Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Blue Skies and Gunfire

Blue Skies and Gunfire

K.M Peyton
For ages 12 and up
Random House, 2006   ISBN: 978-1862301573

Josie is enjoying into her final term at school when the English people hear about the terrible goings on in Dunkirk. Everyone is sure that Germany, now that it has taken France, will turn its full attention on Britain. And, sure enough, Germany begins to "soften up" Britain by bombing its cities and towns. Josie's parents decide that she should get out of London and go to stay with her aunt in the countryside. At first Josie is appalled by this idea but then she begins to think that it might not be such a bad thing. After all, if she is at her aunt's house she will be able to concentrate on her painting and she will also get away from her rather strict mother. It will do her good to get out of London for a while.

And so Josie becomes a temporary country girl. She helps out on the farm, paints, and begins to feel that country life is rather boring. Then, while she is painting one day, she meets a charming young man. Jumbo was injured in an accident not long ago and as a result he only has one leg. Even though he is handicapped, he is eager to do his part for the war effort. More than anything he wants to fly, just like his brother Chris who flies fighters for the Royal Air Force. Jumbo is waiting to have an artificial leg fitted and once that is done he hopes to "join up."

It does not take long for Josie and Jumbo to become a couple. Josie believes that she has fallen in love with Jumbo. He is such a charming, brave, kind person and he certainly makes her happy. And then Josie meets Jumbo's brother Chris. Worn out and suffering from combat fatigue, Chris steals Josie's heart. Now, as Britain fights for her life, Josie is caught between the brothers and she does not know what to do.

In this moving and powerful book K. M. Peyton writes about a time that she herself experienced and remembers. Readers who don't know much about the Battle of Britain will find out how terrible this time was, and they will learn about the sacrifices that the English pilots made day after day. The affect that the war had on average English people is all too evident.

In addition to the historical elements in the story, it is interesting to see how Josie changes. She is forced to grow up quickly, both because of the war and because she falls deeply in love under very difficult circumstances.