Vinnie didn’t want to be in this place, not with hundreds of miserable kids crowding around him. Everywhere he looked they were sobbing and carrying on as if their hearts would break. Their mums, too, were upset, and who could blame them: It wasn’t every day a mother had to say goodbye to her children, then send them away on a train to wherever.
Vinnie’s life has been tough for a long time. Even before World War II. He never knew his father and his mother struggled to survive then died when he was eleven years old. Then there was only Aunt Vera. Aunt Vera who burnt his clothes and made him wear too-big green velvet trousers and night-shirts. They fought continually until finally she threatened to send him to an orphanage and he ran away. He finds kindness and work and even a piano teacher in a local pub for a short while. When London is bombed, he too is evacuated to the country with thousands of other children. The villagers, adult and children, are not all welcoming of the ‘vaccies’, and life in the country has its challenges. But Vinnie and the other ‘vaccies’ look after one another and he develops strong friendships. He also continues and extends his recently-discovered love of music.
It’s hard to imagine being sent away from your family for an unknown duration to places where you may be unwelcome. Add suspicion, shortages, blackouts and the threat of being bombed, and life would have been very tough for children evacuated from London during the Blitz. For main character Vinnie, it’s a continuation of an uncertain life, where he has to prove himself to everyone. He’s strongwilled but hardworking, rough around the edges but honest. And not everyone around him is evil or mean. ‘Vinnie’s War’ portrays a difficult time in England when tough decisions were made. Villagers were often suspicious of the ‘vaccies’ and some were less than kind. But there were good people too. Themes include family, making your own luck, honesty and opportunity. Vinnie is a gutsy character and will have the reader hoping that he gets the lucky break he so deserves. Recommended for upper primary readers.
Vinnie’s War, David McRobbie
Allen & Unwin 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.