Lizzie and Margaret Rose by Pamela Rushby
Omnibus, 2016. ISBN 9781742991528
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. World War Two. Evacuation. Blitz. A little known area of the impact of war on Britain and Australia forms the background of this engrossing historical novel from Rushby, that of those children evacuated from Britain to Australia during World War Two. We have all heard of internal evacuation when thousands of London children were sent to villages and towns in rural Britain, as reflected in two award winning books, Goodnight Mister Tom (1981) and Carrie's war (1978), but here is a new setting for a story of children coming together, of overcoming hostility and blending as a new family, as a child is evacuated to Australia when her family is killed in the Blitz.
The first part of the book navigates the opening years of World War Two, with London bombed every night and a sister in Australia worried sick about her relatives back home. When Margaret Roses's parents are killed in their Anderson Shelter, Margaret Rose is sent to her aunt but here she must look after her Gran who is suffering dementia, as well as do the shopping and housework while Aunt Rita works. When the authorities see what Margaret Rose's situation is they contact her other aunt in Australia for a place for the child. Meanwhile separate chapters are told by Lizzie, Margaret Rose's cousin in Townsville. A neat contrast to how each child manages through the war is given with their stories, enabling readers to get a clear picture of what life was like in both countries.
But Lizzie does not seem as happy about taking in Margaret Rose as her family, and after two months aboard ship with its own problems to cope with, Margaret Rose arrives in Australia, ready to settle into her new home. At first Lizzie is almost hostile to her cousin, but when Japanese planes bomb Townsville, the two are forced to cooperate and this creates a bond and friendship follows.
Many new themes are tackled by Rushby, bringing to her audience a piece of Australian history that few know about, and wrapped up in historical fiction, will garner a wide readership.