As he did with his WWI-era novel Private Peaceful, Morpurgo once again sets up a framing story for this tender novel about a family living through WWII in rural England. Shortly after Boowie's grandfather dies, his grandmother Lily takes a mysterious trip. Lily then sends him a collection of her diary entries from 1943, written mostly after her family was forced to evacuate from their seaside home, along with all the other residents of her village (Allied troops-mostly Americans-needed the beach to train for D-Day). During the move, the then 12-year-old Lily loses her cat, and her search for Tips gives her an upfront look at war's dangers (she sneaks into a restricted area, stumbling into shelling practice and live fire). She also makes a connection with an American soldier named Adolphus (or Adie) who tells Lily she's like ""a ray of Atlanta sunshine."" Readers will likely find a couple of impassioned speeches moving but rather scripted. Instead it's the small moments that will most stick with readers, such as when Barry, a 10-year-old evacuee from London, promises Lily he will not pick his nose if he can stay with her family, or when Adie and his friend return Tips to Lily, without their helmets on, making the girl notice that ""they looked younger somehow, not men at all like the other soldiers. More like boys."" Readers may not be surprised when Boowie's grandmother's reveals her secret, but they will be touched nonetheless. And they will learn about another important time in history. Ages 7-10.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006 Release date: 04/01/2006 Genre: Children's