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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Blitz, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 12 of 12
1. Blitzed by Robert Swindells

This post was originally posted in 2012, but something odd happened on Blogger and it had to be reposted.

It is 2002 and Georgie Wetherall loves two things - knowing all about England in World War II and creeping. Creeping?  That is when you “streak across a row of back gardens, over fences, through hedges, across veg patches...without getting caught or recognized.” (pg13)  And he especially likes leaving Miss Coverley’s garden is shambles.  Georgie knows she doesn’t like him - she's always watching him.  So when he has to repair her fence post as punishment for his last creeping adventure, Georgie discoveres she watches him - it seems he reminds her of someone, but who?

All this is forgotten, however, when Georgie’s class goes on a trip to Eden Camp, a former POW camp turned into a WW 2 museum of 29 huts each dedicated to one aspect of the war.  Hut 5 is a realistic replica of a bombed street in London during the Blitz.  The sounds and smells add to the realistic atmosphere - but wait, it is perhaps a little too realistic.  In fact, Georgie suddenly finds himself transported back to wartime London.

Finding himself faced with the real deal, cold, hungry, lost and scared, Georgie wanders around until he finds a friendly searchlight crew who give him something to eat.  After living through a night of bombing in a public shelter, Georgie notices four kids emerging from a bombed out pub.  He and the kids start talking and they tell him he can stay with them as long as Ma approves.  Ma turns out to be a 14 year-old girl who watches over orphaned kids in the pub's basement.

Ma has a job in a second hand shop owned by what she believes to be is a Jewish refugee from Germany called Rags.  But when Georgie discovers a radio transmitter locked in one of the shops upstairs rooms, the kids begin to suspect that maybe Rags isn't who they think he is.  And they decide to find out exactly what he is up to with that radio transmitter.  Trouble is, Rags begins to suspect Ma of snooping in his stuff and decides to find out what she is up to.  So, Georgie, along with Ma and the other orphans, is on a wartime adventure he never dreamt possible.

I liked this coming of age time travel story.  It is told in the first person, and the author maintains the voice of a 12 year-old boy throughout, giving it an authentic quality - quick, witty, full of colloquialisms from 2002 that are questioned by the folks from 1940.  I also found Georgie's reaction to his predicament refreshing.  In most time travel stories, kids end up in a different time and place and seem to assimilate so easily.  But for Georgie, it isn't just a jolly adventure.  He worries throughout about not getting home, not seeing his parents again.  As wartime London loses its romanticized aura and becomes reality, it causes Georgie to experience real reactions like throwing up more than once and even wetting himself at one point.

But it is also a story of survival, complete with a cast of orphan characters right out of Charles Dicken's London, who become Georgie's family away from family, helping him adjust and carry on. And most importantly, helping him see the reality of war.

Blitzed is a fast paced but wonderful book.  The chapters are only a few pages long, but the events are exciting, making it an ideal book for a reluctant readers and certainly one that would appeal to boys as well as girls.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

You can hear Robert Swindells speaking about Blitzed here.  It is on YouTube but the embed function is disengaged.

And there really is an Eden Camp in Yorkshire, so if you happen to be in England and would have an interest in visiting (you might want to go to Yorkshire anyway, it is a wonderful place to see.)  Information about visiting can be found here

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2. The Blitz Next Door by Cathy Forde

For Pete Smeaton, age 10 going on 11, moving from London to Clydebank, Scotland had its good points and its bad ones.  He was sorry to leave a place he knew so well, and his two best mates Simon and Alfie.  On the other hand, in Scotland, Pete has a big bedroom to himself, away from the rest of his family, including baby sister Jenny and her incessant crying.  Not only that, but there's that old WWII Anderson shelter at the end of the garden, just past the bomb crater, perfect to use as his personal den. Now, if only the girl next door would stop crying - except there is no next door, not since WWII when it took a direct hit from a bomb.

But no sooner do Pete and his football-figure collection get to the shelter, then he is confronted by Dunny, who claims the shelter is his.  After a brief showdown, the two boys bond over the football figures and in no time, Pete had a new best mate.  Everything seems to be going well - the house comes with his dad's new job, his dad's boss, Jamie Milligan, loves old rock and rock music as much as Pete does, and he doesn't have to start a new school until after the Easter holiday.  If only the girl next door would stop crying and who is the creepy old lady that is always standing at the bomb crater and doesn't seem to see or hear anyone?

