A boy and his family withstand the Nazi occupation of Denmark in this YA novel.
Morten Mors, 8, is worried in early 1940, but it’s not because of Denmark’s recent invasion by Germany. Morten’s dear, loyal Great Dane is at the end of her life and must be euthanized. Before long, though, Morten acquires a fox terrier puppy he names Snap. (Dog lovers: Snap will be fine; another dog is injured but OK.) As Morten tries to lead a normal life over the next few years—playing with his best friend, Bodil, training Snap—he discovers that members of his family are involved in the Resistance. They sometimes host fugitives; Inger, Morten’s older sister, works as a bicycle courier. Morten is made to promise he’ll serve only as a lookout, but he longs to fully contribute. In 1943, the underground network takes Bodil and her mother, who is Jewish, to safety, leaving Morten lonely. It’s a further blow when his father is rounded up with other Danish policemen and sent to a Nazi prison camp. The Mors house is commandeered by Germans, and Morten, his mother, and sister go to Jutland, near the North Sea, to live with his uncle and his wife. Meanwhile, the Resistance strengthens, and Morten discovers a way he can help that will test his courage and resourcefulness. Kamminga (The Sun Road, 2014) writes a well-observed story of a less-explored World War II experience: occupied Denmark. Unlike other, more harrowing accounts of children in hiding or in concentration camps, this tale focuses on Morten’s adaptability to changing circumstances and the Danish-ness of his life: for example, the king, on his daily ride, exchanges greetings as between equals with the postman. Kamminga makes the story’s episodes—learning about the procedures of the Resistance and sabotage, how to make arrows from elderberry whips, dog training—both interesting in themselves and contributory toward the boy’s coming-of-age. The book is also balanced; the chief bully in Morten’s life is a Jewish boy, and the Germans aren’t cartoon villains.
A well-written, thoughtful portrayal of surviving hard times during World War II.