Whistling in the Dark

Whistling in the Dark
Age Range
8+
Release Date
November 14, 2017
ISBN
0763690724
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Liverpool, 1940: Thirteen-year-old Joan's home is under constant threat from the Nazis' terrifying nightly air raids. Everyone is on edge, faced with strict food rationing, curfews, and blackouts. It’s not an easy time to be a teenager. Joan’s one solace is going to the movies with her best friend, the unflappable Doreen, but when the bombings intensify, even that becomes too dangerous. There’s also the matter of a strange man who Joan sees lurking near their home. Who is he, and why does he think Joan can help him? Even more unsettling, as the Blitz worsens, Joan and her friends make a discovery down by the old mill that will tear the whole community apart. In the hardship of war, everything seems to be rationed — except true friendship.

Editor review

1 review
Phenomenal details of everyday life.
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Joan is a young teen living in Liverpool, England in 1941. The Germans seem to bomb sections of the city every night, and the other privations of war time are part of every day life. Joan's father, a wireless operator on an oil tanker, was killed when Joan was very young, but the family has gone on without him. Older sister Audrey is dating Dai, a young man in the service, brother Brian is helpful but somewhat annoying, and younger sister Judy needs a lot of care. Joan's mother is dating an "oily" soldier who is in charge of providing food for the local soldiers. Joan goes on lots of adventures with her friend Doreen, whose father is fairly well-to-do and well connected. When a Polish refugee, Ania, joins Joan's school, some of the other students are not particularly kind. When a mysterious man who has been hanging around Joan's neighborhood identifies himself, Joan's family gets pulled into some intrigue involving him, and there is also some black marketeering being run by some surprising individuals.
Good Points
Ms. Hughes was born in 1927, so she is able to include many details of this time period that people who had not lived through it would never know. Audrey attempting to use gravy brown for leg makeup was a detail that blew me away! While I am not a huge fan of "home front" stories, there is a 7th grade unit on historical fiction from 1940-1980, and this will be perfect for that. Also, Liverpool is one of my favorite cities (and somewhere I don't get lost easily), and I've been enjoying some of the BBC period dramas such as Home Fires and My Mother and Other Strangers, so I will definitely be recommending this.

This is a bit light on plot, but the details of daily life more than make up for it. Hughes does a good job of showing that war is horrible, but often somehow boring. It's not a thought that young readers might have, but is an important one to consider. Whistling in the Dark is a great choice for readers who need to read a book about WWII and aren't quite up to the horrors of fighting or Holocaust camps.Hughes' Hero on a Bicycle does very well in my library, so I'm glad to purchase this one. I will also be looking into Ms. Hughes' work-- she seems much more well known in the UK.
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