Little by little, with the help of Dunny, Mr. Milligan and his mum, Pete begins to unravel the mystery of the crying girl next door.  No one who has lived in this area in Clydebank seems surprised when they discover that Pete can hear her.  He learns from them that her name is Beth and she lived next door during the war.  On the night of the Clydebank Blitz, Beth was in the Anderson shelter when the bomb hit her side of the house and destroyed it.  A box of treasured items, including her mother's wedding photo got lost in the rubble. Beth's mother was killed in the blitz and she and her father migrated to New Zealand in the 1950s.

Beth is an old woman now, and all she wants is to see the photo of her mother once more, the one in her lost box.  On the anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz, the Anderson shelter becomes a portal that takes Pete back to that terrifying night.  Can he help Beth find her treasure box in the past, so she can die in peace in the present?

The Blitz Next Door is a nice blending of real events with realistic fiction and fantasy.  The story is told in the third person, from Pete's perspective.  He is a clever, sensitive boy, good to both his sister and the girl next door, for all their crying, and brave enough to take risks to help Beth.  The other characters, especially Dunny and Mr. Milligan are also well developed with definite personalities, even Jamie Milligan and Dunny's younger brother Wee Stookie are solid and believable, though Pete's mum and dad as minor characters never really evolve.

The Clydebank Blitz was, indeed, a real event, and happened over the course of two nights, March 13 and 14, 1941.  A total of 560 Luftwaffe bombed the city because of its munitions factories and shipyards, 578 people were killed and many, like Beth, lost their homes.  The Blitz Next Door is a basically a contemporary story and you may wonder, as I did, if there would still be a bomb crater from WWII.  I didn't find one specific to Clydebank, but there actually are still some craters in the area.

This is a story set in Scotland and there is some amount of British slang used.  It won't take long to figure out that footy is soccer, that a stookie is a plaster cast, and that bally doesn't what it sounds like it should mean.  It is actually a substitute for saying ?bloody" which at one time was considered to be an expletive, but isn't really, anymore.

The Blitz Next Door is a compelling story that should appeal to readers who like a mystery and time travel stirred into their contemporary adventure stories, and that explores themes about friendship, family, courage.  This would pair nicely with A Shirtful of Frogs by Shalini Boland.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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3. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Born with a severely clubbed foot, Ada Smith, 10, has been kept imprisoned and abused by her Mam in a one room flat her whole life.  Mam sees her foot as a mark of shame and humiliation, and so Ada never learned to walk, scooting around on her bum as she waits on Mam and younger brother Jamie, 6.  Then one day, Ada decides to learn to walk, keeping at it despite the pain and blood.

Then, when war comes to England, Ada is told that Jamie will be evacuated, and she will remain in the flat - bombs or no.  But Mam doesn't know Ada's secret and when evacuation day arrives, she and Jamie take off for the train station together.  Eventually arriving at a small countryside village, all the children are selected by residents except Ada and Jamie, who are taken to the home of Susan Smith (no relation) and left in her care.

But Susan is depressed, mourning the death of her friend (though clearly more than friend), Becky.  The two women had lived there together for years and Susan had inherited the property.  The last thing she wanted now were two children to take care of.  And yet, she does.  She feeds Ada and Jamie, buys them new clothes and shoes to replace the dirty, raggy things they arrived in, and allows them to find their own way through a certain amount of benign neglect.

And Susan has a pony named Butter that Ada determines to learn how to ride and care for.  Soon, she is riding all over the village and surrounding area.  Susan has also taken Ada to a doctor about her foot, and she has been given crutches to help her walk.  But when Jamie begins school, Ada refuses to go not wanting to admit she can't read or do simple math.  Eventually Susan figures it out and offers to teach her at home - an offer not very welcomed by Ada.  But why not?

Ada and Susan are two people carrying around a lot of physical and emotional baggage, thrown together by a war they don't really feel connected to and which at first doesn't feel quite as real as the personal war they are waging with themselves.  But gradually, they forge relationships with each other and begin to feel like a family.  And then Mam shows up and takes the Ada and Jamie back to London, despite the bombing and Ada is forced to scoot around on her bum once again.

