THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA by Robert Westall
Kirkus Star


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Harry Baguely has just made it to the bomb shelter when a Luftwaffe bomb obliterates his home, parents, and little sister. Horrified by their fate and by the prospect of going to live in a cousin's overcrowded fiat, Harry takes the blankets he was carrying at the time of the blast and a briefcase containing family documents and sets off up the coast north of his home near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, accompanied by Don, a stray dog. Like the dauntless puss in Blitzcat (1989), Harry encounters a variety of people who reveal their characters by their manner of enduring the war. A wrathful farmer violently evicts him from a haystack; an alcoholic recluse teaches him survival lore of the beach; a fatherly corporal befriends him until the return of a vicious homosexual associate, whose advances force Harry to move on. After a terrifying night crossing from Lindisfarne to the mainland, when he and Don are caught by the tide, Harry is taken in by a gentle schoolmaster who is grieving for his own son. Their mutual solace is not quite the end of Harry's journey--with a startling final twist, Westall sets his entire story in new light. Meanwhile, Harry is revealed, to himself and the reader, as a 12-year-old with intelligence, competence, and conscience, a boy with the resilience to cope with the blow he receives at the end. A fine survival story, winner of the 1990 Guardian Award.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1991
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"