The Theft of Childhood: Depictions of the Second World War in The Dolphin Crossing and Dawn of Fear

Mike Sainsbury


This essay considers how history's deadliest conflict was (or could be) represented in children's literature. I have chosen two British chapter books, in part, for personal reasons. Like Jill Paton Walsh and Susan Cooper, my mother was a child in Britain during the Second World War and experienced many of the events those authors describe. Her father, however, (who was held as a prisoner of war in what is now Poland) never spoke about the war. That silence—common among ex-combatants—was finally broken a generation later. By the late 1960s, authors such as Paton Walsh and Cooper began to describe the Second World War for those children whose parents had grown up amidst its heroism and horror.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680