Bernard Ashley, Ronnie’s War

Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1847800541

The blitz is starting. Ronnie Warren is eleven. His father is away fighting. Frustrated by his mother’s demand that he goes with her to visit his aunt, he rebels, storming out to play football. Then a huge bomb falls where his aunt lives. He dashes there. Dodging wardens determined to keep him away from the danger zone, he drags his mother from the teetering building. ‘You started the day like a silly little boy’, she tells him, ‘but you finished it like a man.’

The book is in four parts. In the next, Ronnie has been evacuated. Life is hard in his new unfriendly home, and even more so at school, where the other children want nothing to do with him. But when he stands up to a bullying and violent teacher he finds himself once more a hero.

Ronnie is well into his teens in part three. Now back with his mother, and with his father missing in action, he encounters emotional turmoil, misunderstandings and romance.

Part four brings VE day. Ronnie feels near to manhood and is facing tough decisions. His father is now assumed dead, and the celebrations are bitter-sweet.

Ronnie’s War provides a moving insight into the impact of World War Two. Bernard Ashley’s evocation of the times is powerful, and his characters are very believable. Readers will strongly identify with Ronnie. His conflicting emotions towards his mother are particularly well conveyed.