After the review be sure to read the author interview and find out how you could win a copy of this book.
Keep Calm and Carry On, Children by Sharon K. Mayhew
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
I’ve added this book on WWII to my book list for a couple of reasons. First, it is about WWII and we should not forget. Second, the author is a TCK. She grew up in England and moved to the US when she was eight. Be sure to read my interview with Sharon at the end of the review.
Keep Calm and Carry On, Children is set in England during WWII. It follows the lives of Joyce and her sister who live in London during the time of air raids, bomb shelters, and death. Their parents make a hard decision to move their children to the far countryside away from danger. This move is what is known as Operation Pied Piper. WWII is taught in many schools around the world, but I believe that this part of history is not well known. As the story unfolds, Joyce and her sister make friends on the train and have quite an adventure of their own in the quiet village of Leek. It is here they learn that black and white is more of a grey when times are hard and the country is at war. War has changed the lives of all – no matter where you live or how old you are. Sharon creates adventure that any reader is bound to keep turning pages to see what becomes of Joyce and her friends.
My Take: War is hard and this time period is something we don’t want other generations to forget. Sharon has brought to life a hard to tell part of history. She created characters who struggle and endure making Keep Calm and Carry On, Children a memorable story that will cause you to want to research more about Operation Pied Piper.
Insights from the author…
Where did the idea for this book come from?
That’s a great question! It all started with the seed. I go to England once a year, or twice if I’m lucky, to visit family. I’ve taken my daughter on several of these trips, so she could connect with her English roots. My grandparents, one of which passed away six years ago, have played a huge role in my life. That kind of sounds funny as I only saw them a couple times a year until about 2008 when they stopped traveling to America. But Grandad (yes, I spell it that way) is now 98 and still has a wealth of wisdom and stories to tell. And I’ve been listening…
So, the initial seed came from them tell stories about days gone by. His family, like so many patriotic families joined the war effort in any way they could. One thing his mum did was take in two evacuees for the entirety of World War II. They didn’t really talk about war time until about 2010, at that point I would sneak back up to my bedroom and write down notes of his and Nanny’s stories. As the years went on, I started taking notes on my Iphone while they were telling me about their youth’s. When they saw how interested I was in the history of the British people during that time period they started taking me to historic places related to the war and I started buying books, fiction and non-fiction, purchasing reprints of wartime documents, and doing independent research on Operation Pied Piper. As a former elementary school teacher, I read THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE every year, but just considered it fiction until the conversations began with my grandparents. I was shocked, amazed and a bit horrified that people sent their children to live with complete strangers in the countryside in the north of England. Those children had to be incredibly brave to persevere through the Blitz, through the uncertainty of their future with strangers and if or when they would reunite with their parents.
The title of your book is somewhat different, isn’t it? I did some research and found that it is from a British WWII poster. Can you elaborate on that some?
LOL! It is! KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON is iconic! But it was true to the British spirit…You’ve heard of having a stiff upper lip, right? I wanted to show that attitude in my title. Thankfully, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was never copywrited, so I was able to use it in the title. I think Black Rose Writing did an excellent job with the cover! They even let me have some input on it. My main requests were to use the KEEP CALM font and to have an English flag in the background.
You were born in England and moved to the US at the age of 8. You were not much younger than your main character, Joyce. You both moved to different cultures and had to adapt. How did this experience help you understand Joyce better?
This is a really interesting question…I hadn’t thought about how my immigration affected my writing in this book. Some of Joyce’s story is my story. I lived in a rural village in England before I moved to the States. We didn’t have an indoor toilet and we bathed in a big tin tub with water heated from a coal heated stove. I think I must have compared that to what a change it was in America for me. I tried to put myself in Joyce’s shoes for each scene/chapter. I think you are right. I used my emotions for the unknown and uncertainty in my childhood to help create Joyce and move her forward in her journey. Wow! Lightbulb moment!
How else did being a TCK influence you as your wrote this story?
I really wanted to write a book that showed children (or adults) that they could overcome anything, if they just pushed forward…persevered. Facing the unknown is hard. Knowing that others have done it, hopefully, is helpful to readers of any age.
Where is “home” to you?
That’s a really hard question! When I get to England I am home, because of my grandad, but when I get back to the States I am home because of my husband and daughter. I’m still holding a British passport. That will change when my grandad passes, so looking deeper…I’m at home in America. I love going to England but there are so many people in such a small land area…and the roads! OMGoodness the roads! They are so narrow!!!
What is your favorite British dish that you had to learn to make as you live in the US? Or what is the first thing you want to eat when you go back to England?
So I’m definitely not a chef, but there are two things I must have when I’m in England: fish and chips and a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam and of course a cup of tea.
Thank you for inviting me to share my story. I’m humbled by every person that reads my book and reviews it or reaches out to me. I’m so blessed in so many ways.
And thank you, Sharon, for such a delightful interview. I love hearing from authors about how they created their characters and the background information. I’m so glad that your grandad got to read it.
And thanks to Sharon, you all have an opportunity to win a copy of her debut middle grade novel KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN. For those of you living out of the United States, you will have a chance to win an e-book and a signed bookmark. For those within the 50 states, you have the chance to win a signed copy of the physical book.
I’m keeping it simple…simply comment about why you would like to have this book or a question you have for Sharon. I’ll enter all the names into an online random name picker to choose who wins. The name will be drawn on September 26th at 9pm Eastern Time Zone.