Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 / 5 stars)
Helmut Hubner was raised in Nazi Germany with a few ideals: never lie, support your country, and love your neighbor. But as the Nazis begin taking control of Germany, and the bravado of their parades wears off, Helmut consistently finds way to subvert the Nazi regime: from stealing books, playing investigator, speaking with “criminals”, and publicizing the details from secret airwaves from the BBC. But sentenced to death, Helmut must come to the conclusion: were his decisions worth it?
Helmuth’s story is a tale of heroism not often dictated in history books. He, and many others like him, helped expose the truth behind the Nazis to the people of Germany. But even more, this is the story of a young man who dared to fight for his convictions. And, this is about the power of a single voice.
This story is timely; while it is important for individuals, both young and old, to read about the past, this also serves as a warning about fascism and dictatorships. If we do not learn about those who lived among it, who accepted it, who grew complacent, then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Whether it is now or in the future, we must always learn.
But, while Helmut’s story is fascinating, and this short middle-grade novel covers it well for children, I found that the narrative was a little bland. Do I think children will understand and be compelled to Helmuth’s story? Absolutely. But it is dark, and some children may not want to continue with it. Granted, since this is a work of historical fiction based on Helmut Hubner’s life, the author was limited to imagination. To keep as accurate as possible, the author might have chosen to gloss over parts of Helmut’s life.
That being said, this is a story that will help children see they have the ability to make change. Perhaps not through treason, but by caring for others.
And more importantly, it will give children and adults a valuable piece of history…that hopefully we are not doomed to repeat.
What’s it about?
A Newbery Honor Book author has written a powerful and gripping novel about a youth in Nazi Germany who tells the truth about Hitler.
Susan Campbell Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, Hitler Youth, and fleshed it out into thought-provoking novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he’s tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut’s story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times , to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself.