Until the Road Ends by PHIL EARLE is set in London during World War II and is a moving story about friendship, loss, and love.
To celebrate the book’s release, Good Reading for Kids chatted to Phil about dogs, World War II and what he’s working on next.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Inspired by a true story. Peggy must leave her beloved dog Beau behind in war-torn London, but Beau is determined to find her again.
Until the Road Ends is the eagerly awaited new novel from the bestselling author of When the Sky Falls: The Times Children’s Book of the Year, winner of a Books Are My Bag Readers Award, the British Book Award for Children’s Fiction and shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
When Peggy saves a stray dog from near-death, a beautiful friendship begins. Peggy and Beau are inseparable: the only thing that can ever come between them is war. Peggy is evacuated to the safety of the coast, but Beau is left behind in the city, where he becomes the most extraordinary and unlikely of war heroes.
Night after night, as bombs rain down and communities are destroyed, Beau searches the streets, saving countless families. But then disaster strikes, changing Peggy’s life forever. With her parents killed, both she and Beau are left alone, hundreds of miles apart. But Beau has a plan to reunite them at long last …
Q&A WITH PHIL EARLE
It’s strange. I never set out to write a collection of World War II Blitz stories. When I started writing When The Sky Falls, I had no other ideas set in that period of history. But as I was editing it, my editor Charlie told me about the animal massacre of 1939 that became the backbone of While the Storm Rages. Once I’d finished that, I couldn’t move on, history is too full of heroic animals and World War II stories that are just begging to be told.
Have you based any of your stories on real historical animals?
Beau, the faithful hound in Until The Road Ends, was absolutely inspired by a real life dog called Rip. Found in a bombed-out building, Rip went on to become the original sniffer dog, finding over 100 people buried alive in buildings. He won the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, which he wore proudly around his neck until he died at the end of the war.
How do you write from an animal’s point-of-view?
If I’m honest, there’s no trick to it, other than approaching them like any human characters. I’m lucky enough to live with two dogs, and they feel what we feel: hunger, pain, happiness. I tried really hard to give Beau, Mabel and Bomber a backstory. And treat them with the love and respect they deserve, and it seemed to flow from there …
What is your research process?
I know I should say that I researched for months, years even! But I didn’t.
I don’t have the skills. Instead I use films, documentaries and Google. For me, the time period is there to serve the story. Plot and characters always come first for me.
How do you approach writing a war novel for children?
I think there is always a danger when writing for children to sweeten the pill, but if you read the great writers, they simply don’t do that. Take one of the greatest Australian writers there is in Morris Gleitzman. His book Two Weeks With The Queen is a comedy, but it’s also about death and loss and child cancer. Morris is masterful. I hope I’ve learnt a lot about writing from his many brilliant books. Always write with the truth in mind. Readers of any age will see through you if
First and foremost, I want them to be entertained. To imagine they are Beau, to imagine they are walking a mile in his shoes. If readers learn something about history, that’s great, but I always write the book I’d want to read. And I read to be told a bloomin’ good story!!
Did you have any family pets growing up?
You know, I didn’t. I had a gerbil briefly, then he escaped and scared my mum to death. He soon went to live elsewhere.
I always wanted a dog, and now I have two. I absolutely can’t imagine life without them.