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Written by Jody Perry
Tom Oakley (Mr Tom)
Tom is a widower in his mid to late sixties who lives alone with his dog Sammy, and who has kept to himself since the death of his wife and baby daughter when he was a young man. Because he has withdrawn emotionally and socially, many of the other villagers would think of him as curmudgeonly or grumpy, but this gruff exterior shields a kind, caring man who has really been in need of another person to care about in order to become his true self again. Tom is very responsible man and puts the need to take care of Willie above his own preference to have nothing whatsoever to do with the safety preparations in the village for the coming war, for example, by building an air raid shelter in the back yard or by purchasing gas masks for them in case of an attack. Tom is actually extremely selfless when it comes to Willie, inviting his friends to the house and even going so far as to force himself to go into the art shop in the village to buy paints for Willie, even though he has avoided going to the store as it reminds him of his wife. Tom is deeply fond of Willie from the outset but loath to admit that he loves the boy as it involves letting his guard down. They are also very connected to each other so much so that Tom has a dream telling him that Willie needs his help. Tom is a man who has a strong grip of right and wrong, and if something is right he will do it regardless of whether or not is easy.
Willie is an eight year old evacuee sent from London, where there is a huge threat of bombing raids from the German Air Force, to Little Weirwold in the north of England. Everything in the village initially terrifies him as it is so different from London; even the sight of a squirrel frightens Willie until it is joined by a second squirrel and he watches them play. Despite the fact that his mother has always told him the dogs are dangerous he is only momentarily frightened of Tom's dog, Sammy, and the two become devoted companions. Willie does not really know himself when he first arrives to stay with Tom; all he knows is what he has been told by his mother - that he is innately unlikable and that the only way anyone can tolerate him is if he is quiet and still; consequently Willie has developed a genuine talent for drawing, which is a quiet pursuit, and something for which he receives great praise. He has never been praised for anything before and feels embarrassed by it but soon comes to really like being liked. As his confidence builds, he feels comfortable developing other talents such as acting, at which he is extremely skilled, and singing. The Willie who arrived at the village is not the same boy who goes back to London but it is his desperate desire to get back to Tom's house that keeps him alive as he waits for someone to come and save him.
Zach is a flamboyant, artistic boy who is also an evacuee. He is confident and loves being different from other people. His parents are travelling actors so he is wildly theatrical and a compulsive performer who loves to entertain everyone. He is also kind and encouraging, always boosting Willie up and letting him know that it is not his fault he cannot read but that he is extremely clever for learning so quickly. Zach's friendship means the world to Willie which is why he has so much difficulty accepting Zach's death. Zach is an overwhelming presence even after he passes.
George is one of Willie's closest friends and the first boy he meets in the village. Initially, George is not very happy that he has to invite the two evacuee boys on his blackberry picking afternoon but he actually likes both Willie and Zach very much and from that afternoon onwards is a very good friend. It is George who encourages the others to sing in the church choir with him and also he who ropes Tom in to be the new choirmaster. George is a typical northern-England boy with a matter of fact attitude and a character that is the antithesis of Zach's dramatic personality.
Carrie and Ginnie
Twins Carrie and Ginnie are almost impossible to tell apart but are actually quite different in personality. Like George, Carrie is very interested in birds, plants and animals, whereas Ginnie prefers more home-making and crafting pursuits like sewing. They tend to confide everything in each other so when Carrie decides to ask if she can take the examination to the local high school and confides her plan in Zach, Ginnie's feelings are very hurt. Carrie is extremely intelligent and loves studying, and is also ambitious and determined not to fit into the usual mold when it comes to opportunities for women. Despite support from her father, Carrie's attendance at the high school is not something her mother truly believes in and consequently Carrie often has to study outside of the home where her mother cannot find her to avoid being told to stop reading and get some chores done instead.
Charlie is the village busybody who comes into his own in this time of war when someone is needed to make sure that everyone is pulling their weight and making sure all of the new rules are complied with. Charlie is given the role of Air Raid Warden and is focused on making sure that everyone puts up their black out curtains every evening.
Geoffrey turns out to be the ghostly presence at Spooky Cott, the believed-to-be haunted house at the end of the village. He is a soldier returned from war with the devastating loss of a leg and lives out at the cottage because he does not feel ready to join in village life yet. He is an artist of some eek own and offers to teach Willie. Geoffrey also becomes an additional teacher at the local school. He is instrumental in helping Willie find a way to deal with Zach's death as he has also lost his best friend.
Annie is Willie's teacher and they have a special bond mainly because she is so proud of Willie's accomplishments. Her husband is said to be missing, presumed dead, but later it is discovered that he is a prisoner of war in Germany. Willie has a small crush on her and thinks she is the most beautiful person he has ever seen.
Miss Thorne is the producer of the Christmas pageant and sibsequent plays and also the person responsible for unlocking Willie's hidden talent as an actor.
Willis's mother is abusive, both emotionally and physically. She beats him daily with a thick leather belt and is so convinced that this is perfectly normal that she sends the belt in Willie's bag of things when he is evacuated. She is what her neighbors call a Bible thumper and uses her religious fervor to terrorize Willie. She admonishes him for smiling or talking and is enraged when she learns he has been spending his Bible study time listening to the verses rather than learning by rote. After leaving Willie and his baby sister locked in the cellar with no food or water she is found a month later after killing herself.
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Zach represents all of the things William wishes to be. He truly admires his zest for life and appreciates his friendship. William cherishes Zach's ability to live life large and is devastated when he dies.