Mysterious standing stones are found all over the county of Devon, but not many on a cliff I suspect. The origin of these stones is certainly prehistoric, and little is known, but it is usually supposed to have some sort of religious purpose, often involving a sacrifice. Alfie has been evacuated to a small village just before the outbreak of war in 1939, and is lucky to end up with Auntie Bell and her son Ted on a farm. This country life is completely unknown to Alfie, as is a proper home, and he is given freedom to explore, sent off with flask of cold tea and a sandwich on his first day. He is drawn to the stones on the headland, and is befriended by Smidge, strangely dressed and unable to speak English, but the boys bond, both being loners, making Alfie happy for almost the first time in his life. The village custom of burning midwinter has pagan origins but when the custom is suspended for a nativity this first year of war, events come to a head, when Smidge is under threat of being sacrificed, and the bullies close in on Alfie, who dressed as an angel flees to try to save Smidge.
Poor Alfie, lonely, bullied at school and seemingly unable to make friends is beautifully drawn, as is the countryside of Devon and the atmosphere of a village community, where incomers, that is the evacuees, cause tension. Is Smidge real or is he a creation of Alfie’s imagination? It does not matter as with the war beginning in the background, Alfie fights his own battle with evil, fighting for his friend.
A lovely deep story, full of the countryside, history and of the goodness of people, contrasted with a pagan society, not just of the past, but of the present in the form of bullies. Boys and girls of 9+ will find much to learn and empathise with in this story from the experienced hands of Tanya Landman.