Of the teetering stack of library books we've collected over the past few weeks, this one is my favorite:
The Little Ships
by Louise Borden
The story is set in the year of 1940, during the second World War. Half a million British and French soldiers were trapped by the Nazi troops on three sides. Their only way out was the sea. But because of shallow waters, the larger Navy and Marine vessels could not get in close enough to evacuate the soldiers.
On May 14th of 1940, the BBC made the following announcement: "The Admiralty have made an Order requesting all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30' and l00' in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty within 14 days from today if they have not already been offered or requisitioned".
Borden's The Little Ships follows the story of one such smaller ship, the Lucy, a fishing vessel from Deal. The Lucy belongs to a fisherman, and Borden's story is narrated by the daughter of this fisherman. She tells us:
My brother, John, was a British soldier,
fighting in France.
Maybe he was in this trouble too.
Maybe he was trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk
and was waiting for a navy ship,
or a fishing boat like the Lucy,
to bring him home.
Our young narrator tucks her hair under a cap, puts on a pair of her brother's old trousers, and sails with her father on the Lucy, eager to do her part to rescue some of the soldiers waiting in Dunkirk.
I love this book. It is one of those living books that draws you into this period in time and makes it come alive. The story itself is remarkable. Borden's note at the end of the book indicates that 861 "little ships" gathered off the beaches of Dunkirk to ferry the soldiers from the beach to the larger ships of the British Royal Navy. We pulled the globe onto our laps and found Dunkirk, and followed the route of these little ships with our fingers.
The illustrations are well done, full of boats and waves and big Navy vessels. I admit, I was a bit wary of my little ones' eyes seeing blood and dead bodies on the shore of Dunkirk. But my fears were stilled as I turned the pages. While it is clear there are wounded soldiers, the scenes are appropriate for little eyes. Your boys will love the rescue effort-- enemy planes are attacking as the rescue goes on-- but even your girls will love the story of this young girl and her father, searching amongst the faces of the soldiers for the face of the one they love so dearly.
Oh, and the result of the efforts of these little ships? Over 338,000 British and French troops were evacuated.
Track this one down at your library, and enjoy!
For more book recommendations, head on over to Elise's blog at A Path Made Straight. [Thank *you*, sweet Elise, for hosting Children's Book Mondays.] Note to readers: Elise has *great* taste in books, and she has introduced us to many of our favorites over the past several months. Happy reading!
Note: Some of the information for this book review came from this site, The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.