Lowestoft, a quiet seaside town in Suffolk, was in the front line during World War II. Bombing raids, fires and trips to the air-raid shelter became almost daily events for young Michael Foreman, growing up in the 1940s. But gas masks were great for rude noises, gobstoppers were still good to suck and the Hill Street Gang could still try to beat the Ship Road Gang. Father Christmas would tell tales of his days as a cabin boy on the great clippers, the old tramp could spin a good yarn round the camp-fire, and nothing could beat Mrs Ruthern’s rabbit pie!
Teaching Ideas and Resources:
- Imagine that you were there during the air raid at the beginning of the story. Rewrite it in your own words to describe what happened and how it made you feel.
- Write a diary entry from the author’s point of view about one of the events in the book.
- Pop told stories about Cornwall, smugglers and seas full of shipwrecks. Could you write one of these stories?
- Think of an important time in your life so far. Can you write a recount about it?
- Watch these videos featuring the author. If you could interview him, what questions would you ask?
- The village shop was full of things ‘with nothing costing more than a penny’. What can you buy for a penny today? How has the value of things changed?
- At the beginning of the blackout there were more casualties from road accidents than from enemy actions. Can you use ICT to design a poster to help people to stay safe during the blackout?
- Can you find out about Anderson and Morrison shelters and construct models of them?
- Look at the annotated picture of the barrage balloons and doodlebugs. Can you draw a plan of an object from World War II and add labels / captions to show the different parts / features?
- Look at the illustrations on the cigarette cards. What do they show?
- The shop window was Michael’s ‘window on the world’. Draw the scene that he might have seen looking out of it.
- The boys watched the Americans ‘jitterbugging’. Can you find some music from this period and listen to it? What instruments can you hear?
- Look on a map to find the places mentioned in the book.
- Michael’s brother Ivan was in the Home Guard. Can you find out what the Home Guard did?
- Use the events mentioned in the story to make a timeline.
- Two-thirds of the population of Lowestoft was evacuated. If you had to be evacuated somewhere, what would you take in a suitcase (see Resources below)?
- The children got to know all of the badges of the army and the shapes and sounds of the aircraft. Can you find out about these and make a poster to teach others about them?
- Read the pages about Michael’s school days. How does it compare to your time at school?
- Read the evacuation notice in the book. How would you feel if this had affected you?