The bombing school is on fire...! A novel for young people which follows an old woman as she saves a single item from her room at an old people's home, triggering memories about the Fire on the Llyn peninsula in 1936 and the bombing of Guernica in the country of Basque in 1937.
The Welsh version of the novel Mae'r Lleuad yn Goch won the 2018 Tir na n-Og Award for the secondary school category. The book left a lasting impression upon the members of the judging panel.
Llinos Davies, Chair of the Judging Panel said: 'This is a story that's skilfully crafted in three parts, forming a unified whole by carefully interweaving the events. The novel has a contemporary feel as well as a historical dimension.'
Helen Jones, Head of the Books Council's Children's Books and Reading Promotion Department, said that the book 'will challenge children and young adult readers with a variety of reading opportunities.'
English adaptation by Sue Walton
Publisher: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch
Translated from its original Welsh by Susan Watson, this is a novel that focuses on two stories - one specific to Wales, and one which addresses the international struggles of refugees fleeing the worst of conditions. It is both historical and currently very relevant.
The story is bracketed by a brief section set in 2016, but the rest of the tale is set in 1936 and 1937. We meet Megan, a young girl whose family has just been moved off their land by the British Government. They want to set up a bombing school, and Megan's farm lies on the practice bombing run.
But rather than focus on the political aspects of the decision, ap Dafydd looks at how the bombing school affects the villagers. He does a lovely job of painting the locals - a young and patriotic teacher, an old deaf postman, a local bully and Megan's family, including an older brother who links Megan's story to the second one, set in Guernika, in the Basque region.
The second story also revolves around a family which is torn apart by the Fascist attack on the town in April 1937.
Miren is separated from her whole family for a while, and when they are finally reunited, the children are sent to the UK as refugees. The description of the attack is bleak and graphic, but the horror is balanced out by the fact that everyone we care about is rescued and safe.
Miren and Megan meet when a holiday camp is set up in Megan's village for the young refugees. Ap Dafydd clearly sends out the message that helping those in need is our obligation and our privilege. Though telling of a time long past, the message resonates today as well. Young readers, aged 9-13, will learn a lot about history.
More powerfully, they will recognise that the story being told has parallels in all sorts of ways with our modern times.
A recommended read.
Sally Owen @ www.gwales.com