by Jeanne Moran
Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Munich, 1938. Nazi Germany. A timid Hitler Youth member contracts polio. Photographs she takes of fellow polio patients are turned into propaganda, mocking people with disabilities – people just like her. She too has become an outsider, a target of Nazi scorn and possible persecution. Her only weapon is her camera.
This historical fiction novel unveils a lesser-known side of the Nazi agenda, the pogrom against people with disabilities. A sequel is in the works.
Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, this story tackles some very difficult, historical themes. Still, the author does a tremendous job in presenting the happenings in a manner kids ages 9+ can easily delve into, sympathize with and digest.
Sophie is a normal, fourteen-year-old girl, who following the law, takes her place in the Hitler Youth. Her talent as a photographer promises her a special role in the group, one she's proud of until she realizes what that really means. Her doubts in the Reich's intentions deepen when she contracts polio and finds herself facing life as a 'cripple'. The growing rumors surrounding her father aren't helping matters either.
Sophie grabs from the very first page with her natural personality, a little self-doubt and a good gut feeling when things aren't as they should be. Although fourteen, there's still a bit of 'kid' in her and her friends, which makes her simply easy to like. Her character doesn't come across as old-fashioned or out of date, but rather seems as ordinary as a girl today. Her reactions and fears are very realistic, and the danger of the world around her hangs like a darkening shadow the entire way through without becoming overwhelming. It's simply a perfect mix.
This may be placed in the past, but the historic scenes come to life with descriptions which pull in but never weigh down. Although foreign, the settings are easy to picture and nothing seems forced or out of place. This is a world familiar enough to dive into and become a part of. Every now and then, a German word is thrown in, just enough to grab attention without ever causing confusion. To help out with the foreign terms (and as a fun language extra), a short glossary is also added at the very end.
There are several important messages in the pages. Although the horrid circumstances surrounding the Jews is touched upon, this book focuses in on another group disliked by the Nazi regime--'the useless eater'. It also focuses on courage, learning to accept ones self, and standing up for what is right. In other words, this book is packed and leaves the reader with something to think about long after the book is set down. It's a historical fiction kids will get immersed in and enjoy, and is even fitting for a classroom situation.
But even with all of this, the book is simply a wonderful read that never has a boring moment and keeps a reader glued to the pages the entire way through. I can highly recommend it.
And here she is. . .
You can find her on her website : http://jeannemoran.weebly.com/about-me.html