Tues 21st May 
The flipping sun shone today — how could it? Did it shine on Hitler? I found this picture of him and his dog — if I was his dog I’d run away so as not to be stroked by his wicked hand.
Simon has gone all grey and quiet again. How can we save his family when we can’t even save ourselves?
(from My Secret War Diary, page 49)
My Secret War Diary, by Flossie Albright: My History of the Second World War 1939-1945 is the fictional diary/scrapbook of Flossie Albright, a 9-year-old girl living in Honeysuckle Cottage on the High Barn Estate in Dorchester, England. She lives with her father, her great uncle Colin, and her nearly 1-year-old brother Boo, who hasn’t been given a proper name yet. Flossie is still grieving her mother’s death when her father joins the Dorsetshire Regiment in anticipation of war with Germany, leaving her to care for her brother on her own. Flossie is understandably stressed from caring for a baby and going to school, and she’s also frightened that the Germans will invade — especially when gas masks are distributed and planes start flying overhead.
Flossie’s diary is written in cursive and peppered with doodles, photographs, and mementos, which come from author Marcia Williams’ family. My Secret War Diary is very similar to The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston, except that it’s geared toward middle grade readers and the story flows more easily rather than being molded to fit the mementos. Flossie’s diary spans the entire war and goes into great detail about the evacuees who come from London, a Jewish boy from Germany who is placed on the estate, food and gas rations, and how the landscape changes when the Americans join the war. And through it all, readers watch Flossie grow from a strong, sassy young girl into a strong, opinionated, and ambitious young woman.
Williams does a great job showing what it was like to be a kid during the war, with the fear of bombings, having to eat things they wouldn’t have eaten before, and finding small things to do to aid the war effort, such as collecting scrap metal. She also shows how children can play a role in history, as Flossie is keeping a diary to tell her war story and includes the stories of the Jewish evacuee Simon, a nurse in North Africa, her soldier cousin who is part of the D-Day invasion, and other people experiencing the war in different ways.
My Secret War Diary is amusing and heartwarming, informative, and at times very sad. Like most people who lived during World War II, Flossie experiences her share of hardship and loss, making the story more authentic. This is a book both adults and children will enjoy, as it is impossible not to like Flossie, who tells the good with the bad, even when it means exposing her own flaws. Williams personalizes the wartime experience, and children will learn what it was like for Flossie to be proud of her father but wish he could stay, to be grateful for what little she had but not wanting to eat crows or foxes, and to move on despite crippling grief. Not only is it a fascinating story, but it also is a feast for the eyes, with letters to be pulled out of envelopes, cards to be flipped open, and even entries written in code that must be deciphered. I loved it, and I can’t wait to read Flossie’s father’s World War I diary, Archie’s War.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.