by Marcia Williams
Walker Books. Junior. Hardback rrp $29.95
Guest Reviewer - Jo Burnell
In 1938 Flossie Albright’s mother dies of pneumonia soon after giving birth to a baby boy. In 1939 her father is forced to join the British Army. Nine-year-old Flossie is left behind to look after the baby and Great Uncle C. She tries to be brave. Her only refuge is her beloved diary, where she shares her deepest feelings.
My Secret War Diary is a treasure trove of colour, humour and insight into life during the Second World War. Photographs and computer-scanned images of everyday items complement Flossie’s cartoons and artwork. Hands can’t resist searching for secret flaps that lift or unfold. Page borders contain comments that deepen understanding about life for a child in the British countryside at this time. A simple phrase conjures up smells, sights and sounds: ‘Uncle C has banned all poos, because he can’t dig the icy ground to bury ‘em.’
Amid the anguish of not knowing if her dad is alive or dead, Flossie leaves notes for the orchard fairies, asking them to keep a special eye on her dad, and they reply. Over the years we watch Baby Tommy grow from a helpless infant into a mischief-maker, and learn how food rationing affects every day life. Nature is a source of hope as each season follows the last without fail and plants bear fruit despite the bombs. Endless opportunities to compare life as it was with today’s world stimulate curious minds.
Marcia Williams’ research into every detail is meticulous, but it is Flossie’s nine-year old perspective that brings this story to life. While jam-packed with facts, Flossie’s diary is not a textbook. Even though pictures are everywhere, My Secret War Diary is not just a picture book. Flossie is a fictional character (or is she?), but this book is based on historical fact. I’ve never had so much fun learning history before.
My Secret War Diary will be treasured by readers of every age.