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A Time of Fire
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Gr 6-9‘During World War II in England, Sonny has memorized all of the planes on his aircraft recognition chart. He is overwhelmed by guilt when his mother dies in a bombing while doing an errand that he forgot to do. Sonny is too ashamed to admit the truth to his father, but does tell him the type of plane that was responsible. Dad joins the RAF in hopes of gunning down his wife's killer, leaving the boy in his grandparents' care. When his father cannot carry out this mission, Sonny feels the mantle of responsibility fall upon his shoulders. As he assists his grandfather with sandbagging their coastal home and other tasks, he grapples with issues of life and death, vengeance and compassion. His grandfather is able to help free Sonny from the responsibility for his mother's death, although the boy still struggles with rage and the need for revenge. Sonny and his grandparents are richly developed characters. The novel is so full of detail that Westall leaves readers feeling as though they, too, are sitting next to the wireless, listening to the latest threat from Hitler's forces. But it is the relationship between Sonny and his grandfather that is the jewel of the story, a treasure that enables the boy to face a downed German pilot, thus resolving his inner struggle. Not all of the Briticisms are easily recognized, which is a bit distracting, but this does not detract from the power of Sonny's moving tale.‘Peggy Morgan, The Library Network, Wayne, NJ

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