My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith
|My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: We loved this wartime story in which two children harbour a German airman whose plane has crashed. Lots to think about and beautifully written.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: July 2013|
|Publisher: Chicken House|
|External links: Author's website|
It's 1941. Peter wishes the war away every single day. His father is away fighting. They rarely hear from him. Mr flipping Bennett is always at his house. Making sure he and his mother are managing, apparently. That's not what the other children are saying. They say Peter's mother is Mr Bennett's fancy woman. And they bully Peter about it. Despite farms lying all around, there isn't much food. Everything is rationed.
And then, one day, a German plane crashes into a field near Peter's cottage. As everyone gawks, Peter meets Kim, an evacuee from Newcastle. Kim's brother is a pilot in the RAF and she knows a lot about German planes. Together, they decide to search for souvenirs once the soldiers have gone. But they find more than they bargained for: an injured German airman. Erik is the enemy. But Peter and Kim can see is in pain and afraid. They don't want him to die. They decide to hide him so that the trigger-happy sergeant can't shoot him. But concealing - and feeding - an enemy combatant is easier said than done...
Ooh. I thought this was a wonderful story. It's exciting and absorbing and interesting, with relatable and sympathetic central characters, an interesting plot and lots of moral ambiguity.
And it's been beautifully researched. Most kids will know that food was rationed during the war, but I'm not sure they realise that people - even people in agricultural areas - were actually hungry. It wasn't all about doing without sweets. I'm not sure readers will have realised that metal was in demand and people had given up everything that wasn't absolutely necessary in various collections. When Peter and Kim need a pan (don't ask) for their hidden German friend, it's very difficult to find one. All spare pans and containers had gone to the war effort. Imagine not owning a spare container of any kind. This kind of homely detail, combined with the horrifying descriptions of bombing raids, gives My Friend the Enemy a sense of credibility and paints a truly vivid picture of just how much war circumscribes the lives of everyone in the countries fighting them, not just the soldiers.
It's a story about growing up. And about shades of grey. Peter and Kim - and Erik too - find that things aren't as clear cut as they'd thought them to be. Are all Germans Nazis? Who is most to be feared - the enemy soldier? The gung ho sergeant from your own country? Or the prosaic but menacing figure of the local bully? Should you evade capture or take care of your friends? These are difficult choices. And, as you read, you're rooting like anything for each of these sympathetic characters to get them right.
My Friend the Enemy comes heartily recommended by me.
PS. Look, look! (To your right). There's a video with Dan reading from the book. And if you look on YouTube, Dan has posted other cool videos about the book, too.
And PPS. Of course, nobody should forget to read Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. And there's also Auslander by Paul Dowswell, a well-researched and pacy WWII thriller about a Polish orphan taken in by a Nazi family because of his Aryan appearance. And Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which tells the story of a young British woman caught spying during World War II in Occupied France.
You can read more book reviews or buy My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith at Amazon.com.
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