The Secret Shelter
By Sandi LeFaucheur, who formerly worked in the area but now lives in Canada. ISBN 0974648140.
A time-travel fantasy for readers aged 10 upwards set in 1940s Penge & Beckenham.
As part of a school project on WW2, a group of schoolchildren excavate the old air raid shelter under the lawn in front of their school. To add to the realism they have made replica identity cards and gasmasks. But they are not prepared for realism to become reality when they emerge from the shelter into 1940s England and the terror of an air raid. How will they explain their presence? Where will they live? What will happen if they change the timeline by keeping their friend's pilot great-grandfather from going on a mission on which they know he will be killed? What has all this to do with the mysterious WW2 survivor Mr Martin who was with them at the start but now seems to have vanished? More importantly, will they ever get back to the 21st century?
With an eye to historical accuracy, the author tells of their adventures in the autumn and winter of 1940, including details of the hardships of wartime life. Adults familiar with this, if only from documentaries, may find that all this tends to drag out the early parts of the narrative. Probably this will be less of a problem for younger readers. Those who actually lived through the war years may appreciate the nostalgia.
The action takes place in and around Penge and Beckenham. But can you work out which school (the blocked-off air raid shelter is still there) and where the children find to live?
From a younger reader: The Secret Shelter is an amazing book which kept me hanging on right until the very end. This book made me feel just how scary the war must have been. Kiri Darwin