Now that they have seen another side of life, is it over for Ada, Jamie and even Susan?

What a powerful story The War That Saved My Life is.  It is everything that makes historical fiction so wonderfully satisfying.  There is lots of historical detail about London and the countryside in those early war days, including the rescue of British soldiers from Dunkirk (Susan's house is on coastal Kent, the closest point in England to Dunkirk).

I thought that Susan and Ada were drawn well, with lots of depth to their personalities, but not Jamie so much.  He really felt like just a secondary character, mostly there for contrast and to move the story along in a believable way.  The shame Mam felt over Ada's foot is quite palpable, but also seemed to empower her with the ability to abuse her daughter, making her plain scary, though a rather one dimensional character at the same time.

One of the things I found interesting is that in the beginning Ada, the child, is such a strong, determined character, while Susan, the adult, was kind of weak and irresolute.  And yet, they have things to teach each other.  And to her credit, Bradley doesn't actually come out and directly let the reader know that Susan and Becky were partners, but its clearly there.

If your young readers loved Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian, they are sure to love The War That Saved My Life.  If they haven't discovered Good Night, Mr. Tom yet, perhaps it's time to introduce them to both of these fine books.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC eceived from the publisher

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4. Billy's Blitz by Barbara Mitchelhill

For his 11th birthday, Billy Wilson's dad surprised him a German Shepherd puppy.  A lot of people were anti-German Sheherds because it was considered a Nazi dog, but Billy loved his, naming her Sheeba.  By Billy's 12th birthday, England is at war with Germany, his dad is away in the Army, and his friends have been evacuated to the country, along with most of London's other schoolchildren. But his mum decides to keep Billy and sister Rose, 6, home with her.  Still, his dad manages to get leave and find a shiny almost new bike for Billy's birthday.

But soon dad returns to the army, and mum, Billy and Rose spend uncomfortable nights in the Anderson shelter in the backyard in Balham, South London, but no bombs are falling in London yet.  But that all changes on September 7, 1940.  Now, bombs are falling and the three Wilson's decide go to the nearest Underground station when the air raid sirens go off.  That way, they don't hear the sirens, the planes, and the bombs as much.

Night after night they carry blankets to the station, thinking they will be safe.  And they are, until Balham Station takes a direct hit.  Billy and Rose are separated from their mum, but thanks to the help of a new friend, they make it out of the station.  But where is mum?  It's hard to see anything in all the chaos, dust and debris, but Billy and Rose insist on waiting for her to come out of the station, until a WVS lady, Mrs. Bartley, makes them leave.  After all, bombs are still falling.

Once in a shelter, it is decided by the authorities that Billy and Rose will be sent to Wales for safety - against their will, and with the Major in charge insisting, rather coldly, that they are now orphans.  Luckily, at breakfast, they meet a boy about Billy's age called All-Off (because he cut all his hair off), who advises them not to go to Wales.  But, although, All-Off gets out of the shelter in time, Billy and Rose are put on a transport truck to Paddington Station and Wales.

Determined to find his mum and to get back home to finally let Sheeba out of the Anderson shelter where she was put for safety, Billy waits for the right opportunity for escape the transport truck.  By the time that happens, they are far from home and Billy has no idea how to get back to Balham.

As Billy and Rose make their way home, they meet with even more adventures, setbacks, and disappointments, but Billy finds a best mate in All-Off.  Billy also discovers a courage within himself he probably never thought he possessed, as well as a strong sense of responsibility for Rose and Sheeba and it doesn't hurt that his new best mate has some pretty good street smarts.

I loved Barbara Mitchelhill's first WWII novel, Run Rabbit Run, based on real events, it's about a sister and younger brother who must deal with some harsh fallout because their dad is a conscientious objector.  Billy's Blitz is also based on a real event.  On October 14, 1940, Balham Station was being  used as a bomb shelter and really did take a direct bomb hit, killing 64 people.  Mitchelhill imagines the aftermath of a terrible disaster for two kids who don't know if their mum made it out alive or not.  Her realistic description of the station, in fact of bombed London generally, are really spot on.

