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Book Review: Midwinter Burning by Tanya Landman (Walker Books)

Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

For ages 9+

Carnegie medal winning author, Tanya Landman's latest middle grade time-shift story of two boys lives colliding between World War II and the Stone Age in Devon, South West England in September 1939 is a very enjoyable read indeed.

About the book

Alfie Wright (or ‘Wrong’ as the bullies call him), is a school boy from a broken home in London… he’s his mother’s “little accident. Spilled milk…”. Alone in the world, not knowing what the love of a family feels like, he is the only child smiling as the train pulls away from the station filled with distraught fellow evacuees chugging away from a city about to be at war with Germany. There’s something about Alfie. Even as the last child left to be picked by a host family he remains hopeful. He meets Auntie Bell and her son who live on a farm of horses, a pig, dogs, chickens and cows. Who knew milk came from a cow’s nipples?!

This story is of an era, has a sense of nostalgia for simpler times when children were chucked outdoors in the morning with a packed lunch and not expected home until teatime. Alfie explores the landscape, and one day he is fiddling with his magnifying glass when he discovers he can see an alternate reality through it. He is then mysteriously pulled to the nearby henge-like standing stones. A chance meeting with another boy his age and Alfie finally gets to experience true friendship. Only, this friend, he doesn’t seem to be from 1939 - his clothing, his language, his incredible carving and hunting skills… and he keeps disappearing. School days in the village, going to church, and farm work fade into the background. There’s talk of a midwinter burning in the village… some old pagan custom. A skeleton is discovered after a storm, and it’s of a boy about the same age as Alfie…

Very exciting and heartfelt historic fiction.

About the creators

Tanya Landman (author)

Tanya Landman_author photo

As a child

Tanya Landman used to spend a lot of time up trees (with a skipping rope tied around her waist), hoping to turn into a monkey. She spent the rest of the time rescuing snails, righting beetles and burying the birds that the cat brought home.

As an adult

Tanya studied for a degree in English Literature at Liverpool University before working in a bookshop, an arts centre and a zoo. Since 1992 Tanya has been part of Storybox Theatre working as a writer, administrator and performer – a job which has taken her to festivals all over the world. She lives with her husband, Rod Burnett, and two sons, Isaac and Jack, in Devon.

As an artist

Tanya had no ambition to write until Waking Merlin popped into her head a few years ago; but now she can't seem to stop writing! She says it's the best job ever – being allowed to spend hours staring into space, daydreaming...

Things you didn't know about Tanya Landman

  1. Tanya once had a pet pig called Tilly.

  2. She now has a ferocious Siamese cat called Edgar.

  3. She can make a horse's top lip go all floppy.

  4. She loves swimming in the sea, but is a total wuss about cold water and has to wear a wetsuit even in August.

  5. In years and years of school PE lessons, she never ever managed to hit the rounders ball.

  6. Or the tennis ball.

  7. She knows how to scratch a pig until it gets faint with happiness.

  8. She is scared of heights.

  9. She can milk a goat.

  10. She is kind to spiders, even though she is scared of them.

Tom Clohosy Cole (illustrator)

Tom gew up in Brighton, where his interest in drawing took hold. He originally thought he’d be an architect but wasn’t very good at maths, so went to study illustration instead. After graduating, he made Space Race, a concertina book, which helped kick start things off. Tom has a number of picture books published, including WALL and The Red Prince, as well as Destination: Space with Wide Eyed Editions. He’s also illustrated many book covers and completed successful commercial projects for London advertising agencies. Tom finds inspiration in painting, photography, travel and space.

Key themes

historical fiction

World War II




Stone Age

dysfunctional families

Grab a copy

Buy here through my affiliate link at or purchase from your local independent bookshop...

Publication date: 3 November 2022

Format: Paperback

*my review copy was provided by the publisher

Also written by Tanya Landman for ages 9+:

(Dyslexia friendly)

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