Lily and her family and friends are told that they have just a few weeks to leave their village which is to be used as a training ground for the D-Day landings. Lily’s cat Tips is left behind, and some American soldiers stationed nearby help her look for him, in the process befriending Lily and her family.

Michael Morpurgo does his usual thorough job of presenting an adult’s story through a child’s eye view, in this case through Boowie’s young eyes reading his grandmother’s diary. The themes of the story: the impending D-Day landings with the corresponding build-up of troops; the south-coast villagers forced to leave their homes, knowing that they might not return; the uncertainty and dangers of war; the sacrifice made by those left behind and their corresponding generosity. All these are portrayed vividly and simply. All the characters are sympathetically portrayed although filtered through a child’s prejudices. It is only, for example, when Mrs Blumfeld the foreign supply teacher comes to their farm and persuades Ivy’s grandfather to move from the place where he’s spent his life, that she changes in Ivy’s eyes from being a teacher, ridiculed for her foreign accent and humorous name, to being a real human being with a rather tragic history. Lily’s cheerful loyalty is her greatest virtue. She sticks by Barry, who lost his father at Dunkirk, even when he’s moody. “He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want to look at me even. He did want me to stay though; I could tell. I sat down beside him, and we said nothing to one another for a long time, which is what only true friends can do.” She can’t bear to see her cat lost and goes looking for him in the now prohibited village despite her promise not to do so. When she feels guilty over her lack of enthusiasm at her Dad’s leave, she promises herself to pray for him every night. 

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He also is the editor of the Good-to-Read website.