What Billy saw when he came out of Balham Station
So is her characterization.  Billy is at times afraid, brave, wanting everything back to normal, or wishing someone else could deal with their problems.  Rose can be a whiny brat, not realizing the seriousness of their situation, yet she can also be brave and helpful when asked to be.  All-Off is a real favorite - definitely his own boy, yet faithful to Billy and Rose.  The authorities, concerned only with evacuating orphans, made my toes curl with anger at their lack of empathy.  Luckily, there is the WVS (Women's Volunteer Service) lady to counterbalance that.

Billy's Blitz is a compelling realistic novel that gives the reader a true to life picture of London during the Second World War.  We tend to think that all of London's children were safely evacuated but many remained in London with their family and often, family members became separated or worse and kids were left to survive by themselves even while dealing with loss and grief.  Mitchelhill's novel demonstrates how easy it is for this to happen in the midst of chaos, and how easily the best laid plans can go awry, yet she manages to do this without scaring her young readers.  

This is a novel that is sure to please young readers, especially those interested in WWII and/or historical fiction.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was received from the author

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5. The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper

The Fitzosbornes, royal family of that small fictional Channel island Montmaray, are back in this third and last book of the trilogy.  As you may recall in Book I, A Brief History of Montmaray, the FitzOsbornes - Toby, Sophie, Henry (Henrietta), cousin Veronica and half cousin Simon - were forced by the Nazis to leave their island home and head for London.

And in Book II, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, we found them hobnobbing between London and their Aunt Charlotte's Milford Park estate in Dorset.  However, there was war in the air and both Toby and Simon decided to enlist in the RAF.

All the FitzOsborne doings have been relayed to us through the journals of HRH Princess Sophia FitzOsborne and in Book III, The FitzOsbornes at War, this tradition continues.

Sophie, now 18, begins her journal appropriately enough on September 3, 1939, the day that Britain and France declare war on Germany.

With England now at war, and Toby and Simon in the RAF, Sophie and Veronica both wish to do their bit to help and even manage to convince Aunt Charlotte to let them move into a small apartment behind the larger Montmaray House in London.  Veronica, who speaks fluent Spanish, gets a job in the Foreign Office, while Sophie begins working for the Ministry of Food, a job she does not consider very important to the war effort.

And so life goes on under wartime conditions, with air raids, food shortages, and eventually, bombings.  All the while, Veronica travels to Spain for long periods of time to translate for high ranking officials and diplomats, and Sophie works and hangs out with friends Julia, who has volunteered to be an ambulance driver, and Kick (Kathleen Kennedy, daughter of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, sister to Jack and Ted), everything faithfully recorded by Sophie in her journal, as the war becomes the new normalcy.  Sophie does occasionally still see Rupert, Julia's brother, but he is working on something top secret and doesn't have much free time.  Even so, they find they are more and more attracted to each other.  But then, Toby goes missing while flying a mission over France, believed to have parachuted out of his burning plane.  And it is as if he vanished in thin air, there seems to be no information about him to be found anywhere.

Sophie's wartime journal covers 4 years this time, from September 3, 1939 to November 28, 1944, with one entry dated August 28, 1948.  There are, of course, long periods of time elapsing between journal entries, so most are really summaries of what has been happening, which I think works better than lots of more frequent entries, less confusing to the reader.

I wrote in The FitzOsbornes in Exile that it was more of a historical novel than A Brief History on Montmaray, and I can honestly say that this third novel is even more historical the both put together.  How could it not be?  However, Cooper has blended fact and fiction so well, that the divide between them seems almost seamless here, yet the historical information is still quite obvious so that the reader doesn't make the mistake of believing the fictional bits really happened.  Clever that.  And Cooper has used historical events to help move the story along without overburdening the readers with names and dates and stuff like that.

The main characters are still believable, well-developed and sympathetic.  Sophie is no longer the young innocent girl she was when we first met her in 1936, nevertheless, she still retains some of her youthful naivety, even in the face of finding true love.  Veronica is still Sophie's opposite, rather more interested in the intellectual side of life than the emotional side.  And Henry is still Henry, sweet, charming, always exuberant and optimistic.

