World War II Tales, 2: The Bike Escape

Written by Terry Deary
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

London, 1939. Britain is at war and London children are being evacuated to the country. Young Harry is always in trouble at school, and things at home aren’t easy as his Dad’s in gaol. Even so, he hates the idea of going to the alien countryside. But he has no option. When, inadvertently, he gets into trouble in his new home, he is determined to get back to London – no matter what. He steals a bike and sets off. But he hasn’t reckoned on the effects of the blackout, fast lorries, suspicious policemen and atrocious weather…

Harry’s adventures are based on a true story and, together with James de la Rue’s lively illustrations, give young readers an exciting but realistic look at how evacuee children coped. Deary, subtly, also gets across the emotional problems. Many children from London’s East End were traumatized by the uprooting – and country people were shocked by the children’s ragged state. Fortunately, the kind but firm Miss Pimm who takes Harry in is sympathetic. The reader can see that living with her would be better for Harry than life with his feckless mother – if only he would stay there. Children aged 6-8 should enjoy this book.