Brave Emily

Written in 2006 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, and Keith Skeen


This book takes place in the middle of Happy Birthday, Molly, but from Emily's perspective. We get to see a bit more of how vastly different life was for Emily, so much closer to the Axis powers and under constant threat of being killed by bombs. Emily struggles some with the culture shock, which is compounded by seeing how relatively carefree the Americans are. While she knows that Molly and family and friends worry about relatives fighting overseas and endure their own hardships, it's simply not the same as having bombs being dropped from right overhead. As Emily learns more American customs, she starts to relax and fit in more, although she's still searching for a way to follow her grandfather's instruction: to be brave for England.

One day in school, all the students are given flutophones, sort like the recorders that elementary school kids will often play today, a very simple wind instrument. Emily seems to have a natural talent for it...at least when playing a tune she already knows, "Hot Cross Buns." Molly and her friends think Emily is a musical prodigy, but when Emily practices "America the Beautiful" privately, she knows that it was just dumb luck. She practices whenever she can, but has real difficulty with the tune. She also feels guilty that she only seems to eke out fifteen minutes a day for practice, when the other students are practicing more. So before turning in her practice sheet, Emily changes the ones to fours, making it look like she practiced for 45 minutes a day instead of 15. But the students were just exaggerating and using hyperbole when they said they practiced for hours; they meant it felt like hours. So the teacher announces her dedication in front of the class because she appears to have practiced the most! Furthermore, because of that, Emily is going to play the solo at the class recital in two days!

That night, Emily confesses to Molly what she did. Molly comes up with a plan: first, Emily tells the truth to the teacher, who assigns her to make up the extra practice time she claimed, and says she still must play the solo the next day. But Molly, Susan, and Linda ask to stand behind her during the solo to help. Emily spends all the time she can manage practicing before the recital the next day. She gets the song down pretty well, but not perfectly. When it's time for her solo, Molly, Susan, and Linda tap-dance behind her with a triangle, a tambourine, and cymbals, playing louder over the parts Emily struggles with. The song goes wonderfully, and audience is none the wiser to the mistakes.

Then Emily enacts the final bit of the plan, the part that lets her be brave for England: she tells the crowd that she is from England, where food is in short supply, and asks for canned food donations to be brought to the Red Cross, which will ship the food to her home. Leaving the concert, she overhears someone commenting on how brave Emily must be.

Looking Back

Emily was far from the only child to have to leave home during World War II. Many children were sent away from London, where Nazi bombing and strict rationing made life very dangerous. Some went to the English countryside (like the Penvensie children in the Narnia books). Some were sent to other countries, to the United States, Canada, and even Australia. At first it was common for convoys of ships to travel across the ocean, but after one was sunk and 77 children died, only individual families sent their children overseas. Some children were away for as long as four years, and had to re-meet their parents all over again when the war ended. But at least they were safe.


This book is dedicated to "Helen Natalie Frances Heuer, with love."

Emily uses the trick my nanny charge taught me for remembering that 8 x 7 = 56 (56 = 7 x 8, five-six-seven-eight).

Eight times seven was a tricky question for Molly in Molly Learns a Lesson, too.

So, Emily's grandparents are hosting some evacuated children in the English countryside...but not Emily? I guess her parents were worried the Nazis might start bombing the rest of England.

Emily's father is also a doctor.

Emily's letters give Molly's address as 467 Oak Street, Jefferson, Illinois.

Probably a coincidence, but there's a student with the last name of Halsey in Molly and Emily's class. Admiral Halsey was, to put it lightly, important in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Two of Emily's letters home are very, very short; just a couple paragraphs. If I were sending a letter to my parents that wouldn't arrive for weeks, I'd write a bit more.One of the letters is dated Sunday, April 16, 1944, which is accurate, and also works with Molly's birthday being Saturday, April 22 in Happy Birthday, Molly.

It's kinda rotten that Mrs. Gilford won't allow Molly and Emily to practice their flutophones in the house. Yeah, it's annoying, but it's also homework.

Molly, Linda, and Susan take a tap-dancing class.

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