Molly runs away during the early days of the Second World War because she thinks her mother is going to have her beloved dog Bertie put down as he will cost a lot to feed and possibly react badly to the bombing that is to come. Just before the war started Molly’s school was evacuated but her mother refused to let her go as she wanted to die with her two girls. Molly survives quite well and meets up with two other runaways fleeing from being abused by their evacuee hosts, and the three get taken in by a woman who in her grief for her lost husband, lies to the authorities about the children.
There is in this story the bones of a very good one, a girl running away to save her pet. But there are so many holes in the story that the reader’s credibility is really stretched. Molly does not seem to miss her admittedly rather strict mother and the sister she adores, and would she be able to survive on packets of broken biscuits and bread for at least ten days, including feeding the dog? Would someone in the villages she passed through not have noticed a very dirty girl of around 9-10 and reported her? Then there is the rather loose relationship with time, as the story covers the first couple of days of Molly’s adventure, but then that time instantly becomes coming up to two weeks. The time spent with ‘Aunt Lucy’ stretches to nearly a year, including the birth of a baby, before the police arrive to fetch Molly home. Then she arrives to find her mother’s shop demolished by a bomb and learns her mother is dead but seems to show very little emotion, just a desire to go back to what she calls home. The scene at the beginning where Molly visits her now empty school to find coffins being delivered for the expected casualties of the bombing – would a delivery man really tell that fact to a child?
In the midst of this there is a readable story. Molly is a strong character and Bertie is a good foil. John is a shadowy character but Rose, who has not spoken since being evacuated is one who tears at the heart strings, but ‘Aunt Lucy’ who takes them in is not credible at all.
I have great respect for Holly Webb’s books which have given readers a great deal of pleasure but there may be better books about evacuees for children to read.