In the summer of 1940 Tommy is living with his aunts on their farm in the Lake District, and has befriended an evacuee girl living on the next farm called Sally Smith. A German plane has come down and the pair find the navigator hanging in a tree. He is not dead however, and Sally determines to rescue him from the cruel farmer who took her in and treats her abominably, but is also a leading light in the Home Guard, as he wants to kill all Nazis. Hidden in a group of bushes they feed him and bring him water in empty whisky bottles However Farmer Scarcross’s cruelty to Sally comes to light which brings matters to a head, and Sally’s past is revealed.
Sally bounces out of every page of this exciting and lively story. It is not a new ploy for children to hide downed airmen, but Jonathan Tulloch has given it a freshness amid the incomparable background of the Lake District, with its tight farming community and beautiful scenery. Tommy follows her lead, bewitched by her but unable to find out the horrifying past she conceals so well, but he is aware of the cruelty inflicted on her by Scarcross, and does his best to help with food and her chores. He himself works hard on the farm while worrying about his Dad who is missing in action, but with the love and support of the aunts.
Sally speaks in broad Geordie which does make this a slightly difficult read and might put some children off which would be a great shame. I wondered why the author had not found another way of making her so Geordie without the sometimes difficult spelling. It can be sounded out of course and as an adult that can be done, but even so it is at times quite difficult to get the whole meaning of what she is saying.
It is great fun but amidst the adventure the appalling conditions faced by a very small minority of evacuees, and the relentless work on a small hill farm, including the shearing of the sheep, are not glossed over, and all of this makes for a very satisfying read for both boys and girls.