Salt to the Sea and a Freebie | Mentoring in the Middle

Salt to the Sea and a Freebie

Middle School and High School teachers:  this is one of my favorite books.  I could not put it down!

This book fictionalizes a real event most of us have never heard of, the greatest maritime disaster in history.

Which was not the Titanic.  

It was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Never heard of it?

Neither had I.

Please note:  I would exercise a little caution with who should read it.  There is an implied rape in the book, and that might be too much for some of your students.  Although there are no details about it, you read that one of the characters was dragged off by Russian soldiers, screaming.  At this point in the story, you already know she's pregnant.

The Premise of the Book

There are four main characters in this book, each of them beautifully portrayed so that you feel like you know them.

1)  Florian, a young Prussian whose skill is art restoration.  He learned from a noted professor only to learn that what he thought was noble, was just creating a way for Germans to steal art.  So he decides to get even.  But that means running away.

2)  Joana, a young Lithuanian woman who became a nursing assistant, a skill that saves her life many times; she lives with the guilt that, having written a note years ago, she might have killed her cousin.

3)  Emelia, Fifteen years old, from Poland, frightened, pregnant.  She tells a story.  But it's not really hers.  She's too ashamed to tell the real one.

4)  Alfred, a young German sailor, filled with a heightened impression of what he's doing to help Germany win the war; he writes letters in his head to a girl he loves.  Who may or may not feel the same way.

The magic in the story is the character development: four people joining together in desperation to survive the horrors of World War II, with Germany pushing from the west and Russia pushing from the east.  There are so many beautiful moments in this book that capture the essence of being human, even in the midst of very difficult circumstances.

The story flows from character to character, and each excerpt moves the story ahead a little.  You fall in love with so many people: the "shoe poet" who spouts wisdom and takes Klaus, an orphaned boy, under his care; Eva, who says whatever's on her mind and then apologizes later; Ingrid, who is blind but can "see" better than most people.  I think this would be a powerful book for middle and high school readers.

I've created a novel study for Salt to the Sea, which you can buy from my store at TeachersPayTeachers.  Not sure if you want to buy it?
You can download this freebie for the first 40 pages of the book.

If you like, you can purchase the book through the link below.  You don't pay any extra for it but I earn a few pennies as an amazon affiliate.

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