Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Time Bomb

Time Bomb

NIgel Hinton
For ages 10 to 12
CB Creative Books, 2013   ISBN: 978-1782920960

The last day of school is going so well. Andy's classroom teacher, Miss Carver, is sweeter than ever and it looks as if Andy and his friends will be leaving elementary school on a high note. And then the principal, Mr. Rix, comes into their classroom and Eddie says the wrong thing. Mr. Rix leaves in a huff and Miss Carver looks injured and annoyed. She is engaged to Mr. Rix and takes Eddie's gaff badly.

Things only get worse when Eddie discovers a dead mouse in the bottom of his milk bottle. When she sees the mouse Miss Carver screams and Eddie is accused of putting the mouse in the bottle himself. No one will listen, and Mr. Rix canes Eddie seven times. Smarting from the pain and the humiliation, Eddie refuses to shake hands with the principal at the customary last assembly of the year. As a result Mr. Rix does not give Eddie the traditional school-leaving gift – an inscribed bible. When Eddie gets home without the bible and because he refuses to explain where his copy is, his stepfather gives him another beating.

And so Eddie's summer begins very badly indeed. He, Andy, and their two friends Bob and Manny, take refuge in their secret play place, the bomb site. Eddie is angry with the whole world, and the world of adults in particular. The boys build a den using lumber and other scraps that came from a building which once stood on the site, and which was blown to smithereens during the war. While they are sitting inside the den, Eddie discovers that there is an unexploded bomb buried in the dirt  floor of the little structure. The boys are terrified and at the same time excited. Is the bomb "a dud" or might it go off if they are not careful? Led by an angry Eddie, the boys decide not to tell anyone about the bomb. It will be their secret.

The boys' anger at the world is fired up even further when the four of them are punished for skipping out on a wedding service that they were supposed to sing in. It was the wedding of Miss Carver and Mr. Rix and the boys did not want to have anything to do with the occasion.

During this unsettling time Andy discovers something about his father, a man whom he has always admired and loved. His father is having an affair with a co-worker. When Andy admits that he knows what is going on, his father promises not to see the woman again but it soon becomes clear that he intends to keep on seeing her whenever he can. Furiously Andy rejects all his father's attempts to be friends. He feels betrayed and alone.

When Eddie, Andy, Manny and Bob hear that their beloved bomb site is going to be plowed under and built on, it is the last straw. How can grownups be so cruel and so thoughtless? Doesn't anyone care about them?

Then Eddie and Andy make friends with a young man called Cap. Cap tells the boys that he fought in many of the most important battles during the war and he even tells them that he is still working for the ministry in an undercover capacity. He also shares his beliefs with them – that communists are evil and that Hitler has the right idea when it came to Jews. The boys are shocked, but they like Cap so much that they try not to think too much about these latter remarks. Their adoration of the young man begins to fade however when he verbally insults and attacks Manny (who is Jewish) and Bob (who has a stutter).

Can it be that Cap is going to betray them too? Is there anything they can do to have revenge on all these perfidious adults?

In this gripping, sometimes disturbing, book we see what it was like to live in England after World War II. Though the war was over, things were not quite back to normal and the ripple effects of the war were still affecting the lives of the English people. We also see how four boys discover that there is a big difference between playing at having revenge on someone and actually doing something that hurts another human being.