From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-- Two British schoolgirls discover an old secret document and other surprises when they clean out the 50-year-old World War II air-raid shelter in Sarah's backyard. Sarah and her friend Susanna want to fix it up as a den, but discovering the document and the signs that someone else had used the shelter makes them feel uncomfortable. Sarah also feels spooky about Miss Lily, an older neighbor who is deaf. The woman makes strange movements with her arms and face, and often the girls see her watching them. Sarah is convinced she is a witch. Despite their fears, a bomb scare at Miss Lily's house compels them to come to her rescue. When the emergency is over, they visit her and some of the secrets connected with the shelter begin to unravel. They come to know and respect this gentle, artistic woman who shares with them her extensive knowledge of herbs. Their curiosity about witches continues, and with the help of the local librarian they learn the difference between fairy-tale witches and real ones. This warm, well-written story of friendship between those of different ages and abilities is balanced with enough mystery to keep readers involved. The use of Briticisms (the most obscure ones are explained in "Note to the Reader") does not detract from the story. --Virginia Golodetz, St. Michael's College, Winooski, VT
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Sarah's discovery that new neighbor Susanna has the makings of a fine friend despite her clunky shoes presages more complex realizations about the unusual woman. Sarah has enjoyed pretending that old Lily is a witch; after all, she's deaf and can't hear the jibes. But after the two girls cement their friendship while transforming the bomb shelter in Sarah's garden into their private place, Sarah finds a child's secret note tucked away there. The girls learn that Lily was the note's author, and that a terrible experience during WW II thwarted her learning to speak; they also get to know her as a productive, caring person. Meanwhile, Lily's sister Rose (the local librarian) has led them to consider the ancient, destructive witch stereotype and contrast it with the reality that Lily exemplifies: a wise woman, skilled with herbs and healing, whose differences may provoke distrust. With admirable skill, Tomlinson weaves her serious theme into an appealing, accessible story with likable, well- individualized characters and a neatly satisfying conclusion: the girls coax Lily into visiting the shelter for the first time since her trauma, thus themselves becoming the sort of witches whose ``magic'' is healing. This fine American debut is introduced by an eminently sensible note explaining some of the British terms and giving readers credit for the ability to figure the others out. (Fiction. 8-12) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.