“A courageous journey of survival and loyalty through the eyes of children during WWII.” –S.A. Larsen, author of Motley Education
Eleven-year-old Joyce and her little sister hide in their bomb shelter during the German Blitz on London, during World War II. After nights of bombing, it’s decided that they’ll join the over 800,000 children who’ve already been evacuated during Operation Pied Piper. They board a train not knowing where they’re going or who will take them in.
The long, crowded train ride is less than pleasant. Thankfully they make two allies, Sam and Molly. Upon arriving in Leek, the evacuees are herded off the train and paraded down the street like sheep. Joyce and her sister are terrified they won’t be chosen.
Eventually, a family welcomes them. As they adjust to all the changes, they find the people of Leek aren’t so accepting to all the evacuees. Sam’s host is dark and abusive. As the girls help plan his escape, they discover this sleepy little community holds a dark secret...
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|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.37(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
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September 7, 1940
WHRRRRR, whrrr, WHRRR, whrrr
"'Urry, 'urry!" Daddy pulled on me as he shouted. "Joyce, get out of bed now! Do you have your gas mask? We 'ave to get to the shelter!"
I shook my head. "But it's full of creepy crawlies."
"Not now, Joyce. You'll be fine." Daddy's face was drawn in tight. His eyes went blink blink blink as bombs whistled through the air, with thunderous explosions as they landed.
We dashed out the back door and into the garden like panicked chickens. With Mum running ahead of me, I almost stopped, my stomach tightened. How could I have forgotten my tuck box in the kitchen? It held my photo of Nanny and Grandad and my baby rattle. It also had a beautifully engraved silver bangle that Mister Elstone, our neighbour, gave me when I turned eight in it. He always did nice things for the people in our neighbourhood. I suppose it's because he never had a family of his own.
Around us the sirens wailed, making everything seem more chaotic.
"Down there, now!" roared Daddy.
The urgency in Daddy's voice grew, it sounded shaky as if he were in a horse drawn carriage on a bumpy road.
"D-down there n-now!"
"Wait, I have to go back. I left my tuck box. I ran past it."
Daddy grabbed my arm, hard. "It'll be there when the raid is over. Now 'urry up!"
I prayed my tuck box would be safe.
I let Daddy lead me, even though I really wanted to go back to the house.
WHRRRRR, whrrr, WHRRR, whrrr
Mum slid down the dirt wall, and I followed her. Gina clutched her doll named Dolly as Daddy lowered her to Mum. We dropped to our knees, put our heads on our laps and covered our ears. Gina cried. I bit my bottom lip and closed my eyes tightly. Mum pulled us close and patted our backs and even though it helped, I wanted the all-clear siren to go off so we could get out of this dark, damp, dirty trench.
But it didn't. And moments later Gina began to cry again.
"It'll be all right, girls," Mum said, "it'll be all right."
How on the earth did she think it was going to be all right? We'd never gone in the bomb shelter when the sirens were blaring and bombs were falling from above. Never in my lifetime had England been bombed.
We all froze when Daddy leapt in and dragged a big piece of corrugated iron over the top of the shelter.
Instantly it was pitch black. Blinding us immediately, but where one sense left another took over.
The sounds ...
All of us breathing like it might be our very last breath.
The smells ... damp soil and smoke infused my nose.
I held my breath. The muscle on the back of my leg kept twitching. I took my hands off my head to rub it and then ...
Gina screamed. "Make it stop, Joyce!"
"I can't." Though I wished I could. The ground shaking beneath us was making the twitching in my leg worsen.
And it seemed it would never stop.
The explosions and wailing sirens went on for two hours. And for each second of these two hours, I clutched my gas mask. I hated carrying it around all the time. It bruised my hip, but I'm glad I had it. Daddy had explained why we always needed to have it. I hoped I'd never need to use it.
Then everything went quiet, I took a deep breath and stood up and stretched, rolling my neck around trying to get out the soreness.
Gina curled herself into a ball, with her head rested on Mum's lap. Mum leaned on Daddy's shoulder. They both frowned, especially Daddy. He looked up at the roof of our make-do shelter.
