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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Joy Cowley
Age Range: 12+
Bert, who's in his eighties, has just returned from his older sister's Betty's funeral, when his great grandson pays him a visit in the retirement village where he lives. A secret that Bert has kept for over seventy years starts to unravel – a secret about the Geronimo Bakehouse in 1943 during World War Two.
It awakens memories of a decision that Bert made as a boy which he would rather not resurrect; a decision that was to have life-changing consequences for members of his family, in particular, his sixteen-year-old sister Betty.
At a time when a Japanese invasion was feared, men were overseas fighting and the Americans were in town, eleven-year-old Bert wanted nothing more than to be old enough to fight in the war and to defend his country. He used to listen to the BBC Radio News and imagine air raids over New Zealand, so when he discovered the abandoned boarded up bakehouse he knew it would be perfect as an air raid shelter for his family. Known as the Geronimo Bakehouse, the big brick building had once been a bakery with ancient overs fired by wood and coal.
Enlisting the help of Betty, together they began cleaning out the bakehouse and filling it with provisions. Little did they know that someone else – a young soldier who has gone AWOL was also taking shelter there.
Award-winning author Joy Cowley recreates the war-time atmosphere in New Zealand during World War Two. Cowley cleverly weaves historical fact with a moral dilemma. This is a refreshing aspect of the Second World War for children in the UK to read about.