Does The FitzOsbornes at War stand up to it predecessors?  Yes, it most certainly does.  It is a most worthy sequel to the first two books, though I am not sure it would work very well as a stand alone novel.  It doesn't have quite as much wit and fun as before, but there is still enough action, adventure, danger and even love to satisfy, in fact, sometimes there are even some real nail-biting moments.  And sadly, there is one spot where you might want to have some tissues handy.

And here's the rub - rather than taking my time and savoring this last FitzOsborne novel, I read it almost in one sitting.  I simply couldn't wait to see what was in store for these favorite characters.  Then, I got to the end and I asked myself, why did I race through this book that I had been so looking forward to reading and now I have to say good-bye to because I'd finished it and there were no more FitzOsbornes on the horizon?  So if you like the FitzOsbornes as I do, try not to rush to the end.

That said, and as much as I enjoyed The FitzOsbornes at War, I did find two things that bothered me.

1- Henry!  I can't say more.  The problem with writing about this book is that no matter what you write, it could easily end up as an unintentional spoiler.

2- I did not like the way Toby's homosexuality was handled.  It was brought to light in The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and became a non-thing in this novel.  What happened????  It just vanished...

To her credit, Cooper took a page out of JK Rowling's books and included on post-war journal entry wrapping this up for the reader.  Not all is a happy ending, but at least you won't wonder.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an E-ARC obtained from Random House through Edelweiss (and it will be available on October 9, 2012 in the US)

The FitzOsbornes at War is a wonderful personal read, but it is also so full of history that teacher's may want to supplement their WW2 classes with it, and if so, you can download an extensive Teacher's Guide from Random House Australia.

This is book 14 of my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

6 Comments on The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper, last added: 10/12/2012
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6. Time of Fire by Robert Westall

People sometimes ask me what my favorite WWII book is out of all that I have read.  It is hard to answer that question because everything I have read so far has at least some redeeming quality of showing how the war impacted the lives of the children (and the occasional adult or animal.)

One of my favorite authors, however, is Robert Westall.  Westall wrote my favorite WWII animal story, Blitzcat, capturing the influence one cat had on the lives of so many while searching war-torn England looking for her true human, after her owner joined the war effort.

Then I read The Machine Gunners, which I thought wonderful, even if it did have a very unlikable protagonist.  And now I bring to this blog another Westall book, Time of Fire.

Like all his friends, 10 year old Sonny carries his aircraft-recognition book everywhere he goes, so when a German plane drops a bomb on the store where his mother is shopping, killing her, he knows it was a plane they called the Flying Pencil.

In despair, Sonny's father decides to join the RAF to seek revenge on the plane that killed his beloved wife and changed their happy lives forever.  Sonny is sent to live with his grandparents in their coastal home near Newcastle.  As Sonny settles into life with his grandparents, helping them safeguard their home with sandbags and barbed wire, working in the garden and listening to the wireless together for news of the war, he develops a strong relationship with his Granda, a man who patiently answers Sonny's questions and is always willing to teach him about life.  Perhaps the most telling example of that is the way he guides Sonny into slowly and methodically making friends with a war-traumatized dog, whom he eventually wins over and names Blitz.

But Sonny has a guilty conscience.  His Mam was in the store buying matches because Sonny had forgotten about them in his rush to buy the newest copy of Wizard, a magazine for boys.  So when his father's attempt at revenge comes to an end when he is shot down, Sonny decides it is now up to him to avenge his mother's death.

But what can a young boy do?  In a Robert Westall story, plenty!

Unlike the kitty in Blitzcat or Chas in The Machine Gunners, Sonny does not have a strong single- minded focus.  But like them, Sonny is eventually faced with a difficult dilemma.  When faced with having to choose life or death, will he let revenge control his decision or rise above it?

For that reason, and despite being a World War II novel, Time of Fire might still resonates for today's readers.  Revenge seems to have become such a prevalent way of dealing with the small personal injuries in life today, that watching Sonny's struggle between doing the right thing or getting his revenge for his Mam's death might just help decide a future action on a reader's part (assuming we are what we read, of course).

I have to admit that after reading The Machine Gunners, I was a little put off Robert Westall's WWII novels, but I am glad I have now returned to them.  Sonny is a very appealing main character, making it easier to root for him.  And the portrayal of Nana and Granda is superb.  I wish they were my grandparents.  You can just feel the love in their home.  Even the bickering is done with love.  This was the same atmosphere in Sonny's home before his mother was killed and his otherwise happy, content father's personality turned black.  It makes you realize how fleeting happiness can be.

