Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Friday 20 April 2012

Life in Wartime

Last weekend I went to the fascinating Churchill War Rooms. It is a fascinating, claustrophobic place, showing the difficulties the men and women of Churchill's staff worked through (not least working with the famously irascible Churchill!) I thoroughly recommend it. It made me think about novels to support children's empathy with people living through the war.

Books such as the amazing Goodnight Mr Tom, Carrie's War and The Machine Gunners need no introduction, and Niamh's guest post on Out of Hitler's Time needs no addition. However, there are two other books I'd like to mention for teachers or parents who would like a story to help develop children's understanding of Britain during World War Two.


Lenny Levy's father has gone to war. Before he leaves, he gives his son a brass badge with the lion and unicorn, symbols of Britain. Missing his dad, the badge comforts Lenny through the bombing of London. Then he is evacuated to the country, to a big house, where he is the only Jewish child and the only boy. He also wets the bed, and is teased for it. But he finds a walled garden with a unicorn statue, where a wounded soldier called Mick helps him understand that there are different kinds of bravery.

This is a beautiful picture book, a format often (erroneously, in my opinion) thought appropriate for younger children. It is best suited to 7+, and I think that the period detail in the illustrations would help children empathise with Lenny missing his parents and feeling unwelcome in a new environment. It is a book that I would definitely give to 9+ children learning about World War 2, and also those facing difficulties settling into a new environment. 


In present day London, Mallie Kelly takes an after-school job in a pet shop so that she can buy her mother a present. Sarah Kelly, Mallie's mother, is an artist who no longer in love with art. The book alternates Mallie's story with that of Tony and Alice, two children who are evacuated to the Lake District during the war. Mallie and Tony's stories become intertwined as the novel progresses, coming together over a drawing of a girl with a rabbit. Adult fans of children's literature may be able to predict the twist, but I doubt child readers would. It's a great book for 8+. I think it would help children realise that people live through a number of historical eras- in this case, the story covers figures from the late nineteenth century to the present day. I loved it! It is published by the wonderful Frances Lincoln, notable for their commitment to celebrating cultural diversity. I recommend exploring their list of picture books in particular. 


  1. Ooh, I've not heard of The Rabbit Girl. Must give that a look at. Have you read Lydia Kokkola's book - Representing the Holocaust in Children's Literature? It's a brilliant and fascinating read.

  2. I'd not heard of 'The Rabbit Girl' either. Thank you. Now I must look for Lydia Kokkola's book too. Thank you both!

  3. Thank you both for commenting. I'll look out for the Kokkola book. I've also learnt of Susan Cooper's Dawn of Fear, which unusually is a children's book featuring children living through the Blitz, which is on my list!