In a fast-moving story, Tom Palmer has taken the bones of the experiences of Audrey Hepburn during her time in occupied Netherlands during the Second World War. Audrey or Edda as she was then known, as to have an English name in Nazi occupied territory would have marked her out immediately, began working delivering newsletters for the Resistance in 1943, graduating from washing bandages to be re-used in the hospital. The family lived in Velp, very near to Arnhem. An uncle had already been killed by the Nazis in reprisal, and one of her brothers was in hiding. After the failure of the airborne invasion by the British at Arnhem, life became very difficult particularly as any food the villagers had was given to the refugees from the fighting. Edda was called on to help an American airman who had been shot down. Then the Germans started sending any food there was sent back to Germany and in an episode not widely known, many Dutch people died from starvation. Edda herself was wasting away from malnutrition.
Although many young people now might not know who Audrey Hepburn was, for the purposes of this story it does not really matter, as the events are exciting in themselves and the atmosphere of occupation rings very true, particularly the growing hunger of the population. The danger that people who worked for the Resistance were in is clearly demonstrated, and also for young people who could be taken to work in German factories and possibly not return. The scene of the concert held in secret and silence is very dramatic, and the reader follows Edda’s growing malnutrition with alarm.
This is beautifully produced with Tom Clohosy-Cole’s illustrations running along the bottom edge of each page, matching the pace of the story. Tom Palmer has taken the focus away from the Resistance in France where many stories are set for this age group, and told of the courage of the Dutch, almost starved out of existence in this corner of the Netherlands.