A gritty but hopeful wartime thriller.

HUNGER WINTER

A WWII NOVEL

Set in the Netherlands, 1944, this wartime drama opens with a “Bam! Bam! Bam!” on a farmhouse door.

Thirteen-year-old Dirk, alone with his little sister, Anna, is afraid it is the Gestapo. It is almost as bad: A neighbor tells him the Gestapo has picked up his older sister, Els, and will come for Dirk next. Dirk takes Anna and flees, knowing the Gestapo may imprison them or worse in their effort to smoke out Papa, a leader in the Dutch Resistance. Chapter-ending cliffhangers punctuate the children’s treacherous journey, which readers can trace on a frontmatter map. Even after arriving safely at Tante Cora’s home, the children must go out to obtain desperately needed food and are captured and imprisoned in a munitions factory. Their ordeals are interspersed with chapters focusing on Els’ suffering at the hands of the Gestapo. Dirk’s quick-thinking inventiveness and indulgence of Anna’s chirpy exhortations to pray keep the tale grounded in the children’s perspectives, and a light hand with gruesome details marks this for a middle-grade audience. Although the aid the children receive from a deserter from the German army feels like a contrivance—he knew their father in school—the episode illustrates that the neighboring countries had not always been enemies. The family’s reunion is an example of resilience despite the upheaval of war. Dirk and his family are white Christians; the Jewish experience is ancillary to the plot.

A gritty but hopeful wartime thriller. (maps, historical note, author Q&A, discussion questions, timeline) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4964-4034-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Tyndale House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Remarkable.

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor Book

PRAIRIE LOTUS

A “half-Chinese and half-white” girl finds her place in a Little House–inspired fictional settler town.

After the death of her Chinese mother, Hanna, an aspiring dressmaker, and her White father seek a fresh start in Dakota Territory. It’s 1880, and they endure challenges similar to those faced by the Ingallses and so many others: dreary travel through unfamiliar lands, the struggle to protect food stores from nature, and the risky uncertainty of establishing a livelihood in a new place. Fans of the Little House books will find many of the small satisfactions of Laura’s stories—the mouthwatering descriptions of victuals, the attention to smart building construction, the glorious details of pleats and poplins—here in abundance. Park brings new depth to these well-trodden tales, though, as she renders visible both the xenophobia of the town’s White residents, which ranges in expression from microaggressions to full-out assault, and Hanna’s fight to overcome it with empathy and dignity. Hanna’s encounters with women of the nearby Ihanktonwan community are a treat; they hint at the whole world beyond a White settler perspective, a world all children deserve to learn about. A deeply personal author’s note about the story’s inspiration may leave readers wishing for additional resources for further study and more clarity about her use of Lakota/Dakota. While the cover art unfortunately evokes none of the richness of the text and instead insinuates insidious stereotypes, readers who sink into the pages behind it will be rewarded.

Remarkable. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-78150-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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