He didn't say anything, so I cautiously peeked through a crack on one side of the roof. Dust and debris blocked my view. With a silent prayer, I hoped our house hadn't been bombed. At that moment, I couldn't hold back.
"I don't think it's fair that the war's coming to London. That Mister Hitler is a real ... a real rotter! If he were here, I'd ... I'd punch him." He wasn't here, so calling him a rotter was the best I could do.
"I'm sure everyone in England would agree with you, Love," Mum said. "Now please don't fuss and let your daddy think about our next step."
I nodded as another explosion rocked the ground. Falling to my knees, I covered my head and shielded Gina.
It felt as though many hours had passed when the roar of the jets and bombers got quieter and then the all-clear siren blew.
"We're goin' to stay 'ere a bit longer," Daddy said, trying to calm Mum, whose hands shook. Her breathing was short and loud.
When she settled, he stood up and cracked the roof so we could get some air. Dust rolled on top of us, filling our nostrils. I was sure this would make Mum start shaking again, but it didn't. Gina rested her head on my lap and fell asleep. Somehow, I calmed too, and eventually closed my eyes.
When Mum shook my arm, I jumped. "Sorry, Love, but we think it's over for now."
Daddy nodded at me, then stood up and pushed the corrugated roof off our make-do-shelter. Dusk had already turned into night. Through the smoke, I saw thousands of twinkling ...
WHRRRR, whrrr, WHRRR, whrrr
Daddy pulled the roof back over us. We ducked and covered finally accepting that tonight's sleep would come on the cold, damp dirt floor of our shelter.
Mum leaned on Daddy's shoulder. He frowned.
Trembling, I tried to focus on what seemed to have been the longest day of my life. It began with me making a gas mask for Dolly out of a matchstick box and a string. Dolly being safe made Gina feel safer, too. We then removed all the burnable things from the attic while Mum covered the windows with tape and newspaper, so light wouldn't sneak out after dark. We were following the home safety leaflets advice from the government. I'd carried buckets of dirt and water into the house, just in case there was a fire ...
I sighed, not knowing what tomorrow would bring or if my tuck box was safe, where I left it. The one thing I knew for sure is we'd do what we had to do to survive. And in no way did I want to end up being a Nazi Youth.
I was English.
And I planned to stay English.CHAPTER 2
September 8, 1940
As the night disappeared, the German bombers went away, with it bringing in dawn. I was unsure if I wanted to see the destruction. Mister Churchill, the Prime Minister, told us there would be an all-clear signal.
And once the earth stopped shaking and the air raid siren blew a solid blast for two minutes. The air raid was over ...
Then all was quiet.
Daddy pushed the roof out of the way. We stood up, stretched and tried to rub the dirt off our legs.
"I'll 'av to clear the way before you an' the girls come up," Daddy said as he climbed out.
We heard loud thuds, perhaps Daddy was throwing things, and they were bouncing across the garden.
Then his head popped into view. "Pass Gina to me. Nice en slow. It's a bloomin' mess up 'ere."
Mum lifted up Gina, and Daddy pulled her out.
"Stand right 'ere, Love, and don't move," Daddy said. "Joyce, you're next!"
I climbed on top of an old wooden crate in the corner of the shelter and Daddy helped me out. The air was thick and brown, and I coughed a few times. I struggled to breathe.
"Stand with Gina. Let me 'elp yur Mum."
I nodded and wrapped my arms around Gina. She stood frozen next to me. The air was full of smoke and dust.
I froze as well. Missus Madden's house was ... half gone. I could see into her sitting room. Her settee poked out from the rubble. I hoped they made it to their shelter. The half of her house still standing was attached to our house. Thankfully, our house seemed to only have broken windows. The knot in my stomach loosened until I turned to look at Mister Elstone's house.
Nothing left except a pile of bricks resting where his home used to be. Instantly, the knot moved up to my throat. Stone, brick, metal, and dust mixed in with our neighbour's belongings lay on what had been the streets and gardens around our house.
I held back my tears. Would we ever get back to normal after something like this? It wasn't fair that the Nazi's, in Germany, were able to make our lives so difficult.
