Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 15
- Grade: 10
It's 1944, and two young Canadian able seamen, Glen Cassley and Arthur "Ding Dong" Bell, find their ship sinking beneath them after a German submarine unleashes an acoustic torpedo. Miraculously, everyone on board survives, and Glen shouts out triumphantly:
"You know what this means, Ding? Survivor's Leave. We qualify for Survivor's Leave!"
With fun and adventure on their minds, Glen and Ding set off for London. But there is no rest from battle, for the Germans have begun dropping a new kind of bomb, the horrific V-1s, or doodlebugs. When a neighbour and her baby are trapped under their collapsed and burning home, an injured Glen is on the frontlines.
Glen and Ding then accept an offer to travel to Cornwall where they are to stay in a rundown manor house, Penraven. Their stay turns out to be more exciting than the boys could have imagined. Built atop a cave-riddled cliff, Penraven has been the home of smuggling, murder, dungeons and ghosts. To add to the excitement, the boys meet two young English girls who turn out to be charming company!
But the young seamen soon discover that sinister forces have an interest in what lies hidden below Penraven, for the Nazis have hatched an unprecedented scheme involving biological warfare, and it seems the caves are the perfect place from which to set the destruction in motion.
About the author
Born in Priceville, Ontario, in 1925, Robert Sutherland lived briefly in Cape Breton and then Scotland before returning to Canada where he attended Flesherton High School. During World War II, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served from 1943 to 1946 as an anti-aircraft gunner on a Loch Class frigate (HMCS Loch Morlich). When his ship was in dry dock in London for repairs, he experienced doodlebug bombing. While in the navy he met Charlotte Cameron of Glasgow, and they married in Toronto in 1948. They have three children, seven grandchildren and one great grandson. Robert’s first success with fiction was a full length novel in the Toronto Star Weekly in 1960. He used the proceeds to set up a hobby of selling Scottish regalia and gifts from his home, a hobby he still pursues. On two of his many rejection slips for other novels, the editor had written “Suggest you try writing for teens.” When he returned to writing in the 1980s he decided to follow this advice. He rewrote the story that had been published in the Star, cutting down on the descriptions and making his protagonist a teen who accidentally stumbled into espionage. Mystery at Black Rock Island, published by Scholastic, was an immediate success, and the first of five successful books about teenagers David and Sandy. He has now had fourteen novels published, which have received numerous nominations and prizes. His novels have been translated into French, Norwegian, Swedish, German and Korean. Robert now lives in Westport, Ontario.
Survivor’s LeaveWhen their boat sinks from underneath them, but the crew escapes, everyone including seamen Glen Cassley and his friend ‘Ding’ are granted “survivor’s leave”. This suspenseful novel then sees Glen and Ding in London visiting a family known to Glen. The leave becomes more exciting than they’d planned for when the boys find themselves right in the middle of the first “doodlebug” bombings in the UK during WWII. Wanting to spend some time in a safer place, Glen and Ding head off to a farm in Cornwall but adventure continues to follow them. At ‘Penraven’ they discover that the Nazis are also interested in this estate for the intricate warren of caves beneath it, which they wish to utilize to launch their diabolical plan for biological warfare against the Allied world.
This is Sutherland’s 14th novel.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2010-2011.
Survivor’s LeaveSurvivor’s Leave written by Robert Sutherland Ronsdale Press, 2010 978-1-55380-097-2 (pb) $10.95 for Grades 8 to 11 Fiction, Historical Fiction, World War II
Set in 1944, Robert Sutherland’s fourteenth title, Survivor’s Leave, mixes German U-boats, World War Two spies and young Canadian sailors. The “About the Author” note informs readers that Sutherland, who was born in 1925, served as an anti-aircraft gunner on the HMCS Loch Morlich from 1943 to 1946. The main character of Survivor’s Leave is a 19-year-old anti-aircraft gunner, whose ship is part of a convoy to England when it sinks. For the second part of the book, Glen Cassley and his pal “Ding” begin their survivor’s leave at the London home of a pen pal’s family. After living through buzz and V2 rocket bombs, in the third part of the book the heroes visit the pen pal’s sister in the Cornwall countryside. Exciting spy stuff and blossoming romance take off in this last section.
Sutherland’s highly believable descriptions of buzz bombs were written from first-hand observation. His time at sea also contributed to the extremely knowledgeable and well-written ship passages. However, a glossary at the back of the book might have helped readers get up to speed with the numerous nautical terms. Secondary school students studying World War Two will absorb valuable helpful information about Canada’s increasing independence from Britain, as well as our participation in different aspects of World War Two such as convoy assistance. Britain’s Women’s Land Army and technological developments of the war are other topics that Sutherland manages to touch upon in this worthwhile book. The three-part approach helps the story flow into a tidy, easily read format. Survivor’s Leave is both factually detailed and a pleasing adventure story from stem to stern.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2010. Vol.33 No.2.