Author: Peggy Woodford
Publication: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, hardcover, 1974
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Setting: Guernsey, Channel Islands, World War IIDescription: German forces have occupied Guernsey, appropriating food and resources from the islanders who are British subjects. Anna Hardy’s younger brother has been evacuated with most of the Island children but at 17 Anna refused to go, feeling she could not run away. When the Germans requisition the Hardys’ house, Anna and her parents have just a few hours to pack clothing, food, and valuables and take refuge with a difficult aunt five miles away. As Anna begs a neighbor to lend a cart to help them save as many belongings as possible, she witnesses even worse deprivation than the Islanders experience – a labor camp where the German prisoners of war are kept in brutal conditions. A few days later a young Polish prisoner escapes and collapses on the Hardys’ doorstep, putting the Hardys at great risk. Soon, Anna’s father is deported to Germany. As Anna and her friend Fred become frustrated by the German forces and increasingly militant, they look for a way to strike a blow against the Nazis.
My Impression: This is an enjoyable historical novel written for middle graders before there was much of a young adult category, although the heroine is 17 and part of the book involves a love triangle. Anna yearns for Fred, who cares only for fighting the Germans, instead of sensitive Marek who worships her. This reminded me a little of my beloved K.M. Peyton who describes yearning so well! The descriptions of how the Islanders cope with the Germans and share what little they have – repairing shoes with bits of old tire and sharing the last bottle of wine so the Germans don’t get it – is what makes the book appealing. Anna’s aunt is a particularly interesting character: she doesn’t think much of her English-born brother-in-law and the Hardys are afraid she will turn Marek in to the Germans if she learns they are hiding him, but she is generous to the family members who seek refuge on her farm and supports Anna when it matters. Fred’s family are farmers, and pre-war would have been sending cut flowers, one of Guernsey’s popular exports, off-island. He is a vividly drawn but annoying young man, self-absorbed, sexist, and quite convincing. The reader roots for Marek, especially when he reveals he can quilt! I also liked that he was a devout Catholic and determined to make his Confession, although risky.Guernsey is the largest of the five Channel Islands, about 27 square miles and, unless they read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, casual American readers probably do not know that it is a self-governing British Crown dependency, with an English and French culture and its own dialect, although the primary language is English. The Islanders must have been astounded and bitter in June 1940 when Britain's war cabinet voted to leave the Channel Islands to fend for themselves during a German invasion. The Germans do not appear to have been as brutal to the Islanders as they were in other countries, and it is speculated this is because they did not resist. Anna asks her father (hopefully) if there is any secret resistance in the Channel Islands, and he replies that the Islands are so small it would be impossible to keep anything secret, but this makes her even more determined to defy the Germans in some way. The children who were evacuated did not see their families again for five years, and we don’t know if Anna’s father would have survived a German prison camp.Source: Library. I read about this book recently in The Juvenile Novels of World War II, and the Commonwealth Catalog found me a copy quite promptly from the other end of the state.