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4.7 out of 5 stars21
4.7 out of 5 stars
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"The Little Ships" is a combination of fact and fiction. It takes an all to real event, the evacuation of Dunkirk and portrays it through the eyes of a fictional child. The book is written by Louise Borden, who has written a number of books I would call "historical fiction for children", for want of a better word. She also written about such real life heroes as The Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Bessie Coleman. The illustrator, Michael Foreman will be more familiar as the illustrator of many Michael Morpurgo Books. The combination of Borden's expertly written text in the first person and Foreman's lifelike illustrations make you feel as if you are actually present, during the evacuation and witnessing events as they unfold.

We never learn the name of the main character in this story, a young girl who dresses in her brothers old clothes to help her father on their small fishing boat as they join the rag tag armada, dubbed "The Cockleshell Fleet", going to rescue as many British soldiers as time will allow and bring them home. The young girl is especially hoping her brother will be among those waiting for safe passage home, but I do not want to give away too much of the story itself. I will say this, both of my sons, ages 2 & 6 sat wide eyed through the reading of this. To my surprise, my husband turned down the volume on the television and came over and sat beside us, seemingly as wrapped up in the story as the children. The only interruption was as the boys scanned each illustration, carefully checking the insignia of the aircraft, hoping to see their beloved Spitfires. To their disappointment, the only aircraft visible bear the iron cross, and one can almost hear the howl of stuka as the planes dive toward the little ships below.

There is sadness in this story, which is unavoidable, but no direct mention of death, only a reference to some who "would not be coming home". The illustrations show smoke and flames and bandages, but nothing especially gory, so I do believe this book is acceptable for children. I think this book gives children a sense of national pride, and of respect without being terrifying, and strikes a very good balance in just how much to show. I also think history becomes much more real and memorable to children when presented as a story. It makes history alive and exciting rather than stuffy and boring as many describe history classes. This book wins my full recommendation.

(portions of this review may appear elsewhere)
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on 15 October 2010
The book had my year two children rivetted to their seats. I used this as part of our WWII topic. It was one of the few books suitable for this age group, however, I feel it would transfer to older children. My children particularly enjoyed the illustrations.The Little Ships: A Story of the Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk
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on 7 March 2013
A lovely book, read with a class of 7-8yr olds. They were fascinated by the descriptions and moved by the story. One they enjoyed reading over again.
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on 5 March 2010
A well told story told from the point of view of a boy whose father owned one of the ships that sailed from Deal, via Ramsgate, to Dunkirk. Great illustrations, but why not have English spellings instead of American ones? For me this spoils the book. It's a shame as it wouldn't have taken much to correct things for a U.K audience.
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on 5 January 2012
My 10-year-old granddaughter has been studying this period of history at school so I thought this would be an appropriate present for her. She was pleased to get it but as yet I've had no feedback on the book itself. To me it seems the type of book which a child could take into school and others would find it interesting too.
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on 6 November 2012
Studying World War II with upper key stage two we looked in deatil at the facts about the 'little ships' of Dunkirk. This book is a fabulous resource to back up the work we did in Literacy and Art using watercolours to portray the scenes that unfolded.
An amazing book!
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on 26 November 2011
A lovely book with delightful illustrations that bring home to children what an enormous undertaking it was for the people of Britain who had a boat to rescue our troops from Dunkirk.
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on 23 March 2016
A different kids story that I enjoyed but my kids didn't. Mine usually like adventure stories but for some reason this didn't grab them.
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on 6 December 2013
My 8 year old son loved this. He is a reluctant reader but this captivated him and he read from cover to cover. Wonderfully illustrated.
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on 22 July 2015
Very moving story, on it's way to Australia, f
or my grandson who is always asking for a story about the war.
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