Dead End Kids: Heroes of the Blitz by Bernard Ashley
|Dead End Kids: Heroes of the Blitz by Bernard Ashley|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Based on a true story, Dead End Kids follows a group of East End children helping to fight fires caused by incendiary bombs during the Blitz. Interesting and impactful, it sheds light on a group of young heroes who should be better known than they are.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: July 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
It's London in 1940. Most of the men have been conscripted and the East End is populated mainly by women and children. Josie and her friends are carrying on much as usual, though, grouping into little gangs and arguing over turf via mud fights along the Thames. But then comes a terrible night of bombing. It's the start of the Blitz and 57 consecutive nights of bombing for the East End. The fire service is stretched way beyond its capacity and the lucky ones make it out of the shelters in the morning, while the unlucky ones don't see another sunrise.
In this environment, the kids are in as much danger as the adults. But Josie's brother Len thumbs his nose at danger. He organises. He and his friends beg, borrow or steal equipment - trolleys, buckets of sand, tin hats - and form units of junior firefighters. All in secret so that the parents can't stop them. And they fill the gaps left by an overstretched fire service. They put out the smaller fires. They rescue people from buildings. They drag unexploded bombs into the relative safety of the Thames. And Josie is not to be outdone by her older brother and the bigger boys. She creates her own junior firefighting unit.
Wow. Dead End Kids is a tale of true bravery. I read this story with a sense of genuine admiration at a group of young people who step up to the plate in a time of crisis and who do it with next to nothing in the way of resources and in defiance of the adults. You hear a great deal of the indomitable spirit of Londoners during the Blitz, but Dead End Kids really brings it home. And you can't help but love Josie, who not only defies the authorities and her mother to help, but also her brother and the older boys, who want to exclude the girls. Way to go, Josie!
Ashley writes in his usual easy and accessible style, but the book is chock full of accurate historical detail and dialogue. It's an immersive and an exciting read.
You know, there really was a group of teenaged firefighters in the East End during the Blitz. And they were called the Dead End Kids and they did take the pressure off the fire service by putting out the smaller fires caused by incendiary bombs and they really did drag unexploded bombs into the Thames. Two of them died protecting their community. It makes me feel weepy just typing that. Why aren't these young heroes better known? Why aren't they part of every conversation about WWII? Hopefully, this Ashley story will spread the word. I certainly won't forget about the Dead End Kids.
Another fabulous WWII story is Bomber by Paul Dowswell.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead End Kids: Heroes of the Blitz by Bernard Ashley at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead End Kids: Heroes of the Blitz by Bernard Ashley at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.