Digging for Victory by Cathy Faulkner

Twelve-year-old Bonnie wants to be a war hero like her older brother, Ralph. She certainly does not want to stay at home and tend the family vegetable garden. But when the mysterious Mr. Fisher is billeted at their farmhouse, Bonnie discovers that being a hero doesn’t necessarily involve wearing a uniform. Can she actually make a difference to the war effort though? And is there really any point in digging for victory?

About the Author

Cathy Faulkner graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing for Young People and holds a BA in English Literature from Bristol University, as well as having studied Art and Design at the University of the West of England. Cathy has taught in schools, colleges and universities in England and abroad. She is currently working as a primary school librarian and teaches English for Academic Purposes at Bristol University. For a number of years, Cathy was the Artistic Director of the Yeo Valley Children’s Book Group. Besides writing, Cathy loves playing large bass instruments, making stained glass windows and growing her own fruit and vegetables. She also enjoys going on long walks in the countryside. Cathy lives with her husband, three children and ten chickens in North Somerset. She has enjoyed contributing both her writing and artwork to this anthology. Digging for Victory is her first novel.

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Digging For Victory by Cathy Faulkner, introduced by Sue Howe

When I was introduced to Digging for Victory, I was immediately drawn to the World War II setting and the young protagonist, Bonnie. The free verse narrative, and the way in which the words flowed so beautifully, was inspiring, and it was a joy to see the story develop.

Bonnie is a flawed, but extremely likeable character, and I love her child’s-eye view of the war. Her resentment of her brother’s important status as an RAF pilot feels very real. She wants to be a hero too, which isn’t easy for a young girl in wartime Britain, and the arrival of the enigmatic Mr Fisher throws her world into further turmoil. Children will readily identify with her feelings, while the unfolding mystery, drama and peril will keep them enthralled.

Bonnie is brave, inquisitive and relatable, and the supporting cast of characters are interesting and believable. Cathy deftly weaves themes of relationships, prejudice, grief and STEM into the story, and there are wonderful historical details throughout.

Children will love following Bonnie’s adventure, and her emotional journey, as she discovers that there is more than one way to be a hero.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I often think about my stories while gardening and harvesting my homegrown fruit and vegetables. This book was no exception. However, the initial spark for it came while teaching my year 5 class about World War II decoy sites; their fascination was contagious.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful Elen Caldecott as my manuscript tutor. The moment she asked, ‘Have you ever tried writing in verse?’ was a real turning point for me. It was not something I had ever considered before but I haven’t looked back since!

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

The MA gave me the opportunity to try writing different genres and for different age groups. This was great fun but, more importantly, it helped me find my voice.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

My favourite part has to be the magical buzz I experience when the different strands of the story and the symbolism I’ve been experimenting with all come together.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

I love to create and perform as much as I can: I play in various musical ensembles, perform as part of a drama group and make stained glass windows. Nothing beats being out in the countryside with my family though.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid to experiment, to play around with words and to have fun with ideas. Oh, and read, read, read.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I enjoyed all sorts of books as a child but the most memorable has to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I found the story exciting and magical, and I remember being absolutely blown away when I realised that it was an allegory.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

Narnia would be an experience, but it would probably be far too cold for me in winter. I think I’d probably feel most content and at home in the Shire.