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Johnny and the Bomb

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Johnny Maxwell and his friends have to do something when they find Mrs Tachyon, the local bag lady, semi-conscious in an alley . . . as long as it's not the kiss of life.

But there's more to Mrs Tachyon than a squeaky trolley and a bunch of dubious black bags. Somehow she holds the key to different times, different ears - including the Blackbury Blitz in 1941. Suddenly now isn't the safe place Johnny once thought it was as he finds himself caught up more and more with then . . .

SMARTIES PRIZE, SILVER MEDAL WINNERSHORTLISTED FOR THE CARNEGIE MEDAL AND THE CHILDREN'S BOOK AWARD

Johnny and the Bomb

Chapter 1

After the Bombs

It was nine o’clock in the evening, in Blackbury High Street.

It was dark, with occasional light from the full moon behind streamers of worn-out cloud. The wind was from the south-west and there had been another thunderstorm, which freshened the air and made the cobbles slippery. A policeman moved, very slowly and sedately, along the street.

Here and there, if someone was very close, they might have seen the faintest line of light around a blacked-out window. From within came the quiet sounds of people living their lives – the muffled notes of a piano as someone practised scales, over and over again, and the murmur and occasional burst of laughter from the wireless. Some of the shop windows had sandbags piled in front of them. A poster outside one shop urged people to Dig For Victory, as if it were some kind of turnip.

On the horizon, in the direction of Slate, the thin beams of searchlights tried to pry bombers out of the clouds. The policeman turned the corner, and walked up the next street, his boots seeming very loud in the stillness.

The beat took him up as far as the Methodist chapel, and in theory would then take him down Paradise Street, but it didn’t do that tonight because there was no Paradise Street any more. Not since last night. There was a lorry parked by the chapel. Light leaked out from the tarpaulin that covered the back.

He banged on it. ‘You can’t park that ’ere, gents, ’ he said. ‘I fine you one mug of tea and we shall say no more about it, eh? ’

The tarpaulin was pushed back and a soldier jumped out. There was a brief vision of the interior – a warm tent of orange light, with a few soldiers sitting around a little stove, and the air thick with cigarette smoke. The soldier grinned. ‘Gi’us a mug and a wad for the sergeant, ’ he said, to someone in the lorry. A tin mug of scalding black tea and a brick-thick sandwich were handed out. ‘Much obliged, ’ said the policeman, taking them. He leaned against the lorry. ‘How’s it going, then? ’ he said. ‘Haven’t heard a bang. ’ ‘It’s a 25-pounder, ’ said the soldier. ‘Went right down through the cellar floor. You lot took a real pounding last night, eh? Want a look? ’ ‘Is it safe? ’ ‘’Course not, ’ said the soldier cheerfully. ‘That’s why we’re here, right? Come on. ’ He pinched out his cigarette and put it behind his ear. ‘I thought you lot’d be guarding it, ’ said the policeman. ‘It’s two in the morning and it’s been pissing down, ’ said the soldier. ‘Who’s going to steal an unexploded bomb? ’ ‘Yes, but . .. ’ The sergeant looked in the direction of the ruined street.

There was the sound of bricks sliding. ‘Someone is, by the sound of it, ’ he said. ‘What? We’ve got warning signs up! ’ said the soldier. ‘We only knocked off for a brew-up! Oi! ’ Their boots crunched on the rubble that had been strewn across the road. ‘It is safe, isn’t it? ’ said the sergeant. ‘Not if someone drops a dirty great heap of bricks on it, no! Oi! You! ’ The moon came out from behind the clouds. They could make out a figure at the other end of what remained of the street, near the wall of the pickle factory.

Witty dialogue allied to thought-provoking ideas

School Librarian

Thrilling and impressively funny

Mail on Sunday

Enormously entertaining and contains more wry observations than you could shake a Heinkel at

Daily Telegraph

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