The “heart-sinking” wail of air-raid sirens, sparse food rations, and the agonizing separation from loved ones permeate this poignant story set in suburban Liverpool during the winter of 1940–1941, when the city was bombarded by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. In a preface, Hughes (Hero on a Bicycle) notes that she lived in the same area at the time as a teenager, so “it was very easy for me to imagine” the life of her heroine, 13-year-old Joan Armitage. She makes it easy for readers to do the same. An insightful observer, Joan empathizes with her lonely older sister, whose beau is serving in the Merchant Navy, and her stoic mother, who is still mourning her husband’s death at sea years earlier. In a subplot, Joan befriends Ania, a Polish refugee who is scorned by many, and protects the girl’s uncle, who deserts the army to find Ania. Amid the turmoil, Joan finds solace in creating art and her steadfast bond with Ania. Avoiding sensationalism, sentimentality, or predictability, Hughes shapes a real and raw novel helmed by a wise and gutsy protagonist. Ages 10–up. (Nov.)
Liverpool, 1940: Thirteen-year-old Joan's home is under constant threat from the Nazis' terrifying nightly air raids. Everyone is on edge, faced with strict food rationing, curfews, and blackouts. It’s not an easy time to be a teenager. Joan’s one solace is going to the movies with her best friend, the unflappable Doreen, but when the bombings intensify, even that becomes too dangerous. There’s also the matter of a strange man who Joan sees lurking near their home. Who is he, and why does he think Joan can help him? Even more unsettling, as the Blitz worsens, Joan and her friends make a discovery down by the old mill that will tear the whole community apart. In the hardship of war, everything seems to be rationed — except true friendship.
Avoiding sensationalism, sentimentality, or predictability, Hughes shapes a real and raw novel helmed by a wise and gutsy protagonist.
Hughes, who was a 13-year-old in a Liverpool suburb during WWII, transports readers to that time and place through vivid details of commonplace sights and activities...An eventful historical novel with a distinctive setting.
World War II has provided the setting for numerous books and this one comes from well-respected British author Shirley Hughes. Having lived in England during the war, Hughes has many memories to draw upon in creating this book.
—School Library Connection
Readers will be thoroughly drawn into the lives of the vivid characters, and will become invested in their downfalls and triumphs.This must-read novel seamlessly blends history and coming-of-age without being didactic or overly nostalgic. Hand it to middle grade fans of World War II–set fiction.
—School Library Journal
Compact and fast-paced, this will satisfy historical fiction fans tempted by Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life (BCCB 3/15) and looking for a quick pick.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
A fine war novel about living life despite trying circumstances.
Gr 5–8—For 13-year-old Joan Armitage, World War II has settled like a shroud over her family and community. Joan and her three siblings live alone with their mother after suffering the loss of their father, a merchant naval officer. Despite the ever-present danger of the Blitz, Joan and her school friends continue with their daily lives and adjust to a new normal in which they collect salvage, deal with shrinking food rations, and take cover in air-raid shelters when the German bombers speed by to barrage nearby Liverpool. When a Polish refugee girl arrives at school, Joan becomes embroiled in a covert effort to reunite her with her uncle, a British army deserter. Hughes' own memories of growing up in Liverpool in the 1940s inform Joan's character. The protagonist's authentic humor shines in her wry descriptions of family dynamics and mundane events like school dances against the backdrop of war, capturing the turmoil of Joan's struggle to comprehend the unimaginable while trying to live an ordinary life. Readers will be thoroughly drawn into the lives of the vivid characters, and will become invested in their downfalls and triumphs. VERDICT This must-read novel seamlessly blends history and coming-of-age without being didactic or overly nostalgic. Hand it to middle grade fans of World War II—set fiction.—Tara Kron, Aurora Public Library, Denver
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 13 Years|