Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Keep Calm and Carry On, Children by Sharon K. Mayhew
On the journey, the two sisters meet Sam Purdy, 11, and Molly Neal, 12, and after hours and hours of riding, the four of them disembark in a place called Leek. As people look over the evacuees, Sam is chosen quickly by an elderly man who claims to need someone who can help him now that his boys are away fighting. Molly is next, chosen by an elderly lady who likes her humor and cheekiness. And just as Joyce and Gina begin getting worried they would be left behind, a woman and her daughter Phyllis Woods, 10, decide to take in the sisters.
Joyce and Gina's placement works out very nicely, and Phyllis proves to be an instant friend. After a few days, they decide to call on Sam and Molly, to see if they can come out and play for a while. But when they find out he is living with a Mr. Badderly, Phyllis recognizes the name and tells Joyce he isn't a very nice person.
Sure enough, he has Sam working hard in his victory garden and won't let him leave until Joyce, Phyllis, and later Molly help Sam finish his chores. When they finally get away from Mr. Badderly, Sam tells them how badly he is being treated, even forced to sleep in the cellar. But when Sam, Molly, Joyce, and Phyllis discover a hut full of items that are now being rationed, they realize these are things being sold on the black market. I think no one will be surprised to discover who the ringleader of the black marketeers is. But what can a group a kids do about these ruthless crooks?
Keep Calm and Carry On, Children is an interesting story, with lots of everyday details about the early days of the Blitz, and the fear, worry, and trepidation that children must have felt at being sent to strangers in the countryside and away from their family. Many of the evacuees in the book arrived in the countryside in dirty clothes and not have washed, because as the bombing in London increased, the water and gas lines were damaged. That is something I never encountered in a WWII novel about evacuees before. Also, it was so surprising to learn that Joyce and Gina had never used a toothbrush until living with the Woods family. I wonder how common that might have been. The Munsey family was poor in London, and at times, Joyce feels so embarrassment because of it, but was never made to feel bad by Phyllis or her mother.
It took some time to get to the part about the black market and Mr. Badderly's mistreatment of Sam, which sadly really did happen to some of evacuees. I think some of the early details could have been edited out without spoiling the story. Also there were mistakes in the ARC I read, which will hopefully be fixed in the final copy, but it was nothing that would ruin the basic story.
Mayhew's story was inspired by her grandfather's family, when his parents took in two evacuees from London during the war. And one final thing: though she used the slogan in her title, to her credit, Mayhew didn't use it in the story. Keep Calm and Carry On was only to be used in case of invasion, and that never happened.
Keep Calm and Carry On, Children is a novel that should interest young readers interested in history, especially WWII history.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley