Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Henderson's Boys: The Escape

Henderson's Boys: The Escape

Robert Muchamore
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Hodder Children's Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-0340956489

The Germans started their invasion of France on the tenth of May in 1940, and by the twenty-first of that month much of northern France was occupied. The Germans moved fast, driving refugees and allied soldiers before them. In early June Hilter began to move on Paris and it wasn’t long before the town of Beauvais was under attack. One of the targets hit was an orphanage in the country where boys of all ages lived together in terrible conditions. They were sent out to work on local farms, and when they did not work hard enough or misbehaved they were beaten by Director Tomas, the man who was in charge of them.

One of these boys is twelve-year-old Marc. Once again Marc has been badly beaten by Director Tomas for getting in trouble. He is trying to hold his own during a fight in the dormitory when a stuka dive bomber attacks. In the chaos that follows Marc goes to the director’s house. He steals food, boots, money and a bicycle, and he runs away from the only home he has ever known.

Under normal circumstances somebody would notice a young boy traveling by himself and would contact the police or question him, but France is in a state of turmoil. The roads leading away from the invasion zone are clogged with refugees. Cars, trucks and people are all over the place and it is easy for Marc to blend in. Like everyone else, he heads south, and when he gets to Paris he finds a house that appears to be empty, breaks in, and makes himself at home. The house belongs to a man called Charles Henderson, an Englishman.

In another part of Paris some other children, Rosie and Paul Clarke, are also encountering problems. Their father has decided that it is time for them to leave Paris and head south. Mr. Clarke collects the children from their school and takes them home to collect some of their possessions, which is when a German soldier arrives on the scene. Apparently Mr. Clarke stole the plans for a radio that the Germans want to get their hands on and they have sent this man to retrieve the papers. When soldier lashes out at their elderly landlady, Rosie takes advantage of the situation and stabs him with a letter opener. Her father then disarms the German and kills him. Mr. Clarke calls his contact at the British Embassy, Mr. Charles Henderson, in the hope that he can give him the plans for safekeeping but Mr. Henderson is not there. Mr. Clarke decides that he will go south with his children and find a way to get them, and the plans, to England and to safety.

The little family travel south but they don’t get far when Mr. Clarke is killed by a German attack and the children are left to fend for themselves. The last thing their father says to them before he dies is to tell them to get the radio plans to Mr. Henderson. Rosie manages to find a phone number for the man and calls his home in Paris.

Unfortunately, Mr. Henderson is not the one who answers the phone. German officers, hoping to get their hands on the man whom they know is a spy, are in the house when Rosie calls, and one of them pretends to be Henderson to find out where Rosie, and the plans are. They find Marc and begin to beat the boy up, when the elusive Mr. Henderson himself arrives on the scene and he quickly dispatches the Germans. Mr. Henderson has a lot of problems on his plate and he has to figure out how to outwit the Germans before it is too late.

This is the first title in the Henderson Boys series. The series precedes, historically speaking, the Cherub books, which were also written by Robert Muchamore. Fans of the Cherub books will be fascinated to find out how and why the Cherub program came into being. Readers who enjoy spy or adventure tales will be captivated by this remarkable narrative. The chapters alternate between the story of the Clarke children and that of Marc, and we begin to see how these two groups of children are connected by the English spy who we hope will be able to save them all.

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