You just can’t go wrong with Shirley Hughes, and we were delighted to pick this one up in our local charity shop recently. It is one of her longer stories, still with the same wonderful illustrations that enhance the story and make it a delight for younger and older children.
This would make a great book for those studying the Second World War. Lenny Levi’s dad is away fighting and his London neighbourhood is increasingly at risk from bombing, so he is sent with three girls to a big house in the country. There, he has to face many challenges in addition to being far from his family and not even knowing if they are safe. He is subjected to meanness and bullying from one of the other evacuees and the village school children, leading to bedwetting. His fears also take over, as he imagines lions in the night, prowling and waiting to devour him. His Jewish roots add to his sense of loneliness and alienation, and the only support comes from the kind maid and some brief encounters with the son of the house, who shares how he himself has had to face his fears in war and since, having “left his leg on a beach in France”.
Things come to a head at the end, when help comes from very unexpected quarters, and then a fresh new start ends the book happily. A really good read for us all.