Daddy forced his way through the rubble. "Come 'elp me, Janet. I 'ear Missus Madden and 'er boys. They're under all this rubbish."
My breath caught as I asked, "W-what?"
Daddy looked at me, his eyes saying more than I wanted to know and then he glanced at Mum.
"Girls," Mum said sternly, "You mustn't move from this spot."
We both nodded. As they walked away, Gina squeezed my hand with all of her might. I gave her a gentle squeeze back. I would protect her no matter what. She was my little sister.
Mum navigated her way over to the Madden's air raid shelter. Then she turned back and smiled at me.
"We can hear you, Mary. Are you and the boys all right? Wilfred and I'll get you out."
"We're bloomin' filthy and tired, but we're not hurt." Missus Madden's muffled voice drifted from under her shelter's roof.
The Maddens had luck on their side. They owned a real Anderson Shelter; it was much safer than our trench shelter. It had proper walls and a roof.
Daddy helped Bill and Alex out. They were covered in dirt like Missus Madden had said. Mum helped Daddy get Missus Madden out. She was old and rather plump.
Then we all stood together, waiting for the dust to settle so we could see what happened to our road. The lighter it got, the worse it appeared. Almost every house on our side of the road was damaged. People were still emerging from their shelters. Some shook the dust from their hair and brushed off their clothes. Others cried. Many froze in place as if they couldn't understand what the Germans had done to our road or what they should do next. And the worst of it - the search and rescue started immediately - digging through the rubble for their friends, neighbours, and loved ones.
It was a sight to see, and it made me want to help too.
I left Gina standing by our shelter, clutching Dolly. She would be all right. After all, we were the lucky ones. Our house still stood. My tuck box might have been knocked off the counter, but it would still be in our kitchen.
I wandered down the back row. It didn't take long to find Mister Elstone. He was lying very still at the bottom of his shelter. Brick and glass lay all around him. The roof from his shelter was nowhere to be seen. Gone. Completely gone.
"Mister Elstone, Mister Elstone," My chest tightened when he didn't answer me or move.
I wanted him to be all right, but nothing about what had happened was all right.
I was crying when Daddy rushed to me.
I pointed to a shard of glass poking out of Mister Elstone's side, then Daddy's voice roared like the bombs had done ...
"Get the little uns out of 'ere, Janet!"CHAPTER 3
September 8, 1940
"Come on, Love." Mum took Gina's hand. I followed them back to our house with my heart broken in more ways than I could understand. Inside, my tuck box still sat on the counter. I picked it up and blew the dust off, and then flipped it open. Everything was perfect. Untouched. As if nothing had happened. But ... Mister Elstone ...
Mum's voice startled me.
"That Mister Hitler is a horrid man. Attacking people who have never done a thing to him. He's a vile, evil man ... God will get him for this." Mum shook her head in disgust. "You two to stay back while I clear up the broken glass."
Mum attacked the shards of glass like they were the enemy. Then she moved on to beating the dust off the furniture.
Gina pushed Dolly towards me. "Look what happened to her!" Dolly was filthy. Tears began to build up in the corners of her big green eyes.
As much as I was struggling with this, it must be harder for her. "Come on. Let's give Dolly a bath."
Gina smiled and followed me. We traipsed through the dust over to the kitchen sink, and I turned on the tap. Something wasn't right, so I turned it off and on again.
"Mum, there's something wrong with the tap. Brown water's coming out of it."
"Oh, no! The bombs must have broken a pipe. It'll be all right, we just have to make do for a while. At least we still have a house." Mum rubbed her temples and gazed out of what once was our kitchen window. Bits of taped newspaper dangled from the window frame. The pamphlet suggestion hadn't helped very much.
I leaned on the counter and closed my eyes. How many nights of this could we take? How many nights of bombing had Hitler planned? Could anyone make him stop? It wasn't fair. My head began to ache.
A loud knock came from the back door, which made me jump backward about two feet, right into the china hutch. The hutch shook, but luckily nothing broke.
