This middle grade historical fiction book was a perfect one for me. The story of three children sent to the countryside during WWII to try and find a new family held me riveted to the last page.
Set against the backdrop of World War II, Anna, Edmund, and William are evacuated from London to live in the countryside, bouncing from home to home in search of a permanent family.
It is 1940 and Anna, 9, Edmund, 11, and William, 12, have just lost their grandmother. Unfortunately, she left no provision for their guardianship in her will. Her solicitor comes up with a preposterous plan: he will arrange for the children to join a group of schoolchildren who are being evacuated to a village in the country, where they will live with families for the duration of the war. He also hopes that whoever takes the children on might end up willing to adopt them and become their new family–providing, of course, that the children can agree on the choice.
Moving from one family to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets, and the hollowness of empty tummies. They seek comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Muller, seems an excellent candidate–except that she has a German husband whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Nevertheless, Nora’s cottage is a place of bedtime stories and fireplaces, of vegetable gardens and hot, milky tea. Most important, it’s a place where someone thinks they all three hung the moon. Which is really all you need in a mom, if you think about it.
Fans of The War That Saved My Life and other World War II fiction will find an instant classic in A Place to Hang the Moon. from Goodreads.
William is only 12 but, as the oldest, he is the only one of his three siblings with a clear memory of their parents. Edmund and Anna may not be considerably younger, but it is clear that William has been crowned by the three of them as the designated memory keeper. As such, it is also William who much be brave and strong and protective. And so, obviously, this was the character I worried about the most. Shouldering that kind of burden at 12…..I cannot imagine.
Actually, the whole idea of the children being sent into the country to try and find a new family would be mind boggling but not the most ludicrous idea during the WWII. Having no parents or family back in London though made the children’s placement feel more perilous. Like, The War That Saved My Life, these children have no one back home to write to and they are well and truly on their own.
Enter Mrs. Müller. The librarian. You can see it from the first meeting, these people belong together. But Mrs. Müller is also an outcast in this small town. She has been deemed “inappropriate” for placement. Cue me screaming at the pages to the noses-in-the-air old ladies, “What did she do!?!!” and, “Give her the children already!” Book characters rarely do things as quickly as I tell them to though.
Page after page the children must plod along guarding their owns hopes and dreams and caring for each other. Watching them actually take a long look at themselves and their siblings and adjusted to protect each other was so heartwarming. I love stories where siblings take care of one another. And between the war and the regular mess of being an outsider in a close knit community, the children must also face the struggles of whichever family they are placed with. And they are placed with some real poopers, let me tell you.
I couldn’t put this book down. The children’s journey to find a place to call home is such a perfect read for this Christmas season when everyone deserves a place they can be themselves. If you are looking for a heartwarming, occasionally emotional, middle grade read right now, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. I just loved it.
Tell me, please! When is the last time you loved a book enough that you couldn’t stop talking about it?