Young ELMS Book Reviews

Young ELMS Book Reviews

All books below have been reviewed by young people for ELMS. Why not pick up a book and let us know what you think?


Gervase Cowell MBE, 1926 – 2000, ELMS

Hitler’s Canary – by Sandi Toksvig

“I knew I should be afraid but I didn’t know yet what of: the Germans? The British? The French? We were theatre people. We didn’t get involved in these things. It was nothing to do with us.”

It’s 1940, Bamse is ten years old, his best friend Anton is Jewish and the Germans have just invaded Demark.

Bamse’s family live within the magical world of theatre; his mother was the most famous actress in Denmark; his father is a scene painter and artist. Yet they would need the performance of a lifetime if they and their friends were to survive the events of the future.

It’s the daring story of two best friends and how their lives changed forever when the Germans invaded their homeland. Bamse’s world has been turned up side down; He must decide if he should he take his father’s advice and not stir up trouble or follow his brother and join the resistance?

Funny and gripping Hitler’s Canary is based on real events and show’s the selfless acts of the Resistance on mainland Europe, all seen through the eyes of a young boy.

Published by Doubleday  Price: £8.99

Emil and Karl – by Yankev Glatshteyn.

Set in Vienna, Austria, ‘Karl and Emil’ follows two young boys as they watch the Second World War unfold.

Written in 1940, it tells of the experiences of European Jews and their neighbours as they live under Nazi occupation. It is an emotional account of true events taking place within Austria, and shows it was not just the Jews who were considered enemies by the Nazi regime.

The Author wished his readers to understand that events happening in Vienna had an impact on everyone living there and that the lives of Europe’s Jews depended partly on their relationships with their non-Jewish neighbours. He succeeds.

Published by Scholastic  Price: £5.99

For Freedom – by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Based on a true story, this is book for young adults.

Life for Suzanne David, a 13 year old French school girl and music student, changes dramatically in May 1940. Suzanne and her best friend witness the brutal death of a neighbour when a bomb falls directly in front of them.

Soon the David family are forced from their home and into poverty as the Germans take over Cherbourg. Then Suzanne is given the opportunity to help the Allies as bravely she risks her life, her family and her singing career in order to spy for the Resistance.

Right from the first chapter this novel is full of suspense and moves at a fast pace. It will appeal to readers who enjoy history and espionage.

Tail-End Charlie – by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom

An air-gunner’s story based on the true life events of the author’s father, presented in graphic-novel format. Suitable for 7-12 yr olds, but enjoyable and informative for everyone!

The story, told in appealing illustrations, captions and speech bubbles, charts Charlie Manning’s war from 1939 when he joined up in the Civil Defence delivering messages and putting up barrage balloons, to 1945 when he ended up in an RAF hospital.

In 1943, looking forward to ‘real fried eggs for breakfast’ Charlie joined the RAF to train as an air gunner and so we follow the adventures of his training and operations.

The book is laced with RAF jargon and terminology and has a helpful glossary for those who need NAAFI, WAAF and Plexiglass explaining!

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books  £6.99

Growing Up in WW2 – by Deb Martin

A book compiled as a project to share the experiences of the WW2 generation with today’s school children. Good research and browsing for both primary and secondary ages – and older folk will enjoy reminiscing!

Full of pictures and memories of school, food, evacuation, air-raids, house-hold appliances, clothes and drives to aid the war effort.

The small booklet has quizzes, games and suggestions for projects – it is a good starting place for beginning research on every day life in WW2.  £2 (approx)

Prisoner of War – by Stewart Ross

This factual book tells the stories of four English men and one French man who all became Prisoners of War [PoWs]. It has a simple easy to follow format, with lots of illustrations and personal recollections.

Len was a prisoner of the Japanese; Niel, Robert, Stan and Jean were in German PoW camps. The book tells of their thoughts and experiences of ‘joining up’, their capture, their lives in the camps and their eventual freedom.

Over 120,000 allied soldiers, sailors and airmen were taken prisoner during WW2. The reminiscences of the five men help to give an idea of the life of a PoW.

A Glossary explains some vocabulary and military terms.

Hodder Children’s Books  £6.99

Horrible Histories – Spies – by Terry Deary

In his usual light-hearted way Terry Deary, with the help of Mike Phillips’ illustrations, relates stories of real people, who in WW2 risked, and sometimes gave, their lives in the quest for freedom and justice.

There are stories of brave people, many of whom led exciting lives; others faced dreadful deaths and brought cruel killing to helpless people. The stories show that spying isn’t all ‘cool codes, groovy gadgets and fantastic fun’.

This book makes compulsive reading for all age groups and is a good introduction to the work and activities of the Resistance, the SOE and all the other clandestine groups that existed during WW2. It is factual and well researched and could be an excellent starting point for some in-depth investigation into an interesting area of WW2.

Scholastic  £9.99

Tamar – by Mal Peet

A story of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland, aimed at young adult readers. It is a powerful story of love, jealousy and tragedy set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

When, in the present day, Tamar’s grandfather dies, she inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. On delving into the past she discovers another Tamar, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters.

This is an excellent piece of story-telling that is well researched and keeps the reader in suspense from start to finish.

Mal Peet was inspired to write the story after learning of the experiences of a friend’s father who had been a British secret agent in WW2, which ‘kindled his interest in codes, puzzles, identities and the often poisonous effects of secrecy’.

Walker Books   £7.99

Resistance – by Craig Simpson

In April 1940 Germany invaded Norway. The southern and central regions of the country were quickly overrun and within a few months the rest of the country fell under Nazi control. Fourteen-year-old Marek and his older brother Olaf witness their father’s arrest by the Gestapo and begin a plan for revenge against the Nazis.

Their plan goes wrong and they are forced to seek safety in the vast Norwegian wilderness where they become involved with a group of Resistance freedom-fighters.

Because of Marek’s youthfulness it is assumed that the Germans would not suspect him as he takes on duties for the group.

An action packed story that keeps the reader wanting to know what happens next.

Corgi Books  £5.99

Also by Craig Simpson  Run, Spy, Run!

A British secret agent is photographing top secret German files when he is unexpectedly interrupted, and the alarm is raised. What follows is a desperate battle for survival as Jaques is pursued, hiding where he can and not able to trust anyone. He must find a path out of Occupied France to get the camera and film into British hands, nothing else – not even his own life – matters. This title is published by Franklin Watts EDGE, which produces a range of books to get children reading with confidence. ISBN  9781445123882

The Escape – by Robert Muchamore

Twelve year old Marc Kilgour was brought up in a brutal orphanage in the French town of Beauvais. Following an air attack Marc decides to run away – together with the orphanage Superintendent’s bicycle and savings! Hitler’s army is advancing towards Paris and millions of French civilians are on the run so Marc manages to escape undetected.

While on the run Marc’s path crosses with those of two British children, who due to their father’s undercover activity are being hunted by German agents, and a British secret agent, Charles Henderson, who knew their father.

The British children have secret plans that belonged to their father and Charles Henderson enlists Marc’s help to track them down before the Germans find them.

A gripping story; hard to put down; suitable for young teenage readers.

Hodder Childrens Books  £6.99

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