Gang Petition

Written by Peter St John
Review by Richard Denning

1941 – Britain is at war with Germany. But the children in the Lions Avenue Gang are focused on a predicament in their home town of Widdlington. A local man, known to all as ‘Dummy’, is threatened with eviction from the allotments which he farms and where he grows vegetables for all of the townsfolk. The Women’s Land Army has been given the land and it seems that no one will be able to do anything about it as Dummy has few allies. This is when the local gang of children step in and take on the vicar, the parish council and eventually the government. Between go-cart races against their rival gang, Peter, Jenno and the others must find a way to get a petition to the King.

Gang Petition is the next instalment of a series which describes the goings-on and adventures of a gang of children.  The books are based on the childhood memories of the author, who was evacuated to the East Anglian countryside in 1940 after his orphanage was bombed during the Blitz. (Actually the author has a fascinating story of his own to tell! I would like to know more about his jobs in the RAF, European Space Agency and even Australian and European governments.)

The Gangs in this series are not the objectionable; yes, there is fighting between rivals, but these are children’s gangs – full of fun, camaraderie, and they yearn for adventure.  These were the halcyon days when children went “out to play” after breakfast and did not return until suppertime.  This feels like an authentic reproduction of children’s lives 70 years ago, during the war. The interaction between the children and also the relations they have with adults feels genuine and at the same time quite funny.

This is a pleasant, fun read and should appeal mostly to adults who are nostalgic for their childhood but might also appeal to some children wanting to understand how totally different it was growing up during the war. Leaving the war aside,  there is a timeless element in these pages for I also recall playing with a cart and getting up to a certain amount of mischief in a gang, and I was born  in the 1960’s much later that this setting.

The author has added his own map as well as illustrations which have an old fashioned hand-drawn feel to them, and they charmingly compliment to the book.

Overall the story is well written with good use of slang terms, nick names and local dialects to create the world in which the adventure is set. It is not a demanding read but should be taken as it is – lighthearted and enjoyable.

(Author’s own printed version read  – available for sale on Kindle only)