An exciting and skilfully plotted Second World War adventure story with a satisfying and uplifting conclusion.
Eloise has a wonderful life with her two best friends, Albert and Maddie, until the German soldiers start to arrive and everything changes. Nazi-occupied France is not a place Eloise wants to be. Maddie and her family are taken away and Albert starts to act very strangely. Then her father disappears. Eloise is lost until she discovers her father has been working for the resistance and there might, if she is brave enough, be a way to rescue him before he’s deported to Germany. She now has hope and a plan. But will the resistance let a twelve year old schoolgirl join them?
I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Baker’s debut story Through the Mirror Door which has one of the best endings I’ve ever read with its clever twist and emotional kick. I was, therefore, very much looking forward to reading Sarah’s next book.
Second books are often a disappointment but I was pleased to find that Eloise Undercover is equally skilfully plotted with another great twist at the end. I was also impressed by Sarah’s ability to find a satisfying and uplifting conclusion (a real must with any book for this age) without making light of the horrors and realities of the Second World War.
As with her first book, the characters are well-rounded with a depth that is often missing in books for this age group. We immediately identify with our main protagonist, Eloise – largely as a result of the strong first person narrative. This viewpoint also allows the reader to become close to those Eloise cares about and I couldn’t help developing a soft spot for her grandmother, whom she affectionately refers to as Amma. The most impressive character is, however, her friend Albert. Throughout the story we are unable to decide whether or not to trust Albert. He, Eloise and Maddie are an inseparable team at the start but life becomes much more complicated when the German’s arrive. Has Albert abandoned his friends to work for the enemy? Or is he a member of the resistance pretending to help the Kommandant? Or, maybe, he’s just a young boy trying to make sense of this changing and dangerous world where anyone can disappear at a moment’s notice.
This is essentially an adventure story and readers will be on the edge of their seats trying to find out how, and whether, Eloise will manage to escape the Germans and find her father. The book does, however, have a deeper message sharing, in an age sensitive way, the realities of occupied France. Ultimately it also demonstrates the importance of courage and the power of friendship. If you enjoyed this and want read another story of the Second World War written from the perspective of a child of this age, I’d strongly recommend When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. Alternatively, Sarah Baker’s debut title is another must-read book: Through the Mirror Door by Sarah Baker.
Date: September 2017
Author: Sarah Baker
Review first published on The Bookbag