By Phillip Hoose Genre: YA Nonfiction
Reviewed by Meg 4/5 stars
Perhaps it is the times we live in – or maybe my appreciation for history is finally growing as I age (maybe) – but I have found myself reaching for more and more books that I never imagined I’d have an interest in: namely non-fiction, particularly in war history. Last month I checked out Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed, especially since I’d heard it provided a fascinating perspective on Franklin Roosevelt – and Hoover’s assertion that the United States was more or less manipulated by Roosevelt into a naval war with Germany (still up for debate) – and the idea that FDR unnecessarily appeased world leaders like Joseph Stalin (which, of course, looks like good men being silent at the wrong time). I suppose that some might view Herbert Hoover as a “past president” merely sore at not being in charge anymore. But who better to analyze the doings of a president than a former president? No one else would have an understanding of the way things work – or the enormous pressure of the job itself.
But getting back to the book at hand …
I’m excited to share a piece of non-fiction about the first Danish resistance group during the German occupation of Denmark in WWII – a group of teenage boys, mostly aged 15 or 16. After more than a decade of waiting to interview Knud and record this story, Phillip Hoose has painstakingly crafted a fitting tribute to Pederson and his fellow Churchill Club members. The book flows seamlessly between Hoose’s historical narration and Knud Pederson’s own recollections – both of which are interjected with photos and fact boxes that give a picture and understanding of the times.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler was written with both youth and adults in mind. I first found out about it in WORLD Magazine (one of my favorite resources for finding out about quality fiction in all genres) as one of their Children’s Books of the Year and was immediately captivated by the plotline: a group of young boys, embarrassed at their country’s cowardly handoff to the Germans, begin sabotaging the Nazis occupying Denmark. While the boys do end up arrested and imprisoned, their beginning acts helped spark a nationwide resistance to the Germans that eventually ended in their liberation. Indeed, the boys’ impact was so respected at the end of the war that Winston Churchill himself requested a meeting with “the club” during his visit to Denmark.
Because this is an actual account, some of Knud Pederson’s account of his actions, while courageous, are rather rash and immature – and Hoose doesn’t gloss over that. After a 2-year imprisonment, Pederson struggled for years with depression and claustrophobia. The effects of war – even a simple “resistance war” – are never trite. But while not all of his actions and responses are to be commended, older kids, teens, and adults alike should marvel at the courage that it took to resist mere survival and instead sacrificially work toward a greater cause.
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