Pros: An interesting and descriptive action packed children's story.
Cons: A bit on the short side.
I am presently trying to read (and re-read) some childrens books that I feel might be useful and entertaining. The books I had already sampled, by Robert Swindells, had been good and I decided that Blitzed would be a good next choice. My tastes at the moment seem to including quite a few books with the Second World War as a theme, so this would fit in with that ~ it also has a time travel element too, so that would cater for my Sci-fi needs.
Robert Swindells was born in Bradford (Yorkshire) in 1939 and is one of a family of five children. He has had many jobs, including an engineer, a clerk, a printer and a serviceman in the RAF. He decided to train as a teacher and wrote his first book while on this teaching course (When Darkness Comes, written in 1973). He taught at a Primary school while continuing to write, but finally gave up teaching in 1980 to become a full-time author. Hes written a lot of books since then including Brother in the Land, Room 13 and Abomination. I havent read all of his books but generally they cater for older children and teenagers. Apparently Robert Swindells prefers to be called Bob .so, if you ever meet him .
Blitzed is about a boy called George who is absolutely obsessed by all things to do with World War Two. The book starts off in contemporary England ~ George is really excited because his school is going on a trip to the Eden Camp Museum (near Malton in Yorkshire). He wants to learn more about the War and he also wants to see the planes, bombs and other artefacts. He dreams of being a child in the 1940s and longs to experience the War first hand. George is visiting the exhibit that portrays London during the Blitz, when he is sucked into the scene as becomes transported through time.
The adventure from this point takes place in War torn London ~ a setting very different to how George has conceived the War to be. He has to cope with a situation he has never experienced before and must survive bombs, rationing and being chased by the police ~ who think that he is a runaway because he joins up with a group of homeless kids. Theres quite a lot going on and George even ends up investigating a suspected German spy! Its a reasonably short book, but it is pretty action packed and the ending (which I wont give away) is a bit of a surprise.
Blitzed was published in 2002 and was awarded the Childrens Book Award for Younger Readers in June 2003.
~~~What I thought.
I really enjoyed Blitzed ~ it was just long enough for me to read during an afternoon in the garden and had enough action and twists to keep me interested from start to finish. Swindells describes the period well and the characters are very believable. I found myself becoming quite involved in the story and could see that Swindells was drawing on his own experiences of growing up during the War (he would have been a child during the 1940s) to produce a realistic and descriptive account. Swindells picture of the Blitz is bleak, harsh and dangerous; pretty much as it would have been I suppose. There are a few lighter moments (illustrating the Blitz Spirit perhaps), but generally I found the primary elements of the book were the urgency, the horror and way that George has to cope in a historical period that is entirely alien to him.
The time slip aspect could have actually have ended up as being incidental to the plot. Rather than only being used as a means to end during the story though, Swindells makes the Time Travel an excellent plot device. I found the way Swindells ties in the past and the present an interesting concept ~ the way that the reality of the War surprises and scares George makes the story grow and become more thrilling. Blitzed teaches children that the War isnt just adventure and museum artefacts; it was actually REAL!
The Time travelling is also a good way to increase the interest level for children reading it today because, if the book was set entirely in the 1940s, the younger readers wouldnt be able to identify with the characters. By using the Science Fiction concept of Time Travel, Swindells is appealing to a wider audience and drawing in readers who may not normally choose a book about the War.
Blitzed is written in an entertaining and unchallenging way too. Swindells doesnt use any words or ideas that are too difficult for children to understand, so it is probably suitable for children from nine years upwards. Younger children may enjoy reading it too, but certain bits might need explaining ~ you may find yourself having to give a bit of background information about the Second World by way of an explanation. Older children and those in their early teens will be able to read it by themselves and they will find enough action to keep them involved.
It isnt a complex story but it doesnt really need to be because the narrative and the descriptive passages are good enough to carry it through. It is easy to read, easy to follow and gives some good historical information about Second World War England. It would be quite interesting for children who are going to visit The Eden Camp Museum too ~ setting the beginning of the story in a factual place makes the book seem a bit more real. Im sure children who have read the book will find that looking around the museum has more relevance to them they may even imagine that they may be embarking on an adventure too!
Blitzed is full of adventure and has a serious message as well ~ War isnt fun and neither is being homeless! I recommend that you give Blitzed a try and that (if you have any) you encourage your children to read it too. I hope, like me, you wont be disappointed.
Oh and be very careful what you dream about, because you might just end up there!
Author(s): Robert Swindells
Currently available in paperback from Amazon.co.uk for #4.99. You can also get it as an offer with Last Bus (also by Swindells) for #8.98.