April 19th, 2021

A-Z of Artists

Hilary McKay and The Skylarks' War

This week we have reached letter H in our A-Z of artists, and we are celebrating the extraordinary writer Hilary McKay, author of the Casson family series, The Exiles, and the Binny Series all of which are firm Bookshow favourites. Today we are focusing on The Skylarks’ War which won The Costa Children’s Book Award in 2018.

Hilary took part in The Children’s Bookshow in 2019, reading and talking about her work on stage at The Stafford Gatehouse Theatre with Nicolette Jones, Sunday Times Children’s Book Editor. She showed children pictures and newspaper cuttings from the First World War and talked about her research and how she brought her memorable characters, dear Clarry, Rupert and Peter to life and she even showed the audience a real gold sovereign!

Book of the Week: The Skylarks' War

The Skylarks’ War brings us the wonderful character of Clarry, a young girl who shows great strength in the face of adversity and is unfailingly kind. Set against the brutal backdrop of the First World War we are drawn into the vivid world of this story, of Clarry, Peter, Rupert and Simon the Bony One, of love, family and loss.

Read Chapter One of The Skylarks' War

Author in focus

Hilary McKay writes novels for children that often feature eccentric and deeply endearing characters and describe the escapades and traumas of family life in hilarious detail. Her first book, The Exiles, about a family called the Conroys who have an unusual family life, was published in 1991. It won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and was followed by further books in the series. She is also well known for her series about the Casson family, the first book in this series Saffy’s Angel won the Whitbread Children's Book Award in 2002.

Hilary McKay talks about her winning book, The Skylarks' War


Name Art

Clarry's name means ‘clear and bright’. Find out about the origins of your name. What does it mean? Why was that name chosen for you?

Create a piece of name art incorporating images which are significant to you or the meaning of your name. Have a browse on the internet for different examples of name art to inspire you.

Write a Story

When writing The Skylarks’ War, Hilary McKay kept some special objects on her desk: Clarry’s gold sovereign, Peter’s star book and the key to the cricket pavilion. Hilary says that having real objects such as these helps her when she is working on a story. Can you write your own story based on these three objects? Who could your gold sovereign belong to? Why might your character need a book about the stars? What could be the significance of the key?

You can read more about the background behind The Skylarks’ War on Hilary's website.

Make a Skylark

You will need:

  • A cardboard tube (from a kitchen roll, or 2 toilet rolls)
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • A length of cotton

What to do:

Step 1
Cut the tube into pieces of equal width (between 0.5 and 1cm).

Step 2
Take one piece and pinch it at one side to make the shape of a beak. Cut the beak off and trim to a point.

Stick the remaining piece back together to make a small circle for the head.

Step 3
Take two pieces and cut each one. Tape them back together at one end only and fold the open edges outwards to create a flap of about 1cm. This will be the bird’s body.

Step 4
Take four pieces and cut each one.

Stick them together with tape to make the bird’s tail.

Step 5
Attach the tail to the body and fan out the ‘feathers’.

Step 6
Make a wing by cutting two pieces...

...and joining them together. Repeat to make the other wing.

Step 7
Use the sticky tape to stick each of the pieces together and tie a piece of cotton around the top of the body so you can hang it on the wall.

We’d love to see your skylarks, name art and read your stories! To send us your work to display in our gallery use the link below, or upload to twitter with the hashtag #BookshowA-Z.

Email us your work for our gallery

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