Book Review – Valentine Crow and Mr Death

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing my review of the middle grade book, Valentine Crow and Mr Death.

It’s not always easy being Death: a witty and gloriously gothic tale of friendship and discovery from bestselling Jenni Spangler.

Twelve-year-old Valentine Crow has lived his entire life at the Foundling Hospital. Now, he and his best friend Philomena are leaving to begin their new lives as apprentices – but Valentine has been assigned to Death himself. Valentine finds himself in an impossible situation when his best friend’s name appears on the list of souls to take. Can he fight Death to save her soul, or does fate have other ideas?

Distinctive, warm and funny, the highly-acclaimed Jenni Spangler returns with a richly imagined world perfect for readers of The Beast and the Bethany and Lemony Snickett.

This was an absolutely fabulous read. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.

Valentine is ready to leave the Foundling Hospital and move on to the apprenticeship that the Hospital has sorted for each child turning of age. Valentine is due to go to a watchmaker, a Mr Dearth. However, the Bursar makes a mistake on the paperwork, writing it as Mr Death, and so the Grim Reaper arrives to collect Valentine. And so begins our story.

Death is a wonderful character, so multi-layered, and absolutely hilarious. He has a wicked sense of humour, but is also a very guiding presence, taking his commitment as an apprentice master seriously, teaching Valentine how to go about his trade with care and patience. He passes on his wisdom, while keeping Valentine smiling, and is so entertaining, especially when he feels proud of himself for managing to keep Valanetine alive.

Valentine as a protagonist is just fabulous. He is relatable, kind, and wants only to do the right thing, but, as the book points out, sometimes being ‘good’ is nowhere near as easy as it’s suggested to be. And when he realises he’s made a big mistake, he wants only to try and put it right. His relationship with Death is pushed and pulled, and the amount of trust they both put in one another is tested, revealing that they have become an odd little family unit (with a trusty crow and dog) rather than master and worker.

While this book is humorous and witty beyond measure, it also touches on the subject of death in a tender way that will resonate closely with anyone, child or adult, reading it. It feels hopeful, kind, and patient, teaching us not to fear death – or Death – but to understand that it is a part of the ever turning cycle of life. Clever, kind, and fabulously entertaining, this is a must for middle grade readers.

Thanks for stopping by for this blog post today. It’s a book that’s really lodged itself in my mind as a standout read already this year, and I can’t advocate for it enough! I really hope you’ll consider reading it, whatever your age.



  1. Thank you for the review of Valentine Crow. I have a granddaughter who has had nightmares since a too-enthusiastic teacher terrified her with descriptions of the Great Fire of London.
    She’s ten and a good reader so this sounds just right for her. I shall order a copy asap.


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