Hide and Seek by Rhian Tracey

Hide and Seek – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Art treasures, secrecy, WW2, suspicion.
Children’s book title: Hide and Seek: A Bletchley Park Mystery.
Children’s author: Rhian Tracey.
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery.
Published by: Piccadilly Press.
ISBN: 9781800787292.
Recommended for children aged: 9-13 year-olds.
First published: Paperback February 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Reading in cross-curricular English and History lessons. Set during WW2, the story is seen through the eyes of Ned, a young teenage boy, as he navigates his ever-changing daily life and new wartime responsibilities.

Hide and Seek by Rhian Tracey

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Our review:

Ned Letton is very excited to be leaving Bletchley Park with his mother and heading to Manod, in North Wales to help her with a top-secret mission. This also gives them both the chance to get away from his dad who is a bully and not at all keen on either of them leaving.

Their new home is at the foot of a slate mine which they both become increasingly familiar with as the days pass. Ned’s mother, before her marriage, was, to his amazement, a well-respected art conservator and the slate mine hides a vital part of the war effort on the home front. Ned is delighted to also be working in the mine as a chippie learning to make all types of frameworks, not that he can tell anyone, as he has signed the Official Secrets Act!

When what is happening in Manod is unexpectedly revealed in the papers the danger to everyone increases exponentially and suddenly Ned finds himself in the heart of the action. He is sure he is being watched, and as he begins a vital but perilous journey back the way he came he isn’t at all confident he will make it unscathed.

The first of the Bletchley Park Mystery series of standalone novels – I Spy – is based around the experiences of a young girl named Robyn and her two friends, one of whom is Ned, who has taken over for this instalment. I am hopeful there will be another offering which will concentrate on the third friend, Mary, to round everything off nicely.

Hide and Seek by Rhian Tracey spread 2

Our verdict:

This is an absolutely brilliant book which shows how secrecy, rumour, and paranoia became interwoven with everyday life during World War Two. The first two books in the Bletchley Park Mystery series work best if read in order as there are important references to what happened, and to whom, in book one mentioned throughout this story.

There is plenty to learn here, all of which is written in an easily understood manner with relatable main protagonists even though their lives are very different to our own. The treatment of all foreigners, but especially that of the refugee Jewish community, is highlighted by ten-year-old Anni, a refugee staying at the same house as Ned and his mother.

The small village isn’t as welcoming or keen to help as their new landlady, the partially sighted Mrs Thomas, and her guide dog, Kip. Her son, Harri, is hostile to anything to do with their guests, the slate mine, and the fact that his father is away fighting.

There are notes at the back of the book to give more information on the factual elements of this story. The fact that the whole story is based around actual events makes you appreciate how amazing we were as a country during this time, as well as how desperate the enemy was to knock us down a peg or two in as many situations as possible.

Although not a gentle look at WW2, it is sympathetic and informative in a way which means most readers in the designated age range will be able to access and understand the importance of this period of our recent history.

Hide and Seek by Rhian Tracey spread 1

Teaching points and book club discussion ideas:

  • Older students could compare the treatment of the Jewish community during the war years with the present day.
  • Listen to a free audiobook extract.

Many thanks to Piccadilly Press for the review copy.

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If you like Hide and Seek by Rhian Tracey you might also like: our reviews of The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith, The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll, On the Move Poems About Migration by Michael Rosen, Time School by Nikki Young, Peter in Peril by Helen Bate and The Missing by Michael Rosen.

Browse our list of World War Two themed books for children

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood