Josie Under Fire

Written by Ann Turnbull
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Rachel Beggs

London 1941. When 12-year-old Josie goes to stay with her cousin Edith in Chelsea, she is glad to start a new life. Back home, everyone knows that her pacifist brother Ted refused to join up, and she is taunted about it at school. When she starts at Edith’s school, she is desperate to fit in and get the approval of Edith’s friends.

Edith is also something of a rebel. After school, she takes Josie to play illegally on a bomb site, where they meet three local lads, one of whom, Vic, loots bombed-out homes. Josie enjoys the boys’ attention, but is shocked by the looting. When they all tease the school swot Alice, Josie feels sorry for her – she knows what it’s like not to fit in. She is torn two ways, she longs to speak out against Vic and to stand up for Alice, but, if she does, will Edith give away the secret about Ted?

Ann Turnbull’s theme is peer group pressure and how difficult it is to resist – and she doesn’t pull her punches. The tension is notched up by the gradual escalation of the bullying of poor Alice. It tightens even more when Josie learns a secret about Alice which, if she told the boys and Edith’s friends, would guarantee her own popularity but make Alice even more unpopular. Will Josie betray Alice or her own conscience? It is a dilemma most children will recognize: how to resist peer group pressure without being made a scapegoat oneself.

This book would also be an excellent introduction to a study of the Home Front during World War 2. The research is impeccable, and Ann Turnbull gives us the zeitgeist as well as illuminating the ups and downs of everyday life during the Blitz. Highly recommended for girls aged 8+.

– Elizabeth Hawksley

This book was really well written. The description was very good so you felt that you were there, and the characters were vivid and drew me into the story.
For me, the plot was a little too simple. Nothing really happened. The climax was when the children thought a lie was the truth. The only thing that kept me hooked was Ted’s story.

I learnt a lot about the Second World War – I didn’t know that pacifists went off into the fields to do work for the war. I learnt that children weren’t allowed to search for valuables in the bombed-out buildings. I also didn’t know that people got bullied in the 1940s.

I don’t think this is really a boys’ book for two reasons. First, there are only two main boys in the book; second, there is barely any action. I would say that girls would enjoy it more than boys. I think that the age range for this book is 9-11 because it isn’t very advanced. I would give it 6/10.

– Rachel Beggs, aged 11