A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's some fairly graphic violence, including a man beaten to death with a concrete block. There's also a lot of drinking and smoking, though not approvingly described.
What's the story?
Martin is seriously depressed, and rarely leaves his basement room. At his private school he is bullied both by students and teachers, and has few friends. His mother doesn't listen. His father is an alcoholic and is seldom around. The only person he is able to talk to is his grandmother, but she dies early in the story.
In her will, though, she leaves him an antique radio. When he tries it out, a boy with a British accent emerges, and eventually leads Martin back to WWII-era London during the Blitz. He says he needs Martin's help, but the help he needs will require more heart and courage from Martin than he ever knew he had.
Is it any good?
This immensely satisfying novel will remind fans of author Edward Bloor's first book, Tangerine. It has similar complexity, empathy for the downtrodden, and sweet revenge scenario in which the bullies get what they so richly deserve. A fascinating historical element enriches the tale. While many aspects of World War II have been addressed in children's books, including the evacuation of children from London, rarely has the life of ordinary Londoners who stayed behind been depicted so intriguingly -- and horrifyingly.
The book is not without its flaws. The only marginally likable adult is Martin's father, a sad sack, helpless alcoholic who is kind -- which gives him a leg up on any other adult here. And the revenge scene, so enjoyable in its way, is marred by a laughable lack of consequences. But these are quibbles that will barely be noticed in such a moving and satisfying story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the London Blitz and find more information about it. What kept the British going when they were being bombed and thought they were alone? Why were they so angry at the Americans? How could the history of what really happened have gotten so distorted?