Can I Come Home, Please? by Phil Robins

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Can I Come Home, Please? by Phil Robins

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Price
Reviewed by Ruth Price
Summary: Taped and written interviews from children who experienced WW2 in Germany, Britain and other European countries have been skilfully selected and transcribed by Phil Robins, (along with succinct timelines of the war's progress) to provide an accessible and moving overview for teens and older studying or interested in the period.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407109039

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Using the sound archives of the Imperial War Museum and other primary sources, this affecting volume gives an overview of the progress of Nazism as seen through the eyes of children in different parts of Europe. The simplicity of the language used in the transcribed interviews means it is accessible to children from Y6, yet remains useful to GCSE students as a succinct, linear timeline of WW2.

The book's opening chapter We lived in Hitler's Germany sets the scene, neatly subdivided into sub-chapters including Tiring on the arm(maintaining the Hitler salute) and We're going to Shanghai(one of the few destinations it was possible to depart Germany without a visa). While each chapter mainly comprises transcribed interviews, there are brief, italicised paragraphs which throw light on the interviews, with the key political events summarised before the next chapter opens. There is also a wealth of well-chosen archive photographs and illustrations benefiting the volume throughout.

Can I Come Home, Please? uses some of the same witnesses who contributed to the great television series The World at War and Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust but focuses on the experience of children. Tragic events unfolding, told from the viewpoint of a child, are particularly striking – a mix of poignant and amusingly mundane. One evacuee remembers a state of war being announced in Britain by the bottle of Tizer which she was treated to so that adults could talk; a pair of siblings, sitting in a lifeboat after their evacuee ship is torpedoed, watching the ship go down and thinking What a waste of ice-cream!.

This book would make a great addition to the shelf of any teen studying history; while it clearly doesn't cover all aspects of the war, it is immensely readable, and does provide an elegant overview of key events. It would also be an excellent classroom resource or set book for a history syllabus as it is something most children and young people would enjoy reading, while nevertheless providing ample primary source material. Adult readers who dip into this will probably find nothing particularly new, although the freshness of many of the children's accounts of their experiences of WW2 still make this highly readable.

Thanks to the nice publishers, Scholastic, for sending Can I Come Home, Please? to Bookbag. They invariably publish great books for children and education professionals, and this is an excellent addition to their history roster.

For more social history of this period, Bookbag liked Our Longest Days: A People's History of the Second World War by Sandra Koa Wing. For the autobiography of a WW2 child, try Clara's War by Clara Kramer.

Buy Can I Come Home, Please? by Phil Robins at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Can I Come Home, Please? by Phil Robins at

Buy Can I Come Home, Please? by Phil Robins at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Can I Come Home, Please? by Phil Robins at


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