Like Michelle Magorian (Goodnight, Mr. Tom and Back Homeamong others novels) Robert Westall is a master at creating a realistic picture of the British home front in World War II.  Unlike Magorian, Westall really had experienced the war first hand, growing up in the same area that he sets his stories in, always making them so very rich in details not necessarily commonly known.

This book is recommended for readers aged 9+
This book was borrowed from the Seward Park Branch of the NYPL

Robert Westall as a boy in North Shields, England.

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7. Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Image by FlamingText.com
Adult Novels for Young Adult Readers

Mr. Churchill's Secretary is a debut novel and the first in a series centering on Maggie Hope, the American raised daughter of British parents, a Wellesley grad who went to London in 1939 to sell the house she inherited from a grandmother she never knew.  Then war was declared and Maggie stayed on to do her bit for the war effort.

Unable to sell the house, Maggie now shares it with a few other young women - Paige Kelly, an old college friend, Charlotte McCaffrey A/K/A Chuck, and twins Annabelle and Clarabelle Wiggett.  Into this mix is added a few males like Maggie's good friend David Green and the not so nice Richard Snodgrass and the charming John Sterling, who often knows more about things than he lets on.  All three men work as private secretaries for Winston Churchill, the new British Prime Minister.

Maggie had actually applied for the job as a private secretary to the new PM, but despite being brilliant and totally qualified, gender was everything in 1940 and she lost the job to Richard - hence, he is not a favorite person of Maggie's.

But then, when Diana Snyder, a typist at 10 Downing Street, is found murdered, David talks Maggie into applying for the job as her replacement in the typing pool, even thought they both know she is more suited to be at Bletchley Park breaking Nazi codes alongside the best minds in England.  And Churchill decides that she is indeed the person they need, because, as he says, they can use a little hope at Downing Street.  But Maggie is not just an ordinary typist in the pool and it doesn't take long for her to be caught up not just in wartime events and her job, but also in the mystery of who killed Diana.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary is an exciting mystery adventure that takes all kinds of twists and turn and just when you think you know who killed Diana Snyder, you discover that you don't.  But there are plenty of suspects, so you could make a wrong guess more than once.  And this is one of the things that makes this book so good.

Other good things: MacNeal manages to weave in a Hope family mystery, some good espionage, code breaking, the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and even a possible love interest for Maggie.  And all the whole none yards* is wrapped in a cloak of history making this historical fiction at its best - the blitz, blackouts, rationing, air raids and even St. Paul's Cathedral are realistically portrayed they play their part in Maggie's life.

And Maggie herself is a strong captivating and compelling redhead, never afraid to say what is on her mind, yet always considerate and kind to her friends and co-workers.  Not even Winston Churchill can intimidate her Maggie and I like that about her.

This is an energetic debut mystery.  And like all novels in a series, it has the task of introducing the reader to the cast of recurring characters and giving enough background information about them, and even though I felt like it took a while to get to the mystery about Diana Snyder, I still had fun getting to know all the characters along the way and seeing the vivid pictures that MacNeal paints of 1940 wartime

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8. Blitzed by Robert Swindells

It is 2002 and Georgie Wetherall loves two things - knowing all about England in World War II and creeping. Creeping?  That is when you “streak across a row of back gardens, over fences, through hedges, across veg patches...without getting caught or recognized.” (pg13)  And he especially likes leaving Miss Coverley’s garden is shambles.  Georgie knows she doesn’t like him - she's always watching him.  So when he has to repair her fence post as punishment for his last creeping adventure, Georgie discoveres she watches him - it seems he reminds her of someone, but who?

All this is forgotten, however, when Georgie’s class goes on a trip to Eden Camp, a former POW camp turned into a WW 2 museum of 29 huts each dedicated to one aspect of the war.  Hut 5 is a realistic replica of a bombed street in London during the Blitz.  The sounds and smells add to the realistic atmosphere - but wait, it is perhaps a little too realistic.  In fact, Georgie suddenly finds himself transported back to wartime London.

