Another delightful middle grade book set in England during WWII. The additional fantasy was an unusual, and welcome, addition.
When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must race to Blitz-bombed London to save his sister.
But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything. from Goodreads
I waffled back on forth on whether this was a four star or five star reading and, in the end, this delightful story was a four star read that I just could not put down. This middle grade book makes short work of getting rid of the parents by making Col an orphan. Twelve year old Col is then evacuated to the country to live with his dreaded Aunt Claire. He is only coping by the thought that he and his sister Rose (who remained in London) will be reunited for Christmas. When Rose has to cancel Col’s return to London because of the ongoing bombings, Col runs away to his Dad’s childhood home and discovers his own childhood imaginary friends waiting for him.
I’ll be honest, since all of this happened in the first three chapters, I was not at all charmed by the book at this point. The orphan, the impossible Aunt, the perfect sister, and now we have three imaginary friends that are supposed to be Col’s “Guardians”??? I was rolling my eyes.
I’ll admit, the Guardians won me over quite quickly. Pendlebury, the Tiger, is brave and strong and can grow and shrink as the situation demands. Mr. Noakes, the badger is wearing a waistcoat that, when removed leaves poor Mr. Noakes quite naked a la Pooh Bear. And he has an amazing sense of smell and smacks people with his cudgel. Finally, there is the King of Rogues, the Knight in full physical armor whose feelings are wholly unguarded. These lovely Guardians have a deep story that connects Col to his life before and after his Dad’s death as well as to so many other people in his life. Along the way, the group picks up Ruth. Ruth is a German Jew who has escaped Nazi occupied Germany solo.
If this rag-tag little army of five was on a quest this would have been a five star book for me. But they are also running from the Midwinter King and trying to help the Green man. I realize the story needed a nightmarish creature to spurn the Guardians into action but, I mean, was the War and the death of the parents and the separation of the remaining family not enough? Really?!? Why invent a villain when Hitler was doing his thing?
That component aside, the group of five won my whole heart. As with many middle grade books, the adventure resulted in monumental growth for the individual characters and I will freely admit to shedding tears twice during this story.
If you are looking for a fantasy middle grade historical fiction I do highly recommend this book. I loved the adventure and the friendships, old and new.
Tell me, please! If you had an imaginary friend and they came to life,
would it be more like Pingo or Drop Dead Fred?