It is 2002 and Georgie Wetherall loves two things - knowing all about England in World War II and creeping. Creeping? That is when you “streak across a row of back gardens, over fences, through hedges, across veg patches...without getting caught or recognized.” (pg13) And he especially likes leaving Miss Coverley’s garden is shambles. Georgie knows she doesn’t like him - she's always watching him. So when he has to repair her fence post as punishment for his last creeping adventure, Georgie discoveres she watches him - it seems he reminds her of someone, but who?
All this is forgotten, however, when Georgie’s class goes on a trip to Eden Camp, a former POW camp turned into a WW 2 museum of 29 huts each dedicated to one aspect of the war. Hut 5 is a realistic replica of a bombed street in London during the Blitz. The sounds and smells add to the realistic atmosphere - but wait, it is perhaps a little too realistic. In fact, Georgie suddenly finds himself transported back to wartime London.
Finding himself faced with the real deal, cold, hungry, lost and scared, Georgie wanders around until he finds a friendly searchlight crew who give him something to eat. After living through a night of bombing in a public shelter, Georgie notices four kids emerging from a bombed out pub. He and the kids starting talking and they tell him he can stay with them as long as Ma approves. Ma turns out to be a 14 year old girl who watches over orphaned kids in the pub’s basement.
Ma has a job in a second hand shop owned by what she believes to be is a Jewish refugee from Germany called Rags. But when Georgie discovers a radio transmitter locked in one of the shops upstairs rooms, they begin to suspect that maybe Rags isn’t who they think he is. And they decide to find out exactly what he is up to with that radio transmitter. Trouble is, Rags begins to suspect Ma of snooping in his stuff and decides to find out what she is up to. So Georgie, with Ma and the other orphans, is on a wartime adventure he never dreamed possible.
I liked this coming of age time travel story. It is told in the first person, and the author maintains the voice of a 12 year old boy throughout giving it an authentic quality - quick, witty, full of colloquialisms from 2002 that are questioned by the folks from 1940. I also found Georgie's reaction to his predicament refreshing. In most time traveling stories, kids end up in a different time and place and seem to assimilate so easily. But for Georgie, it isn’t just a jolly adventure. He worries throughout about not getting home, not seeing his parents again. As wartime London loses it romanticized aura and becomes reality, it causes Georgie to experience real reactions like throwing up more than once and even to peeing himself at one point.
But it is also a story of survival, complete with a cast of orphan characters right out of Dicken’s London, who become Georgie’s family away from family, helping him adjust and carry on. And most importantly, helping him see the reality of war.
Blitzed is a fast but wonderful book. The chapters are only a few pages long, but the events are exciting, making it an ideal book for a reluctant reader and certainly one that would appeal to boys as well as girls.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library/
You can hear Robert Swindells speaking about Blitzed here. It is on YouTube but the embed function is disengaged.
And there really is an Eden Camp in Yorkshire, so if you happen to be in England and would have an interest in visiting (you might want to go to Yorkshire anyway, it is a wonderful place to see.) Information about visiting can be found here.
But no worry, if you are only going to be in London, try visiting one of my favorites for a taste of what living in London during the Blitz was like: Winston Churchill’s Britain at War Experience. You can find information here (located on Tooley Street, same street the second hand store is on in Blitzed.)