A young London boy comes of age in the crucible of World War II in this four-part novel for middle graders.
Ronnie is 11 when German bombs start falling; his father’s away in the Royal Artillery. The story opens powerfully: Ronnie refuses to go with his mum to tea with his fragile, anxiety-prone aunt. When London is bombed that afternoon, he makes his way to his aunt’s home to pull his mother from the wreckage. In the second section, Ron is sent to the country for safety, where he needs to negotiate a bullying teacher and thuggish, unfriendly classmates. In the third, he and his mother move again, his mum to work at an American base and Ron to be enchanted by an “Eye-talian” female student. Complications and misunderstandings ensue. At the end, it’s the V-E Day celebration and, finally, news about his long-missing dad. Ashley makes a clear, straightforward narrative that accommodates a surprising amount of information about England during the war, and he does it with a strong story lucid and true enough to engage younger readers. Of particular note is Ronnie’s affectionate and honest relationship with his mother through times that intensify the usual adolescent woes.
A moving snapshot of a time that still resonates. (Historical fiction. 8-12)