Sibling evacuees find a seemingly abandoned baby on a Yorkshire dale.
At the start of World War II, Lizzie, 10, and her 7-year-old brother, Peter, are sent from Hull into the countryside to be fostered with a nearly catatonic woman named Elsie. When Lizzie brings home an infant she finds lying on a blanket in a field, Elsie springs to life, thinking that the baby is her dead child returned. In actuality, the baby is a Roma child reluctantly left behind by her elder brother, Elijah, when brutish Bill forces him to go rabbit hunting. Within hours, many, including the village policeman, know the identity of the baby—whose mother is frantically searching for her—but all independently decide that the baby should stay with the mentally ill woman. Only young Lizzie seems to have any morality. Adults thwart her until, teamed with Elijah, she pulls off a complicated rescue. Illogical plot points and inconsistent characterization doom this debut. Why would Bill endanger an infant? Why would Elijah agree? And if prejudice toward the Roma is the reason the villagers don't return the baby, why don't they realize the baby herself is one? Blackford writes smoothly in third-person chapters that shift between Lizzie (in which Elijah and his people are called Gypsies) and Elijah (in which they are called Travelers), and her historical details are well-done, but she needs to find a better story.
Skip. (Historical fiction. 8-10)