Trudy Takes Charge is the first of ten books about the eponymous heroine. They were published over the course of twenty-one years, from the late forties on, by Pickering & Inglis, a Scottish publishing house well-known for its overtly Christian books. I know nothing about the author, Mary Alice Faid, but I believe she also wrote adult novels. My copy of Trudy Takes Charge is actually my Mum’s, a Sunday School prize. I read it when I was maybe about ten and over the years acquired the rest of the series, mostly from McCall Barbour’s bookshop on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. Fifteen year-old Trudy is recalled from her boarding school and left in charge of the family in her parents’ absence due to illness. It’s unashamedly evangelistic but it is also (and this makes it sadly unusual) a great story. Everything does not go well and being a Christian brings Trudy trials as well as triumphs.
Something completely different is Once by Morris Gleitzman. It’s also the first book in a series but there the similarity ends. It is the story of Felix and Zelda, two children living in Poland in the 1940s, trying to escape from the Nazi regime. Once is a good book – maybe a great one – and it’s deceptively simple. The language is simple and the plot is simple but there’s nothing simple about the story. It deals with horrific situations and dreadful choices and real-life history. The power of the book lies in its matter-of-fact description, and some of the scenes will haunt readers of any age for a long time. Because of that it is a challenging, but ultimately worthwhile, read.