My Friend The Enemy by Dan Smith

The Souvenir

My Friend The Enemy by Dan Smith is a powerful children’s historical novel that completely consumed me. It is perfect for ages ten years and over. Whatever your age, this is a great read.

The book is set in 1941 in a village in the north east of England. All the action is seen through the eyes of twelve year old Peter, and is written in the first person. The reader becomes intimately acquainted with him. For the duration of the novel, I ‘became’ Peter.

We see how hard war is for everyone. Peter’s father is away at war; his friend Kim’s brother is fighting; and a German plane crashes near the village. Plus, there are raids and rationing. War touches everyone.

Peter’s mother functions as a single parent whilst his father is away. We witness the difficulty of trying to feed herself and Peter, and of being both mother and father to him.

The air raids are vividly portrayed. Bombs fall on the village as German planes shed their loads before flying home. A plane crashing in a field causes panic amongst the locals as a parachutist was seen minutes before but is nowhere to be seen. Hunt the Nazi becomes the latest craze.

Kim is a twelve year evacuee from Newcastle. She becomes friends with Peter. She is a tomboy. Together they stumble upon the Nazi airman. “He looks just like us.” Propaganda has told them that the Nazis have piercing red eyes but of course this is not the case. Not all German’s are Nazis. Erik is just like them. He has a family and a brother in Germany and he just wants to go home. Peter and Kim, though wary at first, recognize a man in need of help. Their hearts are huge, with a capacity for compassion. They contrast with others who just want to shoot the Nazi. Peter and Kim see the man behind the uniform. Everyone else just sees the uniform.

This is a book that highlights the futility of war. On both sides there are families who are missing their loved ones. Young men didn’t necessarily want to go to war, they went because of conscription. There is nothing glamorous about war.

People feared early morning knocks on the door and also the telegraph boy. Dan Smith has perfectly captured the atmosphere of fear within the story.

As well as the fear of war, Peter has to contend with bullies. The bullies are underhand and unbelievably cruel in their actions.

My Friend The Enemy was a brilliant book. It would make a marvellous series or movie. I think this book should be part of the National Curriculum as it is so powerful in showing the futility of war and how propaganda is not to be believed. It would also enable children to ‘experience’ life in wartime Britain through the eyes of a twelve year old.

I am really enjoying Dan Smith’s novels and am certainly going to read more, more, more.


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