Kirkus Reviews QR Code
TIME OF FIRE by Robert Westall


by Robert Westall

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-590-47746-3
Publisher: Scholastic

 A Newcastle lad loses both parents to enemy action in the Battle of Britain, but passes up a tailor-made chance for revenge in this heavy, predictable story, first published abroad in 1994. When a stray bomb kills Sonny's mother, his father leaves him in the care of grandparents and rushes off to join the RAF, swearing vengeance, and later dying heroically. Westall (Gulf, 1996, etc.) gives readers a strong taste of life in those perilous times, as the war comes to England and the English respond with matter-of-fact courage--but he's likely to lose readers, if not with the occasionally thick dialect, the plot's deliberate pace, or the standard issue cast (a schoolyard bully, two adopted wounded pets, and a set of grownups who always say the right things, notably Sonny's patient, canny Granda, ever ready to dispense wisdom or reminisce at length), then with the general focus on adult conversation and relationships. Granda's sneering comment about ``dagoes'' doesn't sit too well, either. In the contrived, inevitable climax, Sonny, seized by a downed German airman, coolly plies him with elderberry wine, lets him fall into a handy flooded pit, then, upon reflection, holds the soldier's head above water until rescue comes. To an unusual degree--even for Westall--this book's situations, characters, language, and historical background will have far more resonance for readers across the pond. (Fiction. 11-13)