I have read lots of children’s books that recount events from the Second World War, all of them detailing the war that was fought on land. Arctic Star switches the attention to the sea, the naval men and their incredible wartime efforts.
1943. Best friends Frank, Stephen and Joseph are excited to have joined the Royal Navy and are aboard the HMS Forgetmenot as part of the Arctic Convoys that are delivering much needed wartime supplies to Russia.
Seas are treacherous, unforgiving and danger is never far away. A tragic end to the mission leaves Frank re-evaluating his commitment to the Navy and whilst on shore leave he is ready to turn his back on everything. But the navy needs him, another mission across the Arctic waters awaits. But will Frank have the courage to embark on another life-threatening journey…
I love that Tom Palmer has written a book that focuses on the brave naval men and the battles that were fought at sea. Taking inspiration from the Arctic Convoys, this gripping naval adventure is a fact-filled story of friendship, danger, peril and the terrible consequences of war. It is historical story-writing at its absolute best. Emma Carroll is rightly dubbed ‘the Queen of historical fiction’ and I believe that now is the time for Tom Palmer to sit comfortably alongside her on his own historical story-writing throne.
Focusing exclusively on the Arctic Convoys of the Second World War, Palmer details the journeys aboard warships as they escorted precious cargo ships loaded with weapons, vehicles and munitions from the UK to Russia. Sailing through treacherous waters and constantly under the threat from German U-Boats, planes and the terrifying ‘Scharnhorst’, brave seamen put their fears aside to complete essential missions where one wrong move could result in devastating consequences.
Told through Palmer’s expert and insightful voice, the story is adrenaline fuelled and emotionally charged. There is such an awareness of events and a depth of detail, it as if Palmer is actually there himself and is reporting directly on what he is witnessing. He brings to life the wartime experience on the seas, the risks for foreigners visiting Russia, the effects of war and the emotional toll that it takes on all of those both aboard the ships and at home. Readers will be able to imagine every rock of the ship, every blast of icy air and every deafening explosion.
And then there is the human experience. That of three young boys who bravely served their country. We are privy to their hopes, their fears, what kept them going even in the darkest times, the questioning of whether it is all worth it as they toiled with a sense of duty. It is a wonderful encapsulation of the emotional life of a soldier.
My grandad served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, he was a coder who served on various ships. When my mum saw this book she immediately flicked through it and said to me, “I wish you had read a book like this when you were younger. It would have helped you understand the atrocities better.” Well, I didn’t get to read a book like this when I was young because a book like this had not been written. Thankfully, Tom Palmer and his ever-growing collection of brilliant war stories are filling that childhood void and I thank him for this outstanding read.
Recommended for 8+.