His Name Was Walter

Author: Emily Rodda

Publisher/Year: HarperCollins/2018

Publisher Description

Once upon a time, in a dark city far away, there lived a boy called Walter, who had nothing but his name to call his own …

The handwritten book, with its strangely vivid illustrations, has been hidden in the old house for a long, long time. Tonight, four kids and their teacher will find it. Tonight, at last, the haunting story of Walter and the mysterious, tragic girl called Sparrow will be read – right to the very end …

From one of Australia’s most renowned children’s authors, comes an extraordinary story within a story – a mystery, a prophecy, a long-buried secret. And five people who will remember this night for the rest of their lives.

Reviewer: Sarah Jackson

Delightful and engaging mystery for readers of any age

Plans go awry when unexpected car trouble interrupts a group of four school children and their teacher’s excursion to a small historical town. Stuck on a deserted road, and with a storm looming large, the small group seeks shelter in a nearby farmhouse. The cottage is under renovation, with old furniture, building supplies and various bit and pieces scattered throughout. While looking for a safe place in the house to camp for the night, the children come across an old writing desk, in which they discover a secret panel, containing a mysterious book. To keep themselves entertained they begin reading the handwritten and illustrated book. Set in a fairy-tale format, the story follows the adventures of a young orphan named Walter. As they read the book they uncover the many mysteries of the house, the local town, and the boy called Walter.

Although I am aware that it is not good form to judge a book by its cover, I absolutely adored the presentation of His Name was Walter. My version is a hardcover with a beautiful marbled blue and green background. It reminded me of the covers of the Enid Blyton books I loved as a child and really added to the magic of the story.

The book is a little difficult to categorise at first, as its story has elements of a standard drama, supernatural thriller, and a fairy-tale. With the bulk of the action evolving around uncovering Walter’s tale and the links to the history of the town, it is best described as a mystery.

The plot flows evenly and is engaging from start to finish.  Rodda’s style of descriptive writing allows the reader to feel a part of every scene. The story has an Australian feel, without being clichéd, and could be set in almost any small rural town in the country.

The characters (both the children and their teacher, and the characters in the book they find) are relatable, believable and a good mix of everything that makes up a group of average school-aged children.  The teacher is exactly how I remember educators with a love of history to be, firm but understanding, strict but with a sense of curiosity and adventure.

Emily Rodda has written over fifty books for children of all ages and in various formats. His Name Was Walter won the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s “Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers”, a prize much deserved.

His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda would make a wonderful gift for a younger child (5-12 years), but is a fabulous story for readers of any age.

I received a free copy of this book through Sisters in Crime – Australia, in exchange for a fair and honest review.