Book Review | Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

I am very pleased to be reviewing books for Children’s Books Ireland and Inis Magazine. CBI is the national children’s books organisation of Ireland. Through their many activities and events they aim to engage young people with books, foster a greater understanding of the importance of books for young people and act as a core resource for those with an interest in books for children in Ireland. 

Children’s Books Ireland publishes Inis magazine three times in the year. Each issue contains a rich array of children’s literature articles and features, as well as in depth reviews of new titles for children and teenagers. This is my first book review for them. You can see it here.


Following the recent unexpected death of her father, Rose travels to Ypres in Belgium with her Grandpa to visit the graves of the fallen soldiers of the First World War. There, she finds herself mysteriously transported back in time, where she meets fifteen-year-old soldier, Joe.

Stevens vividly recreates the atmosphere of the war, whilst shielding younger readers from its more gruesome details. Her characters are engaging, from Grandpa with his comical and mildly annoying habits, to grieving Rose, who is struggling to come to terms with her bereavement, to the plucky and loveable character of Valentine Joe himself.

After a gentle start, the pace of the story picks up, the sights and sounds of the city of Ypres, past and present, propelling us along in the wake of our heroine, lending authenticity to her adventures.

A month before his sixteenth birthday, on the morning of his death, we find ourselves in the trench alongside Joe and Rose. Whilst Rose professes her sorrow and despair throughout the story, I didn’t really feel it, and it seems to me a missed opportunity which distinguishes a good book from a great one.

Having said that, the author does an excellent job of highlighting the shocking issue of the boy soldiers, and effectively brings the atrocities of war to life.

With its clear, simple language, its teen love theme, and its young female hero, this book is ideally aimed at girls.

I am currently reading ‘The High Hills’ by Jill Barklem, and ‘FishOut of Water’ by Natalie Whipple. My reviews must be submitted by 9th April.

11 Comments on “Book Review | Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

  1. It sounds like an intersting book, although maybe not as great as it could have been.

    There are a lot of books about the two World Wars out there these days. I think it’s a good things. Those two wars shaped us Eauropeans deeply, I think, and it’s a good thing that we are starting to explore them even in a fictional way. Sometimes fiction can do what studying cannot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with that! It can reach young people especially in a way that facts alone cant. Its why they relate so well to movies and computer games. The two wars should never be forgotten, nor those who served in them. Its a good way of keeping memory alive.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice to see you broadening your horizons, Ali 🙂 Sounds as though this book draws back from giving kids the full emotional charge when it comes to war and suffering. Shame. How else will they ever learn how to take up causes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know. I think there is a tendency to sugar coat everything these days, to protect them from reality. Imagine what a shock it must be then to discover the truth. Movies, on the other hand, go to the other extreme!!!


      • Yet I find that my kids got completely inured to film violence whereas they would be absolutey creeped out by something like 2001A Space Odyssey, and said the most disturbing film EVER was Picnic at Hanging Rock!


      • I’m the same way. There are still some traditional books I enjoy, but I feel guilty reading them. I have so many friends who deserve a read too.


  3. Hi Ali! I know your partner Jane and have started to follow you. I love your cover, the blue sword one, and hope to read your book someday, maybe soon. Good luck with the reviews. Someday, I’m coming to Ireland, maybe I’ll bring my whole brood. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gardenlillie, lovely to meet you! Thank you for the lovely comment! 😀 You should definitely come to Ireland, you will love it!


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