"Come in," Mum called out. Missus Madden, Bill, and Alex came in. Their arms filled with the belongings they gathered from the wreckage of their home. Brown streaks ran down Missus Madden's cheeks, and she kept sniffing. They piled their meager belongings under the coat rack. Bill and Alex sat at the table. They were much older than me. Bill was sixteen and Alex seventeen. They both were pretty scruffy.
"How will we ever manage? Our house and a meager pension were all we had. James barely left us enough to survive on when he died ... without all of this." Missus Madden punched towards Heaven.
Mum set down the dustpan and broom and put her arms around Missus Madden's shoulders. "It'll be all right, Mary. You and the boys can stay with us until the wars over. We'll figure out what to do after that. Don't worry yourself about it right now."
"Ta, Janet. What would we do without you?" Her eyes glazed over, and she slowly nodded.
"You'd do the same for us if it were our house. Let's see if we can find a little something to eat."
Mum found three tins of rice pudding. She shared them fairly and added some currants. I hadn't eaten it cold before. It didn't smell warm and inviting, but I ate it and found it to be quite tasty. It would've been better if it had been warmed, but the rules stated no using electricity or gas after a bombing. We had to wait for the warden to come around and let us know if it was safe to start using it again.
"I'll help you clear up the rest of the house, Janet," Missus Madden said.
Mum and Missus Madden worked for hours sweeping and dusting the house. Dust kept rolling in our glassless windows, coating everything. By the time they cleaned the sitting room, it needed to be cleaned again.
Bill and Alex went out to see if they could help Daddy and the other men clearing up our road, so that the fire brigade, police, and ambulances would be able to get through.
"I have to go to the loo, Mummy." Gina crossed her legs to prove it.
"Well, what's wrong with using the toilet?" Mum frowned.
"It's broken into bits and pieces." Tears leaked from Gina's eyes. "Nothing's ever going to be right again. The war's ruining everything."
"We won't stand for it long. Love, Mister Churchill will resolve this soon." Then Mum went to investigate the loo. We all followed her.
"Well, good gracious!" Mum exclaimed. "All that's left is a hole in the floor and a pile of crumbled porcelain. We'll get the boys to clean this up when they come back. For now, you'll have to use a basin."
"Ew," I squealed.
"I'll use it," Gina said reaching out for the big basin Mum had gotten out of the cupboard. Then she ran to our room.
"Put it under your bed when you finish. We'll have Daddy empty it later."
A shiver ran through my body. "That's horrible, Mum."
"You have to be able to adjust to the situation, Dear."
Bill and Alex came back even grungier. "Ain't no one got water in their 'ouse, if they 'av an 'ouse," Alex explained.
"There was broken toilets all the way up the row," Bill said. "I'm sure 'appy you got a toilet, Missus Munsey."
"Sorry, William," Mum thought people should go by their given names. "Ours needs to be carried outside too."
"This is batty, blowin' up 'ouses and toilets." Bill grabbed his brother by the arm, and they went to fetch our crumbled-up toilet.
"Mummy, when can we go back to bed?" Gina stuck her thumb in her mouth and held a very dusty Dolly with her other hand.
"Very soon, Dear. Why doesn't everyone change into clean night clothes while Missus Madden and I will make sleeping arrangements."
They spread out quilts for the boys to sleep on. Mum made me let Missus Madden sleep in my room.
Gina and I went upstairs to get ready for bed. I carried my pillow and my nightgown into Gina's bedroom. I'd be sleeping with her tonight and possibly until the war ended. My eyes felt heavy. Last night's bombings blurred in with the events of the day.
Gina sat on the edge of the bed. "Do ya think it'll happen again, Joyce?"
"I don't know. I hope not." We snuggled under the blanket, said our prayers, and tried to go to sleep. The day kept replaying in my head. Over and over again. I looked over at Gina. She was curled up like a kitten with Dolly. I rolled over and tried to sleep on my stomach. It didn't help. I rolled back over and concentrated on closing my eyes and breathing slowly. Sleep finally arrived, but then ...
WHRRRRR, whrrr, WHRRR, whrrr(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Keep Calm and Carry On, Children"
Copyright © 2019 Sharon K. Mayhew.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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