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Children discover lost infant in ‘Lizzie and the Lost Baby’

Honesty is the best policy.

You’ve known practically since you were born that lying was not a good thing. Tell the truth, you’ve been reminded. Say what really happened. Don’t mess with the facts. And, as in the new book “Lizzie and the Lost Baby” by Cheryl Blackford, that’s advice that grown-ups should heed, too.

Lizzie absolutely did not want to go.

But she knew she had to, and so did her brother, Peter. Mummy said it was for their safety because Daddy was away at war and the Germans could bomb Britain at any time. All the children in Hull were sent to the English countryside to live with strangers that spring, whether they wanted it or not. And Lizzie didn’t want it — but she knew leaving was for the best.

And so it was that 10-year-old Lizzie and 7-year-old Peter were sent to Swaindale to live with a policeman named Fred Arbuthnot; his wife, Madge; and Madge’s dotty sister, Elsie.

Though Lizzie missed Mummy and Nana something awful, the English countryside was nice. Peter found someone to play with nearby, and the scenery was lovely. There were cows and sheep, green grass and things to do. Madge only asked that the children be prompt for lunchtime and not upset Elsie — both of which were very easy to do, until Lizzie found the baby.

She was lying on a dirty quilt on the grass, a little cherub with black curly hair, crying and all alone. Lizzie couldn’t imagine why anybody would abandon a baby like that — especially one as beautiful as the one she found. She hoped Madge would help her find the baby’s mother but, instead, Elsie took the baby as her own!

Lizzie knew something wasn’t quite right, especially when she heard that a nearby Gypsy camp was looking for a baby that was missing. The baby’s brother, Elijah, thought Lizzie might know something, but the adults in Swaindale told her to keep quiet.

The local magistrate said Elsie could keep the baby. Mummy said the truth was always best. What was Lizzie to do?

Truth … or consequences? Is honesty the best policy? “Lizzie and the Lost Baby” takes a good look at that question.

Set during World War II, at a time when drastic measures were taken as needed, this story starts out with something to capture a kids’ imagination: Lizzie and her brother are sent far away from home. Though they’re safe in a lovely, bucolic place, it’s scary nonetheless, but Blackford doesn’t let her characters linger on it; Lizzie is brave, wise, and responsible from the story’s beginning, which continues throughout the book. Because he’s a catalyst for Lizzie’s character, Blackford also gives Elijah a great storyline, too, which is likewise a fine lesson on tolerance for cultures of which kids might not be familiar.

Put them together, and you’ve got a well-done, delightfully British story that can be read or read aloud. For your 9- to 12-year-old, “Lizzie and the Lost Baby” is a book she’ll honestly enjoy.

— View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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