The Phantom Zeppelin (Churchill’s Children Book 1) by A.R. Grogan is an engaging middle grade historical novel following the exploits of a group of aristocratic children during World War II who work undercover for Winston Churchill. Christopher Finch, the child of a diplomat, is at the story’s center, who becomes one of Churchill’s spies, leading to incredible adventures for the typical 12-year-old boy in this informative and engrossing first book in the series.
The Churchill’s Children series seems very much geared as an historical lesson, while not drowning younger readers in too much detail, and keeps readers engaged by Kit’s fantastical exploits as the story moves forward. Christopher is told tales by his grandfather about his own adventures in Africa and the Middle East, which prepares him for his life as a spy, while providing interesting historical context, and propelling Christopher into a world he couldn’t imagine.
A weakness in the writing is that Grogan tends to be overly general and not get too far into the details of setting and character. The book reads as if he has a big story he wants to tell about children during the war, but the book is a bit too light on specific descriptions, as the book is more about big-picture history than small details, which is somewhat to the book’s detriment.
That being said, the story itself is fun and eminently readable, which does make up for some of the lack of specificity. As Grogan explains about the book, it was borne out of conversations he had with his grandmother, and a great passion for the subject comes through in spades, which transfers to the reader and will help young readers learn about the time period.