Monday, November 15, 2010
London Calling by Edward Bloor
The thing about wars is at their outset, one doesn't know how they will end or who will be the victors. Good people can unexpectedly act dishonorably. People of poor or mediocre character can just as surprisingly behave nobly and courageously. Who will be noble or dishonorable, however, cannot be known as the first shots are fired or as the first bombs fall. In the end, the victors write history, determine who the heroes are and what the books record.
J. Martin Conway is a distinguished diplomat in the year 2019. His seventh grade experiences and memories are largely what shaped him into the man that he became. What's so different about Martin's path is that in seventh grade he traveled back in time, over the radio waves of a vintage World War II radio to the days of the London blitz of 1940—before America's entry into the war.
During the blitz, Hitler's Germany sought to break the will of the British people by bombing London into dust. Responding in their finest hour, British citizens stood up to the bombings with a heroism that shocked the Nazis and the world. Martin discovers truths about people known as heroes in his own time and unnamed heroes of 1940s London that are intertwined not only with the history of his nation of America and his snotty private school,All Soul's Preparatory, but of his own family.
Martin finds himself awash in questions that can only be answered by living the history. Slowly, his list of questions about the war, people that fought, died and survived are answered through his time travels and we readers learn a bit about how history is simultaneously remembered and unrecorded. Readers think about what the meaning of the title of hero.
London Calling is a provocative read (or listen as I listened to the story on CD). I recommend it for middle school age boys and girls that enjoy a historical novel that includes problems to think about as well as ghost stories. The first third of the book is much about Martin's middle school difficulties…which does take some time to get through but is worth the time when learning how he resolves all troubles. Adults who read this book come away from it humming bars of the 1940's pop song We'll Meet Again or their money back.
London Calling was a contender but not a winner for the Virginia Reader's Choice Award in 2010.
Bloor, Edward. London Calling. New York. Random House, 2006. Audio.