6/8/21

Blitzed, by Robert Swindells, for Timeslip Tuesday

I thought about the Blitz quite a lot in the Spring of 2000, when life became full of fearful uncertainty mixed with dull, aching boredom, and I wondered how the people of London could have kept going with bombs raining death every night for months.  Blitzed, by Robert Swindells (May 2002), is the story of a modern kid who gets to find out. 

Georgie is a normal boy of 2002, with a bit of an attitude, a fondness for "creeping" with his mates through the local back gardens in commando-style raids (which didn't endear him to me), and a keen interest in World War II.  He's thrilled to go on a class trip to a former POW camp turned WW 2 museum, with 29 huts each showcasing a particular aspect of the war.  The fifth hut, in which there's a replica of a bombed London street, is the most gripping.  All the sounds and smells are there, and there's even a hand, reaching helpless out of the rubble.  And suddenly Georgie is there too, seeing it all in real life, and running from the desperate hand, instead of trying to help.

The first few days of being lost, scared, and starving are terrible ones, but then his luck gets better.  He finds a group of kids living furtively in a bombed out pub, surviving under the leadership of Ma, who lets Georgie join them.  

Ma isn't a grown-up herself, though; she is only 14.  By dint of shear force of will she's able to keep the kids reasonably clean and fed (though poorly) with her wages from a work at a dingy second-hand clothing shop.  And Georgie takes his place in the group, and starts helping her in the shop (when the proprietor is away).  It is all horrible (and one of the kid's is killed by a bomb), and rather boring for the people living through it at the same time time.  

But things heat up story-wise when Georgie finds evidence that the shop keeper is a spy, and Ma and the kids help find more evidence.  Georgie gets a real war time adventure, and then finds himself home again....and finds Ma again too. 

Georgie tells his story in short first person chapters, giving it an immediacy and intimacy that draws the reader in (and making it a good one for emergent middle grade readers).  His traumatized reactions (throwing up more than once, collapsing into tears) ring true.  Yet it's not all doom and gloom; Georgie is a smart-alek, and though I didn't like this in his 21st century self, it added humor to his time in the past, as did the 21st century colloquialisms and slips that he makes as a time-traveler.

Young readers who like stories of kids surviving on their own in disasters, becoming a found families in the process will enjoy this one lots!  I did, after I got over my initial dislike for Georgie (I just really don't like kids who destroy gardens.  Fortunately his parents make him go fix the garden fence he broke, and the satisfaction he gets from this is a sign that character growth will come....).  

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