Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
When Martin Conway inherits an antique radio from his grandmother, he soon finds that the radio connects him with a boy. Through the radio, Martin begins to experience this boy's life during the Blitz in London. At first, Martin is sure he is imagining things. After some research, however, he realizes that the things he sees at night are true historic facts. When an encounter with a bully at school strengthens Martin's determination to leave the exclusive prep school his mother insists he attend, he asks to use this radio as a springboard for a school project. The project culminates in a visit to London with Martin's father, an alcoholic on tense terms with Martin. That trip allows many ill feelings in Martin's family and others to be put to rest. Once again, Edward Bloor creates a masterful tale of human emotion. He expertly weaves fantasy, historical fiction, and coming-of-age pains into a touching and thought-provoking story that also explores how history is made and sometimes unmade.
VOYA - Jan Chapman
John Martin Conway despises his exclusive prep school. A lowly scholarship student, he clashes with the obnoxious great grandson of "Hollerin' Hank Lowery," a famous World War II general and the school's founder. The confrontation results in damage to a statue of the famous general that is being erected at the school. Until things cool down, Martin elects to study at home. He is fascinated by a vintage 1940s Philco radio that once belonged to his grandmother, and falling asleep in front of the radio one night, he travels back in time to London during the Blitz. He meets Jimmy, a young boy whose life has a curious connection with Martin's own ancestor, his grandfather who was an aide to "Hollerin' Hank." Through Jimmy, he learns that the general and his grandfather were not quite the American heroes that they were cracked up to be. Yet the story is more than just a time-travel journey; it is also a journey of personal growth for Martin. Not only does he put to rest a mystery surrounding Jimmy's death, but Martin also comes to terms with his feelings of depression and the sorrow of an absent, alcoholic father. This time-travel fantasy has two deftly woven, parallel story lines that occasionally intersect in intriguing ways. Observant teens will appreciate the contrast between Martin's and Jimmy's lives, particularly with the personal problems that they both strive to overcome. There is a bit of something for everyone in this novel, with its elegant blend of contemporary teen angst, time travel, and history.
Martin is an unhappy 8th-grade student at a snobbish New Jersey prep school that reveres the memory of such famous graduates as General "Hollerin' Hank" Lowery. When Martin inherits an old radio from his grandmother, he starts having weirdly realistic dreams set in London in 1940, where he meets a boy named Jimmy. With the help of his older sister, Martin researches historical details from his dreams. When they turn out to be true, he realizes that he is really traveling through time, and what he learns ends up changing the historical record on General Lowery, bringing peace to an old man's life, and altering a number of lives for the better, including his own. Bloor, author of Tangerine, Story Time, and other offbeat tales for YAs, neatly ties up all the strands in this tale of historical intrigue and wrongs righted. Martin's determination and the vivid scenes of London during the Blitz are sure to appeal. KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 2006, Random House, 304p., $16.95.. Ages 12 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Using the literary technique of magical realism, Bloor brings readers a serious tale of justice and redemption, of fathers and sons, of the privileged and the common. John Martin Conway feels out of place at his exclusive prep school, where he is constantly reminded that he is a scholarship kid. After a confrontation with Hank Lowery, the great-grandson of the school's founder, he requests to work at home on an independent study project. The World War II-era radio that his grandmother left him brings him into contact with Jimmy, a boy who lived during the war and who needs his help. He takes Martin back to the time of the London Blitz. In his own time, he focuses his research on the things Jimmy shows him and the people he encounters. Along the way he uncovers some new information about his grandfather's and General Hank Lowery's dealings during the war and discovers how he can help put Jimmy's soul to rest. He also comes to terms with his alcoholic father and with his own depression. Readers will identify with the modern elements of the story and be drawn into the tension of the historical events. Evocative descriptions and elegant phrasings make the writing most enjoyable, and because the author uses a first-person voice, the story seems very personal, and readers will feel Martin's turmoil and angst. Bloor's fans and those who like a little light fantasy with their history will find something intriguing here.-Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
John hates All Souls Preparatory School, where he's tormented by Hank Lowery, great-grandson of General "Hollerin' Hank" Lowery, a WWII hero. Or was he? John's older sister, revising the article on Lowery for her job at an encyclopedia, suspects otherwise. John holds the answer-in a radio bequeathed to him by his grandmother that turns out to be a time-travel device that takes him to the home of a boy named Jimmy in 1940s London. With Jimmy, John observes Lowery at the U.S. Embassy, during the events that precede and follow Jimmy's death. Then he can answer the question Jimmy puts to him: "What did you do to help?" Helping involves a lot of research on Lowery and the Blitz, and a trip to London to find Jimmy's aging father. Sound complicated and unwieldy? Just add overtones of religion (Is Jimmy an angel? What does God want of John?) and alcoholism (John's father) and you've got an ungainly mess. The history and ethics are fascinating but are treated to a shallow ending, and though the characters are compelling, the dropped threads will make readers tune out. (Fiction. 9-13)
From the Publisher
“Bloor continues to demonstrate his range, this time mixing historical fiction with time travel in a poignant adventure story about fathers and sons. . . . Have tissues on hand for the final pages.”–Publishers Weekly
“Martin’s determination and the vivid scenes of London during the Blitz are sure to appeal.”–Kliatt
Read an Excerpt
The Heroes’ Walk
Looking back now, I can see that I spent my seventh-grade year in a state of depression, imprisoned behind the red-brick, black-iron walls of All Souls Preparatory. All Souls is a private, mostly Catholic school in Bethel, New Jersey, about twenty miles east of Princeton.
Back when I was a student, All Souls had two prominent statues on the campus. Franklin D. Roosevelt stood outside the Student Center, which was a little strange since the real President Roosevelt couldn’t stand. Yet there he was, with one hand on a cane and the other hand raised in a friendly wave. John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, stood outside Kennedy Hall. He was pointing energetically into the air, as if he were speaking.
On the last day of school that year, I was sitting in class in Kennedy Hall and looking through the window at FDR. Across the road, the Lowery Library was nearing the end of a major renovation. As part of this, Father Thomas, the headmaster of the school, had decreed that the statues of Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy were to be moved to join a new statue of General Henry M. “Hollerin’ Hank” Lowery in an impressive new entranceway to the library. The entrance would consist of the three statues, a brass informational plaque about each one, and a slab with the words the heroes’ walk carved into it.
That was why Father Leonard, my history teacher, was spending one last class period droning on about World War II and the heroic efforts of General Henry M. Lowery to alert America to the dangers of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Father Leonard was the twin brother of the headmaster, Father Thomas. They had both attended All Souls Preparatory some thirty years before; now the paths of their lives had circled around and brought them both back to their beloved alma mater.
I hated All Souls Preparatory.
I hated the uniforms; I hated the snobbery; I hated the tradition. I was an outcast there, and I associated only with other outcasts. One of them, sitting immediately to my left, had just raised his hand.
Father Leonard pointed to him warily and said, “Mr. Chander, I trust this comment is pertinent.”
“Oh yes, Father. It is most pertinent.”
“Fine. Then you may proceed.”
“I read that General Lowery was not really opposed to the Nazis. In fact, he thought the Nazis would win the war easily, and he advised President Roosevelt to make a deal with Hitler as soon as he could.”
Father Leonard looked pained. “I don’t think those are facts, Pinak. But if you would care to do some independent study in that area, I will give you extra credit for your research.”
“I don’t need any more credit, Father. I already have an average far above one hundred. I just wanted to perhaps start a discussion.”
“No. We need not discuss rumors and half-truths and falsehoods. The historical record is perfectly clear about what the General wrote and said at the time.”
Pinak gave up. “Yes, Father.”
Father Leonard always looked uncomfortable when talking about the late General Lowery. Fathers Leonard and Thomas both believed, faithfully, in the legend of Lowery as a fierce Hitler-hater and Nazi-fighter. In return for that faith, the Lowery family had established a million-dollar trust fund for All Souls Preparatory. All Souls had been General Lowery’s prep school, back when it was all boys and they all lived there. Then it was his son’s and his grandson’s prep school, and now it was his great-grandson’s prep school. That great-grandson, Henry M. Lowery IV, was seated in front of me and to the left. Hank Lowery was what is known there as a “legacy.”
I, on the other hand, was what is known there as a “scholarship.” Worse than that, I was an “employee scholarship.” My mother worked as Father Thomas’s secretary, and, thanks to that, I was allowed to attend the school tuition-free. My mother had worked the same deal for my sister Margaret, who had excelled at All Souls and then gone on to Princeton, where she earned a degree in history. My future prospects, however, were not so bright. Unlike Pinak, who was an academic star, I barely scraped by with C’s.
The only other kid I really associated with was Manetti. I knew him from sixth grade back at Garden State Middle School. He was an employee scholarship, too. His father was in charge of buildings and construction at All Souls, which meant that Manetti actually had it worse than me. At least my parent was hidden away in an office. His was very visible—always walking around on campus in an orange hard hat, or driving around noisily in one of his company trucks. I was watching one of those Manetti Construction trucks unload equipment when the girl in front of me turned and handed me a note.
There was no name on the note, so I set it on the corner of my desk, temporarily ignoring it until I heard a sharp, throat-clearing noise. I glanced up and saw the red, erupted face of Hank Lowery IV. He pointed a stubby finger at the note. I obediently picked it up, opened it, and read this printed message:
I looked back at Lowery, puzzled. He clenched his jaw and then shook his large head from left to right. He pointed first to the note and then to Pinak. When I finally understood his message, I passed the note over. As Pinak opened the note and read those two words, his dark Indian complexion turned pale with fear.
Shortly after that exchange, Father Leonard’s lifeless lecture, and the school day, and the school year, all came to an end with the ringing of the bell.
As we did every day, Pinak, Manetti, and I walked together to the Administration Building. Manetti and I had to wait for our employee parents to finish work; Pinak simply had nothing better to do. He asked his mother to pick him up later so that he could hang out with us. On that day, he probably regretted that arrangement.
Even before we got out of the classroom, some kid muttered to Pinak, “Lowery’s gonna kick your ass outside.”
From the Hardcover edition.