Jazz is strictly forbidden in 1938 Germany.
German teenager Albert plays jazz clarinet with his group, the Edelweiss Pirates. They swing dance, listen to records of all the jazz artists, paint graffiti over swastikas on city walls, and hand out anti-Hitler leaflets, all in defiance of Hitler Youth, thugs dedicated to upholding the Nazi regime by intimidation and violence. Albert’s younger brother, narrator Kurt, plays the trumpet, and his Jewish friend, Fritz, plays the saxophone, but Fritz must sneak into Kurt’s house when they play jazz together. At school Kurt witnesses many anti-Semitic incidents directed against Fritz, but, although they disturb him greatly, he does nothing. But at the school band concert, where they must play Hitler’s favorite composer, Wagner, Kurt raises his trumpet and plays Louie Armstrong’s “Saint Louis Blues” loudly and defiantly. Albert’s group comes swinging down the aisle and plays along with him. There may be serious consequences, but Kurt is now a full-fledged member of the Edelweiss Pirates. These anti-Nazi groups of teen jazz enthusiasts really existed, and their acts of sabotage plagued the Nazis throughout the war. By allowing Kurt to narrate the tale in the present tense, Elvgren makes the events personal and immediate for modern readers, who may have limited knowledge of the Holocaust and the war. Stamatiadi’s striking, mostly earth-toned or shadowed illustrations focus on the characters’ expressive faces and body stances.
A powerful homage to young activists. (author’s note) (Picture book. 8-12)