When Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are evacuated from London to a small Welsh mining village during WW2 they do not find the countryside quite as they expected and are surprised by both the mountains and the slag heaps. The brothers are taken in by Gwen Thomas and her husband d Alun who although initially requesting one boy decide on the spot to take in both. Jimmy is awkward and homesick and struggles to adjust while Ronnie adapts easily and seems to thrive in his temporary home. Nothing feels right to Jimmy; his best friend Duff ignores him and to make matters worse Florence Campbell, a classmate with a troubled background has somehow turned into an extraordinarily plucky and friendly child who rescues Jimmy from the village bullies.
One day Jimmy takes off on his own and strays into an unknown field where he discovers a skull in an old tree. This intrigues him – why is it there and who does it belong to? Jimmy enlists the help of Florence and the two children set out to uncover the mystery. Along the way they find out a lot more besides. Misconceptions and injustices have plagued the village for years and now the evacuee children are being blamed for stealing money from the church collection box. And then Ronnie goes missing.
The petty small-mindedness of the village is well-drawn with the underlying message of never judging a book by its cover. The kindness and warmth of the Thomas’ is beautifully handled too and the historical details feel realistic and grounded. Children will enjoy noting the differences of home cooked meals versus tinned food in London and the toys they play with. This is a book about the strength of sibling bonds and having the courage to stand up for honesty and truth. With strong characters, a touch of humour and a mystery to solve this is a wonderfully heartfelt and atmospheric story that will stay long in the mind. A satisfying and welcome addition to the canon of WW2