Finding himself faced with the real deal, cold, hungry, lost and scared, Georgie wanders around until he finds a friendly searchlight crew who give him something to eat.  After living through a night of bombing in a public shelter, Georgie notices four kids emerging from a bombed out pub.  He and the kids starting talking and they tell him he can stay with them as long as Ma approves.  Ma turns out to be a 14 year old girl who watches over orphaned kids in the pub’s basement.

Ma has a job in a second hand shop owned by what she believes to be is a Jewish refugee  from Germany called Rags.  But when Georgie discovers a radio transmitter locked in one of the shops upstairs rooms, they begin to suspect that maybe Rags isn’t who they think he is.  And they decide to find out exactly what he is up to with that radio transmitter.  Trouble is, Rags begins to suspec

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9. The Exeter Blitz by David Rees

May 3, 1942 starts out like any other day. Colin Lockwood, 14, is falling asleep in class and his despised history teacher, Mr. Kitchen, catches him, earning Colin an extra homework assignment that night – a four page essay entitled “Why I am a Fool.” Terry Wootton, an evacuee from London and no friend of Colin’s even though they share a desk, finds Colin’s predicament very amusing.

After school, Colin seems to get under foot with everyone. His mother is busy preparing for a wartime fashion show at Nimrods, the shop where she works; his older sister Mary, a nursing student, is in the living room with her soon to be drafted boy friend, Lars; younger sister June, 10, was having her tea with her best friend Pamela. Colin decides to go off to see his father at Exeter Cathedral, where he is a verger.

Returning home with his dad a little later, Colin’s bad day isn’t over yet. He is told he must help serve snacks and sherry at the fashion show, where, as it turns out, Mr. and Mrs. Kitchen are also in attendance. Despite this, Colin does very well until he is hit with a bad case of the giggles over the name of the show’s organizer, Mrs. Wimbleball. His mother tells him to leave, and he runs out of the store, remembers he left his jacket in the top of the south tower of the Cathedral, and decides to go and fetch it.

While walking up to the tower, Colin hears the first drone of planes, but continues upward thinking there is plenty of time between sirens sounding and the arrival of the planes. But not this time.

Up in the tower, Colin watches as the bombing of Exeter begins almost immediately. By the time the all clear sounds, a little over an hour later, Exeter is in shambles. On his way home, Colin runs into his enemy Terry Wootton and his mother outside their destroyed fish and chips shop/home. Mrs. Wootton goes to stay with her sister, while Colin and Terry go to the Lockwood house. Colin’s home has been destroyed, but his sister June and his father survived in their shelter – a reinforced cupboard under the stairs. His mother, he later learns, was trapped in an elevator in Nimrods with Mrs. Wimbleball and Mr. and Mrs. Kitchen. His sister Mary has managed to get to the hospital to help out.

June goes to stay with her friend Pamela and his father goes to check the damage to the cathedral. Colin leaves a note for his mom, climbs into the house to get some sleeping bags and food, and he and Terry go off to a field to sleep in the haystack.

The next day, when they return to Mrs. Wootton’s fish and chips store, they find all the thawed out fish and the potatoes, and set up shop amid the rubble, advertising it as:

“T. Wootton and C. Lockwood. Noted fryers of quality fish. Business as usual. Hot meals on sale. FREE.”

Realizing they have much in common and work so well together, Terry and Colin have by now gone from being mortal enemies to being fast friends. For Colin, the bombing of Exeter serves as the catalyst that helps Colin become a very different person than the boy he was when he woke up on the morning of May 3rd.

The purpose of The Exeter Blitz not to present the attempt to destroy the cathedral, and what a terrible loss that would be. Though this is Colin’s coming of age story, Rees has also realistically presented each of the Lockwood’s thoughts, feelings and activities up to, during and after the bombing through the use of an omniscient narrator

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10. Ghostscape by Joe Layburn

Ghostscape is a small, time travel story about a young Muslim Somali girl named Aisha. She is a very unhappy, angry girl, who is now living in London with her mother after her father was murdered in Somalia’s civil war.

The story begins with Aisha crying in the girl’s bathroom because she has once again been bullied by a girl named Chevon. Hearing a cough, Aisha opens the door and there is a pale young boy standing there. She doesn’t recognize the boy and he isn’t dressed like anyone else at school, in fact, the bathroom isn’t even the same. And the boy is asking her if she is afraid of the bombs. Next thing Aisha knows, she back in the right girl’s room - alone.

