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The Machine Gunners Paperback – 4 May 2001
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...certainly the best war book I have ever read. It describes things very well and has a good story line. -- Sophie-Ann Leyland (Age 13) in The Historical Novels Review, May 02
Robert Westall's very special and gripping first novel for children, winner of the Carnegie Medal.See all Product description
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Reading it as a adult it was still every bit as good as what it ever was and in no way read like a child's book. I have re-read other books from my childhood recently and they were very hard to get through as they were after all books meant for a child. However The Machine Gunners spans generations and is equally a good read for an adult as what it is for a child.
Forgive me I do not normally do book reviews as I am sure you can tell from this review so I will try my best here..
Excellent well written and superbly constructed story with many ups and downs and facets such as the perils of the blitz during the war, wartime life, schoolboy antics, excitement, guns, rebelling against the system etc. It really is a very good read.
The fact that the author grew up himself during the war lends the story much credibility, which is something lacking in some more recent stories set in the war years.
My only slight criticism is that reading the book was rather like watching an action-packed film. There were quick changes in terms of scenes and characters which could be confusing if you weren't paying attention! Then again, I am not in the target group for the book.
All-in-all it's a great story that touches on some very important themes. Due to the realism, I probably wouldn't give this to children under 10, even those with an advanced reading age, but it's an excellent book for children of 10 or 11 upwards and makes a nice change from magic, superpowers, mutants, dystopia and other current teen book trends.
However, read for content not location. We are looking forward to reading "Blitzcat" which is set in Coventry
Chas McGill is a young boy growing up during the bombing raids of WW2. Like all young boys his age he is fascinated by the planes and plays imaginary war games with his gang. One day Chas discovers an extraordinary thing that turns his games into a reality and not only allows him to 'do his bit', but also makes him question what war is actually all about.
Westall wrote another book about Chas, Fathom Five, and although it is good, this for me will always be Westall's standout book. He also made Chas the subject of short stories, 'The Haunting of Chas McGill', which if you enjoy this, and I can't imagine that you won't, you will surely want to read to know what happens to Chas.
Westall also compiled a fascinating book in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum called 'Children of the Blitz'. He wrote The Machine Gunners mostly using his imagination, but when it became popular found that he was receiving letters from people who had grown up in the war who had had real life experiences like Chas'. Intrigued, he did some more research, and this book is a collection of first hand accounts of such episodes, which is fascinating and highly readable.
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The Machine Gunners book is about a young boy called Chas and his friends that all...Read more