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On the Guardian book pages, among a whole range of comments about books on the evacuation of kids from London during WW2, there’s a comment : ‘I wish Jacqueline Wilson would write a novel about this, it would be brilliant’. Prophetic words, apparently!
There have been zillions of books written about the experiences – real or fictional – of wartime evacuees. Some of them have been wonderful, and have stood the test of still being read and in print – Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian is one which is frequently mentioned as being outstanding.
Wave Me Goodbye is going to take its place among the best books of this type, I think.
Jacqueline Wilson writes with humour, insight, compassion and understanding. Her characters all are credible and engaging.
When Shirley’s mum says she’s going on holiday, at first Shirley is excited – but then the reality of what kind of a holiday it will be hits home, and she is by turns reluctant, scared and angry about having to leave her mother in London. But off she goes, in her red patent leather shoes (!) with her suitcase too heavy to manage because instead of packing one book, she packed her whole library. What a heroine!
However the reality of being billeted in a country village hits home when the residents are asked to select the kids they are willing to take in. Of course there are more kids than available beds and it all gets quite dramatic as Shirley and the two remaining – and unprepossessing – boys are virtually forced on to an unwilling ( and reclusive) hostess.
I don’t want to give away the plot, so will confine myself to saying that despite an ill-advised escape (complete with gun!) all turns out well.
Many themes run through this excellent story, but what develops very strongly is Shirley’s ability to understand the perspectives of others and to be aware of how circumstances can shape us. The librarian in me wants to link this to the fact that she’s a reader … but maybe she’s just smart.
The friendships made across class, age and educational barriers are poignant and well-developed and build in the reader a wish to see how this all turns out.
It’s a story which will please many readers, and is a great addition to the books written about the Blitz and its repercussions. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
Wave Me Goodbye
by Jacqueline Wilson
Published by Doubleday Children’s