A novel explores intergenerational links, with a modern teenager at one end and a child orphaned in the London Blitz at the other.
The bombing sends unwilling, urbanized 10-year-old Tony into the Lakes District. There he is given a drawing by old “Mrs H” (a certain artist and sheep farmer whose real identity is made known when the drawing lands on Antiques Road Show decades later) and develops a love for animals by working on a farm before receiving news that his widowed father has been killed. Meanwhile, in alternating segments, a modern teen, Mallie, lands a part-time job in a pet shop owned by a crusty retired veterinarian, buys an old drawing in a thrift shop and engineers both work and a personal connection with the vet’s unattached son for her widowed artist mum. A disastrous dinner party during which the old man spots Mallie’s drawing and accuses her of theft sets up a climactic round of revelations, shared memories and long-ago connections that ties the tale into a tidy bow. Young readers may enjoy the lively banter between Mallie and her BF Jamila and perhaps take mild intellectual interest in the historical back story—but to American children for whom the war wasn’t fought so close to home, the emotional resonance won’t be particularly sharp.
Likely to be a miss on this side of the pond, though written in a style fluid enough to smooth over some contrivances. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 10-12)