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Book Review: Once Upon a Hillside by Angela McAllister (Zephyr)

Illustrated by Chiara Fedele

For ages 8+

Being a bit of a history buff, I love reading children’s. historical fiction (and non-fiction). I didn’t do history GCSE at school as it was up against music, but as soon as I became aware of my own interest in the subject I jumped at the chance to do history A’level and then history at university. When I saw that this book was coming up for publication towards the end of the year I added it to my wish list and here we are.

About the book

Author, Angela McAllister has beautiful woven a tapestry of 7 socio-historical short stories from around 4000 BCE to today, all set upon the same hillside in the English countryside. When talking about history it’s all too easy to feel disconnected from our past peoples, how they lived, felt, loved, died. For children today, where life is so much more in the present, speedily driving towards the future rather than reflecting on the past, this story brings us back to belonging, pausing in a moment to feel the presence of our ancestors and their spiritual connection to nature, to Mother Earth - all of whom we are the product of.

The short stories are exquisitely illustrated throughout in full colour by the Italian illustrator Chiara Fedele, who brings each character to life whether they are experiencing a new phase of life on the hillside in Neolithic times, Roman times, the Middle Ages, Victorian times… Within each story the characters leave behind something of their lives for the next era to discover, it might be a hand carved arrow head, or a hand carved dog.

The text flows like honey into each new character’s world and journeys through time, gaining new insights into that era’s beliefs about religion, folklore, magic, war, medicine, family and home life. What really truly astounded me was a sense of freedom I felt reading the stories, to feel that sense of escape whilst reading, the smell of the wild flowers, the tail of a hare bobbing through the grasses, the views across the land as the birds fly high above.

A wonderful book that can certainly be re-read over and over again. Gorgeous for both bedtime stories together and self-reading. Very collectible and gifty in hardback with alternative surprise cover artwork to discover underneath the dust jacket. Delightful.

About the creators

Angela McAllister (author)

Angela McAllister has been published consistently since 1987, writing original fiction and bestselling collections of folk tales. Her work has won awards, including The Red House Book Award and The American Folklore Society 'Aesop Award'. Angela lives in Dorset.

Chiara Fedele (illustrator)

Chiara Fedele was born in Milan and now lives in a nearby village. She took a degree in Illustration at La Scuola del Fumetto. She has won awards including the Premio Cento Illustrator Competition, Sydney Taylor Award Silver Medal and 3x3 International Illustration Award Merit.

Key themes

social history






English history

short stories

rural life

Grab a copy

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

Publication date: 10 November 2022

Format: Hardback

Also in this series of short interlinked stories published by Zephyr:

...also available in Hardback and Audio-CD formats

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