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by Hazel Gaynor

`Pamphlet B' - Baden-Powell Girl Guides — a Suggestion for Character Training for Girls Copyright © 1909 by Agnes Baden-Powellbr

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

P.S. ™ is a trademark of HarperCollins Publishers.

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & BRAVE. Copyright © 2020 by Hazel Gaynor. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007.

HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promotional use. For information, please email the Special Markets Department at SPsales@harpercollins.com.


Designed by Diahann Sturge

Title page image © SERG KOVALENKO / Shutterstock, Inc.
Planes on title page © Vectorcarrot / Shutterstock, Inc.
Part title bird image ©pansuang / Shutterstock, Inc.
Part title lined paper © My Life Graphic / Shutterstock, Inc.
Sunflower on pages xiii, 5, Z 18, 30, 38, 51, 63, 78, 86, 94, 99, 115, 122, 127, 132, 140, 160, 168, 175, and 184 © Valentina Razumova / Shutterstock, Inc. Other sunflowers throughout © Ian 2010 / Shutterstock, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.
ISBN 978-0-06-299526-1
ISBN 978-0-06-303483-9 (library edition)

20 21 22 23 24 Lsc 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


CHINA, 1941

Nancy Plummer and her young friends feel safe and protected, far from the war raging across Europe. As students at the esteemed China Inland Mission School, they study Latin and algebra, have daily prayers, and attend meetings of their beloved Brownies and Girl Guides. War simply won't happen to them.

But everything changes in an instant when Japan declares war against the United States and Britain following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and soldiers march into Nancy's school, placing it under the control of Japanese forces. No longer protected by their status, the students and teachers now find themselves the enemy at the mercy of their captors.

Under this frightening and bewildering new regime, Elspeth Kent, a teacher charged with the care of the girls, must confront her own fears, failings, and regrets as she struggles to keep the children safe. But worse is to come when the group is forced to leave the school and sent to a distant internment camp where even greater uncertainty and danger await. As they hope for liberation, Elspeth and Nancy become ever closer, relying on their courage, faith, friendships, and each other; both of them determined to see themselves and everyone around them through to the very end ... whatever that might be.

When We Were Young & Brave is a haunting and tender novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship, as well as the life-changing bond formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war.

Praise for:

"In her latest compelling novel, Hazel Gaynor brings to the forefront a lesser known yet important piece of WWII history . . . . Penned by an assured and compassionate hand, When We Were Young e- Brave interweaves the beauty, cruelty, hope, and resilience found in wartime, to powerful result. A unique and moving tale not to be missed."

Kristina McMorris,
New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday

"In a story of courage, friendship, and humanity in the bleakest of circumstances, Gaynor takes a slice of true history and brings it to vivid life. I loved these characters and rooted for them all the way."

Mary Beth Keane,
New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

"Hazel Gaynor again breathes fresh life into a lost piece of history.... The British female voices, and their Girl Guide values, are as vivid as the landscape of this fascinating novel. While the students and teachers are tested to the limits by the hardship and privations of war, this is ultimately a story of deep friendship and profound bravery. When We Were Young & Brave is transporting, important, and tremendously moving."

Patti Callahan Henry,
New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

"When We Were Young & Brave is a stunning novel of resilience and hope, as a young Girl Scout troop must brave the hardships of life in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. Set amidst the captivating and colorful backdrop of China, Gaynor enchants with her masterful storytelling. A book not to be missed!"

Heather Webb,
USA Today bestselling author

"In When We Were Young & Brave, Hazel Gaynor gifts readers with an extraordinary and unique story of war—one unlike any we have read before.... Like her unforgettable characters, Gaynor has a gift for finding compassion and hope beneath the fear and deprivation of wartime life. With skill, warmth, and delicate grace, Gaynor peels back the layers of research and fact to reveal the tender heart behind this fascinating piece of history."

Lynda Cohen Loigman,
USA Today bestselling author of The Two-Family House and The Wartime Sisters

"With her latest, Gaynor unveils a fresh perspective in World War II historical fiction, one that profoundly reveals the power of resilience and community in troubled times. Deeply moving and unforgettable."

Fiona Davis,
nationally bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

"A compelling story of innocents caught up in the machine of global conflict, so wonderfully written and soul-stirring. Gaynor beautifully explores the heart's brave struggle to make sense of the upside-down world that is war. Well done!"

Susan Meissner,
bestselling author of The Last Year of the War

"I couldn't put When We Were Young b Brave down. This wonderful story about the Chefoo School's courageous educators and tenacious students can teach us all something about the power of hope and perseverance in the face of crisis and uncertainty."

Elise Hooper,
author of The Other Alcott and Fast Girls

"Hazel Gaynor's novels are so well researched and so rich in detail that one cannot help but be swept away to a time and place far removed from our own and live the drama through characters so beautifully realized that one walks amongst them. An absolute treat for any reader interested in history."

Liz Nugent,

#1 Irish Times bestselling author of Little Cruelties

"Important. Heartrending. Hopeful.... I was moved to tears many times as Gaynor paid witness to the extraordinary bravery and resilience of the teachers and children of Chefoo School.... A truly phenomenal read. Hazel Gaynor is an author who never fails to shine a bright light onto our historical pasts, making real-life events and characters dance on the page."

