A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this award-winning novel about an abused boy who goes to live with a lonely man during the London Blitz is riveting, complex, and an emotional blockbuster of a novel; kids will be laughing, crying, and unable to put it down. There are many extremely intense scenes involving death
and abuse and their aftermaths -- some very graphic. In the end, kids will be moved by the deep bond between Mr. Tom and Willie -- and the story might inspire further reading and research about World War II.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When Willie comes to board with Tom Oakley during World War II's London Blitz, Mr. Tom realizes the boy has been abused. But when Willie's mother sends for him, and Mr. Tom doesn't hear from him again, he goes to London to find out what has happened to the boy. One of the most devastatingly powerful children's novels ever written.
Is it any good?
The story of Willie's recovery from severe abuse is given an unusually rich and vivid setting in this complex, multilayered novel. The book reads like a page-turner, though it is only in the central section, when Tom journeys to London to find Willie, that there is real action and suspense. But the rest is filled with vivid, tender portrayals and set pieces. This is a novel of terrible beauty, of the triumph of the spirit torn from the jaws of violence and tragedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficult material here. What age do you think this book is for? Was there anything you found too intense?
This book has won several awards, including the 1982 International Reading Association Children's Book Award and the American Library Association's Notable Children's Books of 1982. Why do you think it is so highly regarded? Does it make a difference to you if a book has won awards or praise?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love history and historical fiction
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.