Later, in the playground, she tells two friends about the experience. Chevon overhears her and threatens to tell Aisha’s mother that she has a boyfriend, knowing that goes against Aisha’s religion. The two girls get into fight and Aisha again finds herself in the presence of the mysterious boy, yelling at her that the sirens are going off and they are in danger.

This time, Aisha finds out the boy is named Richard and it is 1940 London, in the midst of the Blitz. They run through the streets to the shelter of a railway arch to wait out the bombing raid. Richard tells her that he lives with his grandfather, who refuses to go to a shelter during raids. When the air raid warden comes by, they discover he cannot see Aisha.

During a break in the bombing, Aisha goes with Richard to his grandfather’s house. They find his grandfather surveying the remains of their home, which has been destroyed by a bomb along with many other homes on the street. Everyone is taken to nearby Trentham School for shelter. This is also the name of Aisha’s school, but they don’t look a bit alike. They find a spot on the floor and settle in. Just before they fall asleep, Richard asks Aisha to tell him about Chevon.

When she wakes up, Aisha is in her own bed and her mother tells her she had fainted during her fight with Chevon. Aisha can’t wait to get to school that day to talk to the teacher who teaches World War II history. But instead of Miss Brown, Aisha finds Chevon in the classroom, ready to exact some justice. To Aisha’s delight, Richard also shows up and starts to invisibly torment Chevon. Richard manages to actually scare an apology out of Chevon, along with a promise to leave Aisha alone.

Later, Miss Brown tells Aisha to speak with the lollipop lady (crossing guard) about the local history of the area during the war, but she does find out that the Trentham School was bombed during a raid and had to be rebuilt.

By the end of the school day, Aisha has been suspended from school until the following Monday, resulting in yet another terrible fight with her mother. But suspension gives her time to go to the library and read about the bombing of the Trentham School. Aisha determines that she must find Richard and warn him.

But time travel can be capricious. Will she be able to find Richard again or lose the first person she has cared about since her father’s murder in Somalia? Will she ever come to terms with the loss of her father and begin to get along with her mother? The ending yields a bit of a surprise for Aisha.

Ghostscape is a good book. It is essentially about differences, similarities and acceptance. Despite the fact that both kids come from paranoid times when suspicion and mistrust of “the other” run high, and despite their individual differences, Richard and Aisha accep

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11. Blitz on Zuda

My comic strip Blitz will be in the competition over at Zuda Comics starting today, along with several other comics. Readers can vote for their favorite and the winner receives a contract to continue their comic on Zuda for a year. Zuda is DC Comics' webcomics division.Read Blitz on Zuda ComicsNote: Some of the comics on Zuda are not suitable for young readers. Blitz is an All-ages comic.

1 Comments on Blitz on Zuda, last added: 10/8/2009
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12. Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis


I have just finished rereading Blackout and All Clear and find myself wishing that Connie Willis could have kept going. After reading these two books totaling 1,168 pages, I find I have become quite attached to the characters and had a hard time saying goodbye when I came to the end. They are just that good!

The books are based on a simple enough premise. In 2060 Oxford, history is studied by traveling back in time to observe, collect data and interpret events firsthand under the tutelage of Mr. Dunworthy, the history professor in charge of time travel. The story centers on three students interested in different aspects of World War II. Michael Davies, disguised as Mike Davis who wants to go to Dover as an American war correspondent to observe the heroism of the ordinary people who rescued British soldiers from Dunkirk; Merope Ward becomes Eileen O’Reilly, working as a servant to Lady Caroline Denewell in her manor at Backbury, Warwickshire in order to observe evacuees from London; and Polly Churchill becomes Polly Sebastian, a shop girl by day working in the fictitious department store Townsend Brothers on Oxford Street, who wants to observe how Londoners coped during the Blitz.

In Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis makes it clear that there are certain cardinal rules of time travel. First, the traveler may not do anything to alter a past event. But that kink was supposed to be taken care of so that it couldn’t happen. In addition, an historian is not allowed to travel to a divergence point, a critical point in history that can be changed by the presence of the historian. Nor can a predetermined drop site open if t

3 Comments on Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, last added: 11/18/2010
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