Carmel Harrington,
Irish Times bestselling author of A Thousand Roads Home



We didn't talk about it afterward. Not to loved ones, or to neighbors who stared at us from across the street, or to the newspapermen who were curious to know more about these lost children, returned from the war in the East like ghosts come back from the dead. We quietly packed it all away in our battered suitcases and stepped awkwardly back into the lives we'd once known. Eventually, everyone stopped asking; stopped staring and wondering. Like our suitcases gathering dust in the attic, we were forgotten.

But we didn't forget.

Those years clung to us like a midday shadow, waiting to trip us up when we least expected it: a remembered song, a familiar scent, a name overheard in a shop, and there we were in an instant, wilting in the stifling heat during roll call, kept awake at night by the ache of unimaginable hunger. I suppose it was inevitable that we would talk about it in the end; that we would tell the story of our war.

I'm still surprised by how much I have to say; how much I remember. I'd assumed I would only recall odd scraps and incoherent fragments, but it has all become clearer despite being ignored; the memories sharpened by distance and time. Now, when I talk about my school years in China, people only want to hear the parts about occupation and internment. That's the story everyone wants me to tell; how terrible it was and how frightened we were. But I also remember the smaller, simpler moments of a young girl's school days: smudged ink on fingertips, disinfectant in the corridors, hopscotch squares and skipping games, the iridescent wings of a butterfly that danced through the classroom window one autumn morning and settled on the back of my hand. I want to tell that side of my story, too.

Perhaps part of me wishes I could go back to the time before; that I could appreciate those quiet, inconsequential days before everything changed giggling into our hands when Miss Kent's back was turned, grumbling to Sprout about lumpy porridge, turning cartwheels with Mouse on the golden sands of the bay, exchanging secret whispers in the pitch-dark of the dorm. Unprepared for what lay ahead, we clattered thoughtlessly on through the careful precision of school routine—breakfast and prayers, assembly and lessons, tiffin and supper, Sibling Saturday and Empire Day—wildly ignorant of our privileges and of how much we were about to lose.

Our war arrived quietly, two weeks before Christmas, settling over the terracotta roof tiles of Chefoo School with the first of the season's snow. Safe in our beds, over one hundred boys and girls slept soundly, oblivious to the events happening at Pearl Harbor over five thousand miles away, unaware that the ripples of conflict were racing across the Pacific toward us.

I was ten years old that winter. Brownie Guides was my favorite part of the school week, and my feet still couldn't quite reach the floor when I sat on the edge of my bed ...

[click on the picture !]

China, December 1941. Having left an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China, Elspeth Kent is now anxious to return home to help the war effort. But as she prepares to leave China, a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth, and those in her charge.

Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School, protected by her British status. But when Japan declares war on Britain and America, Japanese forces take control of the school and the security and comforts Nancy and her friends are used to are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear. Now the enemy, and separated from their parents, the children look to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – to provide a sense of unity and safety.

Faced with the relentless challenges of oppression, the school community must rely on their courage, faith and friendships as they pray for liberation – but worse is to come when they are sent to a distant internment camp where even greater uncertainty and danger await . . .

Inspired by true events, this is an unforgettable novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war.

The book will be published in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand with the title
THE BIRD IN THE BAMBOO CAGE, and in the USA and Canada with the title

UK/Ire/ANZ: 20 August 2020. USA/Canada: 6 October 2020

messages from "Weihsien-Paintings"

From: Dwight W Whipple
Sent: Saturday, February 6, 2021 2:56 AM

Just finished reading a new fascinating book, a novel about children and teachers from Chefoo, Temple Hill and Weihsien. It’s written with a great deal of research and brought back a lot childhood memories for me. Well worth reading and attaching to the Weihsien website.

It’s available from Amazon.
The book is “When We Were Young & Brave” by Hazel Gaynor.
-Dwight W Whipple

From: BrianKerry
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2021 11:27 AM

I recently read a recommendation for Hazel Gaynor's book "When we were young and brave". This has been published in two versions:
These books are available in hard-back, paper-back and ePub (Kindle) versions.

Although written as a work of fiction, the complete story is a very accurate account of what we, children of the Chefoo Schools, endured from the time before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour till our liberation and eventual reuniting with our parents in December 1945. The principal characters are fictional, but several familiar names appear here and there.

I believe the author drew heavily on survivors' accounts from the Weihsien-paintings website, and has, as a result, produced an accurate account of our experiences. I would strongly recommend you to obtain and read this book.

If this was your story too, I recommend you keep the box of tissues to hand!

From: Roy Campbell
Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2021 5:53 PM

I have read the book and I am impressed about how she has made it true to the way it was. I had a lovely message from the author when I contacted here. She said I was the first person who had contacted her who was in the Chefoo Weihsien group. I expected to pick holes in what she wrote but I felt she had portrayed it well.

I was 11 when Pearl Harbour happened and at school in Chefoo where my father was vice principal. The Japanese had occupied Chefoo in 37 or 38 and was in Temple Hill and Weihsien.

Maida Harris Campbell

From: Brian Kerry
Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2021 6:16 PM

Good afternoon, Leopold

Thank you for posting this. I am currently reading this book and it gives a very accurate account of our experiences at Chefoo and Weihsien. I strongly recommend it to our group.

Best regards,