“I shiver. / How much has changed / in a week.” And we all shivered with her.
Recounting the months before Hitler’s rise to power in 1932, Catholic orphan Hilde, an 18-year-old resident of Berlin, documents her life in a series of free-verse poems. Her story begins as she leaves the orphanage and follows her through a brief period of homelessness and unemployment before she finds the Café Lila, a queer nightclub that ultimately provides employment, security, and a sense of community previously missing from Hilde’s life. It also brings her in contact with gorgeous Rosa, a Jewish performer and waitress with a vivacious attitude who quickly captures Hilde’s heart. Astute readers will understand what horrible fates await many of the characters but will be captivated by the events that Hilde observes, many of which still echo today. Book clubs will find a lot to discuss in Hilde’s story, and educators won’t need to work hard to generate conversations about equality, authoritarianism, and the role of minorities in democracy. The free-form verse is inviting and masterfully captures the mood and times in sparse poetry, making this work equally appealing for pleasure reading. Educators and history buffs will appreciate the thorough and informative backmatter, which includes selected sources in both English and German, a glossary of terms, and an author’s note that provides valuable context and recommends more information about the time period.
Wunderbar!(Verse historical fiction. 12-adult)