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Time of Fire Hardcover – August 1, 1997
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9. During World War II in England, Sonny has memorized all of the planes on his aircraft recognition chart. He is overwhelmed by guilt when his mother dies in a bombing while doing an errand that he forgot to do. Sonny is too ashamed to admit the truth to his father, but does tell him the type of plane that was responsible. Dad joins the RAF in hopes of gunning down his wife's killer, leaving the boy in his grandparents' care. When his father cannot carry out this mission, Sonny feels the mantle of responsibility fall upon his shoulders. As he assists his grandfather with sandbagging their coastal home and other tasks, he grapples with issues of life and death, vengeance and compassion. His grandfather is able to help free Sonny from the responsibility for his mother's death, although the boy still struggles with rage and the need for revenge. Sonny and his grandparents are richly developed characters. The novel is so full of detail that Westall leaves readers feeling as though they, too, are sitting next to the wireless, listening to the latest threat from Hitler's forces. But it is the relationship between Sonny and his grandfather that is the jewel of the story, a treasure that enables the boy to face a downed German pilot, thus resolving his inner struggle. Not all of the Briticisms are easily recognized, which is a bit distracting, but this does not detract from the power of Sonny's moving tale.?Peggy Morgan, The Library Network, Wayne, NJ
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6^-9. Like all of Westall's strongly realistic stories about children on the British home front during World War II, this exciting novel captures the sense of adventure and the cozy togetherness as well as the terror and the grief. For Sonny, the "war" in Newcastle is pretty boring and the world is disappointingly unchanged--until his mother is killed in a bombing raid, and it is his fault. His father turns into a dangerous stranger and rushes to enlist, and when he is killed, Sonny's guilt is overwhelming. What sustains him is his fierce, loving bond with his grandfather, who is wise but never sanctimonious and who helps Sonny see beyond easy divisions of heroes and monstrous enemies. The long narrative is dense with events and details of the time and place; in fact, there is almost too much incident, and the climax, in which Sonny captures a downed German pilot, is labored and unconvincing. It's the excitement of the war at home that will grab readers from the first page, and those fascinated by physical particulars of the blitz in the darkest times will also be caught by the humane portrayal of a boy fighting his personal darkness. Hazel Rochman
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