The Runaways – Holly Webb

‘A moving story of love and loss during the Second World War’

Following on from Holly’s hugely successful 2018 publication Evie’s War which is World War One based and tells of loss, death, and grief that all befall Evie’s family during the War, this book is Second World War based and follows Molly’s story. The two books combined make great fiction choices for KS2 classes learning about either/both of the World Wars. These are fantastic titles to add to respective topic boxes too.

Molly feels trapped, her mum is constantly checking up on her and barely lets Molly out of her sight, leaving the girl frustrated and resentful – especially as her friends aren’t treated the same way. When Molly does manage to see her friends and play for a little while she goes home and is caught out for having done so by her mum, becoming anxious of a punishment. But then war comes to England, and given that Molly lives in the Capital and is in more potential danger then those living further into the countryside it seems inevitable as well as imminent that things will change.

Things do change, but not how Molly anticipated – believing she would become an evacuee and finding out that her mother has different ideas and intends to keep her home, and then the people around Molly start to behave differently and when she combines this weird behaviour with a whispered conversation she overhears between her mum and sister decides to run away and takes the family dog with her.

What follows is the most amazing adventure that is both saddening and amazing in equal measures. Molly struggles to find suitable places to stay and sufficient food to eat either, but when she comes across two other runaways the trio combine efforts and things start to look up. Away from the war Molly distracts herself with a sense of normality and routine but she is always thinking of those she left behind, and the impact her disappearance has had on them.

There is referencing to loss relating to the war, and there is great detail involved in the story relating to the evacuation of children once war was declared and other important aspects of life during wartime britain such as the use of anderson shelters, air raid sirens, rationing, and blackouts. The story immerses you among the streets and children of london, seeing the children leaving for the countryside, and Molly being left behind. The reader will be engrossed as they read of Molly’s travels by train and on foot, trying to ensure her dog stays a part of the family, compelling Molly to succeed in finding somewhere safe.

Molly, Rose and John find the kindest of people, a pregnant lady who seems happy to take them in and keep them safe. The trio give each other the strength they need to get through the ordeal they each face, and Molly looks to return home to her mum knowing she would have been worried sick about her, something that is confirmed by a police officer that attends their temporary address and identifying Molly as the young girl that her mum has begged the police for help to find daily.

This is a hugely compelling read, giving readers an insight into life in britain during world war two from a child’s perspective and regarding the impact it had on the children living through it at the time. Molly is a clever girl and manages far more than most, applying herself with a grit and determination that truly reflects the attitude of british people during wartime. This book has huge value to children learning about World War Two as author Holly Webb succeeds in drawing attention to those specific details that matter, tying them together throughout the book to ensure a consistently gripping read that is utterly heart warming and truly unforgettable – with the rawness to the emotions and experiences within that give this book an award winning genuineness.

The Runaways published on 3rd October 2019 by Scholastic.

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