Book Review, Children's Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens

 – Short Review –

A cracker of a story, based in World War One, which tells the tale of women’s football at the time.   Lily, aged 14, lives with her Dad and has started working as a munitionette in the local arsenal (having lied about her age).  The factory has a women’s team, which practices during their lunch break, and Lily manages to grab the goalkeepers role.  However when the war is declared over, and all the men return from the front-line, will there still be a place for women’s football?  Not only that but her job will disappear too and she has her injured Dad to support.  What will Lily do?
If you enjoyed Over the Line by Tom Palmer but fancy a female perspective on a similar theme, you’ll probably enjoy this

– Longer review –

The Chicken House three word review summarises this book as “Wartime Football Drama” and there certainly is a focus on the beautiful game.  There is, however, so much more besides.  It explores friendship, family, war, romance and the realities of life in London during World War One.
Lily lives in Woolwich with her Dad (Mum has died) and dreams of being a goalkeeper.  Her best friend Amy May fancies travelling the world as a singer.  However when you’re living in London during World War One life tends to have different ideas.  When Amy May’s brother is killed in action she decides that she wants to take up nursing on the front-line so Lily determines that she will go and work at the local arsenal as a munitionette.
Happily the arsenal has a female football team, which practices during the lunch hour, and Lily soon impresses with her height and reflexes and scores the position of goalkeeper.  She also catches the attention of supervisor Joe Crawford and the pair take an instant dislike to each other.
Whilst packing munitions for the front-line she slips a note into one of the consignments, as a lot of the factory girls are writing to the troops in France, and she soon finds herself a pen-pal in Jack.
Given that there’s a war on, life is fairly peachy and Lily is getting to play lots of football, as there’s a thriving women’s scene, but all good things must come to an end.   Her father is injured when a bomb falls on the arsenal and then she falls out with Amy May when her friend returns home for a week on leave, in a visit that coincides with home leave for Jack.
When the war ends it leads to more uncertainty – with the men coming back from the front-line they will be returning to their jobs and ousting the women.  In addition the men’s game/league will be able to start again – will there be a future for women’s football?
Lily’s old friend, Billy, comes up with an audacious plan.  She’s a tall, athletic girl so perhaps she should try out for the men’s team.  If she chopped off her hair she could disguise herself as a bloke surely?
This story has a strong set of characters and is a great lesson in what a determined attitude can achieve.  Lily is multi layered – far more than just a “tomboy” who likes footie – and she experiences the same sorts of confusions that are common to girls throughout time.  It’s a tale that has as much pace as your average Premier League match and, because it’s based around fact, you’ll learn something too.  I, personally, had no idea that the women’s game was such a big deal between 1914 and 1921 – they were drawing crowds that Manchester United would be happy with today!
Lily and the Rockets is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.
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Rebecca Stevens

Rebecca Stevens has always been highly creative. She has worked as an actor, a stand-up comedian and a scriptwriter for children’s television, writing for shows such as Mr Bean and Postman PatValentine Joe is her first solo book, and her second novel for Chicken House, Rose in the Blitz, will be published in August 2016.

Reviewed by Angela Paull

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