A handsome, thoughtful book by a stellar author and illustrator.
When Lenny Levi's father goes off to fight in the Second World War, his son has to learn to be brave: brave when bombs are dropped on his street in London, brave when he's evacuated to a big house in the country, and brave when spiteful children tease him and call him names. This beautiful book will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt homesick and alone. Full of detail and character, it embraces the past and the preset with unique poignancy and power.
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It's hard to be brave. Lenny has been trying ever since his father went off to fight in World War II, leaving him with a medallion depicting a fighting unicorn and lion. When bombs start to drop all around his house in London, his mother puts him on a train to the country for safety. There, mean children make fun of him and, well, being brave seems almost impossible. Thankfully, Lenny discovers a safe haven, a walled garden with a lonely looking stone unicorn, and he retreats there often. When he meets a quiet one-legged young man in the garden one day, Lenny slowly begins to learn the deeper meaning of courage. Once again, Shirley Hughes displays an unwavering sense of character, and beautifully colored, soft illustrations place the narrative in its physical and emotional context. Her sensitivity to the nuances of feelings in young people makes her stories profoundly appealing and satisfying. In this story of fear and loneliness, she brings the experiences of a time gone by into the present with clarity, wisdom, and elegance. (Ages 8 to 12) --Emilie CoulterFrom Booklist:
Gr. 4^-6, younger for reading aloud. The English author-illustrator of the wonderful Alfie books for young preschoolers here tells a picture-book story for older readers about World War II at home. It is set at the terrifying time of the London blitz: the first pages show the city alight with the flames of firebombs and with searchlights raking the night sky. Just as scary for many children was the experience of being evacuated to live with strangers in the country. While his dad is away in the war, Lenny Levi tries to be as brave as a lion, but he cannot bear leaving mom when he is sent to live in a great country house. The scenes at the crowded station, with Lenny leaning out the train window and shouting to his mom on the platform, express the wrenching anguish of their parting. Then the pictures show him homesick and miserable in the big strange house, the only boy among the other evacuees, and the only Jew. He is tormented in the school yard, too, especially when the other kids find out that he has started wetting his bed. He finds refuge in a "secret" , walled garden on the estate, where he meets the family hero, who lost his leg in the war. The soldier says that he was frightened all the time in the fighting and that he also used to wet his bed. The metaphor of the title is contrived and overexplained: a lion and a unicorn on a medal from Lenny's father; a unicorn statue in the garden. Without its being spelled out, children will understand the different kinds of courage. Hughes' amazing narrative watercolors show Lenny's loneliness and how his quiet mentor helps him be brave. At the end, his mom comes for him, and the scene of their embrace closes the circle of that anguished parting on the station platform. In the same way, those first nightmare scenes of the bombed city lit by fire and searchlight are overcome in the final double-page spread of the glorious garden, the soldier and unicorn illuminated in the rays of the sun. Hazel Rochman
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Book Description BODLEY HEAD CHILDRENS BOOKS, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 370324757