by Roger Hurn
Endeavour Press Ltd.; 1 edition (May 28, 2012)
Reviewed from copy received free through Amazon.
It is 1939 and a gang of children who call themselves “The Lions” play happily in the back streets of London. They are totally unaware that their little world is about to be shattered beyond repair. War is declared and they, like thousands of others, are torn from their families and sent off to live with strangers in the countryside. This is their story.
A short story full of heart as well as change. War leaves no one unchanged even children. Perhaps especially children. Billy, Thomas, Rosie, Simon, and Eddie are a group of friends that call themselves the Lions. They even have a secret hideout. But when London is hit by the Blitz, the children are sent away for their own protection. When they meet up again to share their stories it quickly becomes clear that things have changed. I found the story fascinating as well as heartbreaking. A powerful reminder that whether we want it or not change comes, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. A very thought-provoking story well worth reading and discussing.
What's the 'story behind the story' of Once There Were Lions?
Many years ago I was a teacher in the Deptford area of South East London where the story of Once There Were Lions is set. It was, and still is, a very tough area but I loved my time there. At first, it was really hard to win the trust of the local people and they gave me a pretty hard time of it, but when they realized I wasn't going to go away and that I wanted to do my best for their kids they eased up on me and let me be part of their lives. They shared a lot of their stories with me - particularly the grans and grandads whose memories of the war were still very real to them. OTWL is my tribute to them and the stories they told me. I hope I've done them justice.
What are some of the other books you've written?
I've written The Mystery Mob - a series of 24 books about a group of boys who "solve" crimes; Spook Squad - Adventures Too Scary For Boys, about a group of girls who battle ghouls, ghosts, long leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night!; The Alien Detective Agency featuring Sci-Fi Spy Guy and Wanda Darkstar; Tribe - a series about children who can morph into animals.
What led you to write for children?
When I was a child my teacher gave me a magic wand. I used it to have amazing adventures. Only my teacher didn't call it a magic wand - she called it a pencil. Since those early days I've always loved making up and writing stories. I also loved telling them to the classes I taught. In the end I spent more time telling stories than teaching so it seemed I'd better leave the classroom and actually earn my living writing those stories - which is what I've done.
How did you become a writer?
I sent my ideas to publishers and they liked them and published them. This was lucky for me because it isn't easy to get stories accepted these days.
I love to learn about other places. Could you tell us a little about where you live and what you love about it?
I live in London. London is a fantastic place and people from all over the world have come here to make it their home. It's a great cultural mix and, as someone who loves food, the brilliant thing is I can eat every kind of food imaginable in the restaurants and cafes in a mile radius of my house. There are lots of parks and green spaces here too so you never feel as if you're far from the countryside. London is also rich in history and I love to go to the Globe Theatre to see the plays that Shakespeare wrote being performed in a setting he would recognize. So, as Dr Johnson once said: "If a man grows tired of London he grows tired of life." And, in my opinion, that's as true today as when he said it over two hundred years ago.