Sam's Spitfire Summer by Ian MacDonald and Charlie Clough

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Sam's Spitfire Summer by Ian MacDonald and Charlie Clough

Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: An extraordinary tale of a boy's courage during the 2nd World War.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: January 2008
Publisher: Educational Printing Services Ltd
ISBN: 978-1905637430

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Sam's Spitfire Summer is billed as a thrilling WW2 adventure. In my opinion it is not. This is not a high octane adventure. Instead it is the story of a rather ordinary boy, homesick, terribly frightened and unsure of himself after being evacuated from London. This book describes the life of a child during WW2 with such realism that I honestly wonder if it might have some basis in fact. It describes Sam's loneliness, and fear, being separated from his parents as his father goes away to fight the Germans, and his Mother remains in London, with the risk of bombing. This book really gives a good glimpse at how Sam feels being evacuated. He misses his home desperately and is frightened by the large animals in the country - such as cows.

When he attempts to overcome this fear, unfortunately he chooses a bull rather than a cow. He is bullied and miserable and of course the Germans are to blame for all of his troubles. There are two bright spots for Sam in this miserable time. A kind new friend, Lilibet, and watching the Spitfires fly. After a dogfight Sam rushes to a spot where a plane has gone down. To his shock,he finds that it is not a Spitfire hanging in the tree - it is a Messerschmidt. The pilot is tangled in parachute lines just above the ruined aircraft, which is beginning to burn. Sam is a timid child, not a bold hero, and the man in danger is an enemy - but he is also a boy, not so very much older than Sam - and he has no more desire to be in the English countryside than Sam. With Lilibet's encouragement, Sam does a very, very brave thing. Even timid children can be heroes in the right circumstances.

I really liked this book. My sons enjoy war stories, but it is all too easy to see things in terms of black and white, good and evil, our side and the enemies. This book teaches us to see both sides of a story, to think of how the other side feels, and place ourselves in an enemy's shoes. It shows that enemies can be friends as well. This is a wonderful book that teaches history in thoughtful manner, teaches reading and also teaches morals as well. My son really enjoyed it. He was able to read it very quickly, in one sitting, and able to empathise with Sam. At the same time he felt empathy for the German soldier. This is, in my opinion, a book that encourages kindness, compassion and understanding. We could use more books like this. Wars will come and go - they are part of human nature, but as long as we retain the ability to see each enemy as a potential friend - to see them as real people with feelings not unlike our own, perhaps we can keep the worst atrocities of war at bay.

Mixed in with Sam's story are various facts, under sections called "Did You Know. Children learn about evacuation, rations books, Anderson's shelters, even a famous footballer of the time and the Royal Family. This all brings this period of history to life in a fun but memorable way. My son especially enjoyed the section on the Spitfire - so did I. In addition there are plenty of illustrations, primarily black and white drawings, but with a few old photos as well.

Sam's Spitfire Summer is part of a special Reluctant Reader Series. This series is specially designed to follow the rules for text set forth by British Dyslexia Association guidelines. The font is large and clear, on a cream coloured paper, and double spaced. There are also a good number of illustrations, combined with a short, easy to read to stories. My son does not have dyslexia, but I think the same factors will also make this book easy for other children to read as well. He was 6 years old the first time he read this book, and had no difficulties. The reading level for this book is quite low, but the subject matter is interesting enough for a child of ten or even twelve to thirteen. In all honesty, I did enjoy the story immensely myself.

My only problem with this book is the fact that the paper is quite thin and text does show through from the other side. This book is advertised as following British Dyslexia Association guidelines for text. However those guidelines clearly state: paper should be thick enough to prevent the other side showing through. Under normal circumstance, I would have reduced the rating by a whole star for this, but considering the fact that this is truly exceptional book, with a very strong moral message and a good story as well, I will only deduct a 1/2 star. It is something parents of children with dyslexia should be aware of, and if this is a strong issue for your child, the book may not suit. But for any other reader, young or old, I would consider this a five star offering.

If this book appeals then you might also like to try:

My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith

How Brave Is That? by Anne Fine and Vicki Gausden

Buy Sam's Spitfire Summer by Ian MacDonald and Charlie Clough at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sam's Spitfire Summer by Ian MacDonald and Charlie Clough at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Sam's Spitfire Summer by Ian MacDonald and Charlie Clough at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sam's Spitfire Summer by Ian MacDonald and Charlie Clough at Amazon.com.


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