Featured Review: That Burning Summer by Lydia Syson
About this book:
It’s July 1940 on the south coast of England. A plane crash-lands in the marsh, and sixteen-year-old Peggy finds its broken pilot—a young Polish airman named Henryk. Afraid and unwilling to return to the fight, Henryk needs a place to hide, and Peggy helps him find his way to a remote, abandoned church. Meanwhile, Peggy’s eleven-year-old brother Ernest is doing his best to try to understand the war happening around him. He’s reading all the pamphlets—he knows all the rules, he knows exactly what to do in every situation. He’s prepared, but not for Peggy’s hidden pilot. Told in alternating points of view, this is a beautifully written story about growing up in wartime and finding the difference between following the rules and following your heart.
*Review Contributed by Kim Baccellia, Staff
That Burning Summer
Sixteen-year-old Peggy finds a young Polish airman named Henryk in July 1940 off the southern coast of England. Henryk is suffering from anxiety and what would later be called PTSD. Peggy hides him in an abandoned church. Her younger eleven-year-old brother Ernest is obsessed with British war pamplets that tell the rules on what to do during the war. He feels he is prepared to handle any situation with the Nazis. That is until he finds the hidden pilot.
What worked: Beautifully written coming of age tale that is told in alternative points of view. Readers feel how quickly Henryk's enthusiasm to fight against the Nazis turns to dread and horror. Syson does a great job showing how a Polish pilot deals with PTSD-post traumatic syndrome disorder-during WWII. The fear of being labeled a coward for not wanting to fight and the anxiety of reliving traumatic situations while in hiding are shown in vivid detail.
Peggy's story is one of coming to terms with her mother's secret on her father. When she finds some neighbors have been slipping notes to her mother on the truth of her father, it shakes her to the core. Once again Syson does an excellent job by showing what it must have been like for family members of Pacifists who refused to fight in the war. Another big plot point of this story is when Peggy finds Henryk. At first she fears he's a Nazi but then when she finds out he isn't, she decides to let him hide for a night. Little by little Peggy also finds herself drawn to him even though she struggles with the idea of him being a deserter.
And finally Ernest's story is one where he tries to makes sense of the war by going over pamphlets that circulate around his town on what to do if the invaders do show up. He memorizes these rules as they make sense of the madness erupting around them. He arcs as a character when he stumbles on a secret and has to make a hard decision which he knows will affect his family.
Coming of age story set in the backdrop of the south coast of England during 1940. Sure to appeal to fans of CODE NAME VERITY.