lost Secrets is a heartfelt story set in WW2. It's a perfectly woven mystery but so much more than that. It's about families torn apart, sometimes for the better as well as the worse, and a mining community determined to do their best by the evacuees. The ending brought a tear to my eye! This is historical fiction at its finest. - AM Howell, author of The Garden of Lost Secrets

An unforgettable story that already feels like a classic. Has fast become one of my all-time favourites. Every school should read this. - Juliette Forest, author of Twister

A great book. A real gripping, engaging story, with a nice heart of darkness. - A.F. Harrold, author of The Imaginary

A beautiful, touching, emotional, warm and captivating story. Like a cwtch in a book. Timeless and powerful, The Valley of Lost Secrets has future classic written all over it. - Eloise Williams, Children's Laureate Wales

It's very rare that I read a debut that completely steals my heart away but Lesley Parr's, 'The Valley of Lost Secrets,' is one of these unique finds... A truly extraordinary and accomplished debut which is destined to become a future classic - Book Lover Jo

Lesley Parr is an outstanding new voice in children's literature and definitely one to look out for! - Snaily Can Fly

A stunning novel about evacuation, hardship, challenging times and the strengths and weaknesses of human behaviour - The Breadcrumb Forest

The Valley of Lost Secrets is a wonderful evocation of wartime Wales. There's great warmth in the portrayal of the main characters, but the author doesn't gloss over the harsh realities of life at the time. The result is a mixture of light and dark, joy and sadness. An unforgettable read. - Claire Fayers, author of The Accidental Pirates

A thrilling and touching story about change, family, and friendship - Libraries4schools

An absolutely outstanding book - I was gripped from the first page until the last - Educator, NetGalley Reviewer

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526620521
Publication date: 7th January 2021
Author: Lesley Parr
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 304 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 2
Topics: Crime / Mystery, Historical Fiction

About Lesley Parr

Lesley grew up in South Wales, at the bottom of a valley and quite near a seaside steelworks. Now she lives in the middle of England (almost as far from the sea as it's possible to get) with her husband and their rescue cat, Angharad. Lesley shares her time between writing stories and teaching at a primary school. Lesley graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University's MA in Writing for Young People. The Valley of Lost Secrets is her first book. @WelshDragonParr

More About Lesley Parr

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