Author: Constance Savery
Publication: Bethlehem Books, paperback, 2001 (originally published in 1943)
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Setting: World War II BritainDescription: When Flying Officer Dym Ingleford uses part of his leave for a flying visit to his brother in the Navy, he has a premonition that he is needed there – and he is right. Ginger and his Naval colleagues just rescued a boatload of Norwegians escaping to England, along with a 12-year-old Nazi youth, and when Dym sees the boy he is convinced that “Max Eckermann” is his brother Tony, kidnapped at 18 months by a German schoolmate of his mother. Although Max is horrified and denies that he is English, Dym persuades the authorities to let him bring the boy home while they seek proof of his birth. Raised as a Nazi, the boy is contemptuous of the soft English and decides to run away. Frequently. But the kindness of his new family, even when he acts abominably, slowly overcomes Tony’s hatred and he begins to hero-worship the quiet but impressive Dym, a pillar of the large and unruly Ingleford family. Then, he gets an opportunity to return to Germany which tests his confused loyalties.
My Impression: This is an exciting and very moving story that was written and set during World War II. Dym was just a child himself when Tony was kidnapped but he promised his dying mother he would never stop looking for his lost brother. Dym then learned German and has traveled extensively prior to the war trying to find him. Although Max has earned a reputation as a vicious little Nazi, Dym is convinced that is just due to his upbringing and that his character can be redeemed through firmness and kindness. Tony tests the limits of Dym’s patience by running away repeatedly, behaving rudely to the family, and collecting information he would like to provide to a German spy, but Dym maintains his friendly calm as he tries to persuade Tony to be a British boy and the development of a loving relationship between the brothers is convincingly depicted. It helps that Dym is stationed close enough to zip home when he’s not flying missions!
The book is full of poignant scenes but perhaps my favorite is when Tony thinks Dym’s plane has been shot down and cycles to the military hospital, where he is turned back by the guards. He sneaks inside where he is discovered by a terrifying matron. When she finds out why he is so upset, she softens, gives him tea, and shows him it is Dym’s friend who is in a hospital bed, although Dym has indeed been there in the past. Tony is so late returning home that the Inglefords think he has run away again and the boy is too proud to tell them the real reason he was so far from home.
But the boy still twisted on the chair, unable to forget. Then Matron showed him a laughing photograph. “From your brother,” she said.Like Savery’s The Reb and the Redcoats, this book depicts characters who are honorable and patriotic but also possess a sense of humor. It’s an interesting contrast to the impersonation stories I like – Max insists he is not Tony but slowly he accepts his true identity and that the mother he loves really stole him as a toddler. 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader.
Across the photograph Dym had written:
All my love to Madam Dragon. Thank you for putting Humpty Dumpty back together again so nicely.
The sight of the photography made the boy stop feeling as though a tight hand clutched his throat. He smiled a little. “Herr Dym is not very respectful,” he remarked.
Source: Library copy, but now I need my own. This would be perfect summer reading for preteens.