Dawn of Fear
Susan Cooper always writes well, and this is one of her deceptively simple books. On the face of it, the story is an uncomplicated children’s story, but it is, as the title suggests, about learning what fear really is. For Derek and his friends think the war is, as Derek’s father said of their attitude: “Just a great game.” They continue to build their den, go to school, fight off the neighbouring street’s children who destroy their den, and wonder, for there are undercurrents they sense the grown-ups know about. Even the nightly air raids are adventures, not seriously scary.
Over the nine busy days of the story, Derek changes from the boy who thinks war is exciting, who collects shrapnel and enjoys watching the dog fights, to one who understands war as destruction and death.
Susan Cooper’s skills turn this difficult subject into one any child can understand. It is also a book which would give a youngster an understanding of what it was like during World War II, seen through the eyes of Derek, someone their age and a likeable character. Whilst I’ve made the novel sound like a history text, which it could be used for, in fact it is a cracking good read, as are all Susan Cooper’s books. Ages 10 and up.