Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Tail-End Charlie

Tail-End Charlie

Mick Manning, Brita Granstrom
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-1845076511

In 1939, World War II began and Charlie Manning, a teenager living in England, quickly realized that his life was going to change a great deal. Charlie joined the Civil Defense, delivering messages and putting up barrage balloons. Like everyone else, he had to accept that food was now rationed, and he had to try to choke down the dishes his mother made using egg powder. Real eggs were very “hard to come by.”

In 1943, Charlie was old enough to enlist, which he did with the hope that he would finally be able to eat real eggs again. He had read in a magazine that the men in the RAF (Royal Air Force) got real fried eggs for breakfast!

At his RAF training, Charlie was paired up with three other young men, and he was given the position of a being a tail-gunner in a bomber. His job was to sit in the tail-turret at the rear of the plane and to shoot down enemy planes that were a threat. The funny thing is that the nickname for all tail-gunners was ‘Tail-end Charlie.’ In Charlie’s case, he really was a Tail-end Charlie.

On the last training operation, Charlie’s bomber was sent to drop ‘window’ over Nazi-occupied Holland. The blacked foil strips messed up the German’s radar, and thus gave the British planes the opportunity to fly over Holland undetected. After the window was thrown out of their plane, Charlie and his team set off for home, which is when one of the plane’s engines stopped working.

By some miracle Charlie and his mates managed to get back to England in one piece, and they were the only crew to complete the mission. Their success meant that they were chosen for even more dangerous missions.

In this extraordinary book, the authors tell the story of Charlie Manning from his point of view, presenting his story in such a way that the readers feels as if they have gone back in time. Readers will come to appreciate what a desperate time those war years were, and how costly they were for bomber crews like the one Charlie belonged to.

With humor and sensitivity the story of a brave young man is told with words and pictures, and the book serves as a tribute to him and to all the other young people who stepped up to serve when their way of life was threatened by a ruthless enemy.