The Secret Hen House Theatre
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Since the death of her mum, Hannah's life has been chaotic. Her father is working hard to keep the crumbling family farm in business, and Hannah and her younger brothers and sisters are expected to do everything they can to help. The spirited Hannah doesn't really mind wearing jumble sale clothes, falling in the mud to catch an escaped pig, or even being embarassed in front of her classmates - but she does long to be able to explore her passion for acting and the theatre, which her father thinks is a waste of time.
When the financial viability of the farm falls into question, Hannah makes up her mind to enter a play competition and win the first prize of £500 to help save the farm. With help from her best friend Lottie - and from the rest of the family- she sets about transforming an old hen house into a theatre, keeping it secret from her father. But can Hannah's play really win the prize - and what will happen when her dad finds out what they are up to?
Helen Peters has drawn on her own childhood on a farm, and her memories of writing and acting out her own plays, to create this lively story with a very convincing rural setting. Peters depicts a cast of strong and believable characters, from Hannah's overworked and under pressure father, to her stroppy 10-year-old sister Martha, who soon proves herself to be a true 'drama queen'. With a hint of Pamela Brown's The Swish of the Curtain, there is much for aspiring young actors to enjoy here, but this hugely enjoyable story of family, friendship and country life will also have a broad appeal for children at upper primary level.