Sunday, 30 June 2013

Spotlight on Writing - The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters

Helen Peters writing really manages to transport you into the setting of the book whether it is the muddy decrepit farm, or the reclaimed hen house theatre or an antique shop, her sense of setting is almost tangible. You get the sense that Helen hasn't imagined this story but lived it, and when you read her bio, you can understand that she did indeed grow up on a farm and had her own Theatre in a tumble down shed. It’s the little touches to the farm setting, that really make it come to life, like  when a little lamb who unable to be cared for my it’s mother is being kept warm in a cardboard box in the Aga.

The Secret Hen House Theatre, is special in so many ways, it appeal to children is perhaps the strongest, as it ticks so many boxes.


Children of this age love animals and nature, and being set on a farm SHHT had lashing of both, plus the added threat of the animals being sold, and the farm being bulldozed to become a housing estate.

A prerequisite of all kids’ books is that somewhere there should be humour, and Helen has woven some very amusing pieces into the story. From the lovely program design that Lottie makes for the show, with the ‘Secret hen’ in dark glasses and carrying binoculars, to the Beans, and then slapstick with particularly funny scene where the land-reared sheep knocks over the smarmy estate agent on demand, SHHT has lot of moment that will make you giggle.

‘ “Jasper, Attack!”
Jasper didn't move.
Jo whispered the command again, fierce determination in her voice.

And Jasper put his head down and charged.
He butted the agent squarely on the bottom. The man’s feet slid out from under him and he landed with a thud on the concrete, arms and legs flailing, and a steam of high-pitched swear words pouring from his mouth, The Children watched, open mouthed and spellbound.’

Then there is the lovely and very real relationship between Hannah and best friend Lottie, as girl of this age has a BFF (best friend forever). 

Acting, as a child me my cousin and my sister would squeeze between the curtains and the patio doors, and then we come out and do a show that would entertain our parents for hours. Now I’m a parent there is one word that can strike cold dread when it pops out of my children’s mouth, the word? Show. Yes, children love to put on a show, and to act, and SHHT, is about just that. Helen has made the book about putting on a show, and hopefully will encourage children everywhere to take an air of professionalism to their shows, saving the sanity of parents!

First crush and growing up, this is a tricky thing to add into a book, and not have it take over the story line but in SHHT, Helen has dealt with the subject capturing the awkwardness but making it humours and not cringly embarrassing.

Action, there is plenty of action in SHHT, but from a barn fire, to a heist of a valuable painting! Helen expertly written fast passed action, which seem gentle and in pace with the story and plot.

All in all I think that the real unique aspect to the Secret Hen House Theatre is Helen way of making it so appealing to its readership, and feel so real whilst being a heart-warming read.

We've got a copy of The Secret Hen House Theatre  to give away.  To be in with a chance of winning it, e-mail us at with your name and address and 'Hen House' in the header.
Good Luck

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