Robert Westall Betty Baum - Essay

Betty Baum

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The horrid, sordid aspects of the war are depicted [in The Machine Gunners] without sentimentality or sensationalism. Both children and adults are believable and the plot holds our interest. Unfortunately, the book loses some of its power and appeal because neither the adults nor the children stir our sympathy and affections. Only the German prisoner awakens any love or loyalty. A good book that might have been great.

Betty Baum, "'The Machine Gunners'," in Children's Book Review Service (copyright © 1977 Children's Book Review Service Inc.), Vol. 5, No. 5, January, 1977, p. 50.

[The Wind Eye] is a book of extraordinary power. The blending of present and past is controlled with complete mastery. The modern children and their parents, and the conflicts within the family group, are drawn most convincingly. Perhaps the best of a very good book is the way in which the setting, which is hardly described at all, plays its vital role in the action. Wise, often funny, sometimes deeply moving, this book might have a formative influence on those children who can meet its formidable technical and emotional demands. (p. 123)

"'The Wind Eye'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 41, No. 2, April, 1977, pp. 122-23.

An altogether different sort of undertaking from the author of last year's strong Machine Gunners, [The Wind Eye] is a contemporary family fantasy set on the Northumbrian coast where the medieval, wizard-like St. Cuthbert lived and died and, purportedly, routed a band of Viking raiders. It's also where Mike's pedantic Cambridge professor father [Bertrand] and his grating second wife, Beth and Sally's mother, take the family to vacation…. Westall's merciless and unequivocal argument for the sort of unseen reality that the Cuthbert legend represents is unduly heavy and not likely to disarm other, unconverted Bertrands; but his plotting will keep them in thrall. The bickering parents are unpleasantly real enough to win identification with their offspring, and the compellingly evoked coastal locale makes the bridging of centuries there seem entirely natural.

"Young Adult Fiction: 'The Wind Eye'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1977 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLV, No. 20, October 15, 1977, p. 1104.