Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 12
- Grade: 3 to 7
When a frightened girl and boy arrive on the Twiss family's doorstep to escape the Blitz, Charlotte wonders how she will keep her war guests from missing their parents back home, or from cowering every time a plane flies overhead. Though the war is being waged across the Atlantic, Charlotte begins to feel its danger, as her brother George defies their parents and enlists in the Navy.
After months of receiving letters from overseas, suddenly there is no word from him - has the unthinkable happened and George's ship been sunk by a German submarine?
Charlotte Twiss's diary shows her innermost feelings about her life on the Canadian homefront, as she helps her war guests "settle in" and wonders whether her brother is safe from harm.
About the author
Jean Little was born in Taiwan in 1932. Her parents were both doctors. Jean grew up in Ontario and graduated from the University of Toronto. She was born with a severe eye problem and is severely visually impaired. A special "talking" computer assists her with her writing. She has a retired seeing-eye dog named Ritz and a new one named Pippa, with whom she travels. The author focuses on her experiences from the time she was a child through young adulthood in her autobiography, Little by Little, and continues her story in Stars Come Out Within. The books, which will appeal to children 10 and older, are both humorous and poignant as Jean describes living with a disability and the ridicule she sometimes experienced as a result, as well as her love for the world of reading and books. Jean's books include From Anna, Listen for the Singing, Stand In The Wind, Mama's Going To Buy You a Mockingbird, Hey World, Here I Am!, Look through My Window, Emma's Yucky Brother, The Belonging Place, and Mine For Keeps. Listen for the Singing was the Canada Council Children's Literature Award winner in 1977. Mama's Going to Buy You a Mockingbird was the CLA Book of the Year in 1985.
Jean Little's first book, Mine for Keeps, won the Little, Brown Children's Book Award in 1962 and was republished by Viking Penguin in 1995. It tells the story of Sally Copeland, a 10 year old with cerebral palsy, and her adjustment to being home after spending several years in a special school. You'll find that several of the themes in this book appear in a number of the author's other books: dealing with a handicap and the responses of others, fitting in, and adjusting to new situations and surroundings.
Exiles from the War: The War Guest Diary of Charlotte Mary TwissAny work by famed author Jean Little is a treat, but Exiles from the War: The War Guest Diary of Charlotte Mary Twiss is a particular delight. Part of Scholastic Canada’s Dear Canada diary series, Exiles is Charlotte Mary Twiss’ 12-year-old view of life in 1940. Charlotte’s family in Guelph, Ontario, is very involved with a number of War Guests — children evacuated from Britain in an effort to protect them from German bombing. One little girl who lives with them becomes a ‘sister’ to Charlotte. The story gives readers the varied experience of the War Guests community — some homed successfully, some less so. Without confusing her audience for an instant, Little also richly expands readers’ knowledge of WWII by presenting other characters’ points of view: such as those of Charlotte’s Jewish friend, Barbara.
The author uses intimacy of the diary format to her advantage: including bouncy humour and the honesty, naivety and curiosity many girls have. This could be the reader’s diary, but for the wonderful collage of unfamiliar 1940s textures, sights, sounds and topics — radio broadcasts, buttoned underwear, Land Girls, lemon snow pudding, and Guy Fawkes’ bonfires. Little has done a tremendous job of balancing the diary format with a story shaped with excitement and uncertainty. Charlotte’s warm, secure family love symbolizes the core setting and theme — belonging and home. Will Terry, the unhappy War Guest, return to his family in London? Will the War Guests’ parents live through the Blitz? And, importantly, will Charlotte’s precious sailor brother return safely? Exiles goes high on my list of essential books on Canada’s participation in WWII for this age group.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2011. Volume 34 No. 2.
Other titles by Jean Little
A Long Way Home
Le long chemin
Harry's Hiccups Read-Along
Listen for the Singing
Dear Canada: Hoping for Home
Stories of Arrival
Once Upon a Golden Apple
25th Anniversary Edition
Pippin the Christmas Pig
Hand in Hand
Inspired by the real-life story of Helen Keller and Martha Washington