Courage in the face of the Nazi Party: two books to pair | Mentoring in the Middle

Courage in the face of the Nazi Party: two books to pair

Read my reviews of The Boy Who Dared and I am Defiance and consider pairing them for your avid World War II readers.

We were at a restaurant in Memphis a few years back.  You could order anything off of the menu in flights - sample sizes of menu items.  This was splendid!  Because you could order 3 menu items, my husband and I had 6 choices to taste.

And then, the waiter asked if we wanted him to pair wines to go with our order.  His choices played off the flavors of the sauces and everything tasted delicious. Together.

Can you see where I'm going with this?  

"Do you have any more books like this one?"

"I couldn't stop reading once I started!"

"I stayed up way too late last night reading this book and now I'm sad because it's almost over!"

My sixth-graders love to read about the Holocaust.  They're trying to figure out their place in the world and I think it helps to read about how people find courage under the darkest circumstances.

The Boy Who Dared (by Susan Campbell Bartoletti)

Helmuth Hübener grew up in Germany as the Nazi Party came into power.  Intrigued by the uniforms and the Hitler Youth movement and encouraged by his soon-to-be step-father, Helmuth goes all in.  

"God has blessed the Fatherland by giving us Adolf Hitler."

But as Helmuth watches, his Jewish friends and neighbors have rights taken away, they are called terrible names, they lose their jobs, some even disappear.  Every day, it seems, new laws are passed against Jews.  And suddenly he's not sure where he stands on this whole Nazi Party thing.

Sneaking to listen to an illegal radio late at night, he hears news coming from the BBC in England, which paints a very different picture than what the German radio announcers say.  Helmuth decides to type some of that news into leaflets and distribute them around the city.  

An act that, if caught, would send him to prison.

My thoughts

I liked that Bartoletti wrote the book from alternating time periods.  You start with Helmuth in prison but jump back to him as a young boy.  The back and forth breaks the tension of his prison stay and helps you see how he changed his beliefs over time.

  • Study guide cover for The Boy Who Dared
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At the end of the evening, a pairing of desserts with a dessert wine.  I still smile thinking about that dinner.  That's what a wonderful pairing can do.

I am Defiance by Jenni L. Walsh

Brigitte wonders about what she hears at the League of German Girls (or JM) meetings, the girls' equivalent of the prestigious Hitler Youth groups.  

" sitting here today and pledging your allegiance to Adolf Hitler, you are declaring yourself of German heritage and that you are free of hereditary diseases or disabilities that may hurt the future of the master race."

Brigitte's older sister contracted polio a few years earlier.  Does Angelika's weakened left side hurt the future of the master race?  

She can't ask anyone because that would put her family in danger.

And then a leaflet arrives in the mail talking about freedom from and resistance against the Nazi Party.  A few weeks later, another one.  Brigitte can't breathe a word about them at the JM meetings or bad things would happen to her and her family.

Brigitte is holding in so many secrets she feels like she might burst.  She wants to tell her best friend, Marianne but she no longer knows if she can trust her.  She could ask Angelika but she's so busy with her new friend Sophie, taking classes at the university that she doesn't have much time for her little sister.

My thoughts

That's what I liked about this book.  Brigitte questions what it means to be a good friend, to be loyal when doing what's right doesn't always make sense.  That's pretty typical of twelve-year olds whether they're growing up today or during the 1930s and '40s.

Jenni Walsh does a good job of weaving in information about the White Rose resistance movement and Sophie Scholl, the 21-year old activist who was caught and killed for her involvement.  Walsh writes about hard topics without being scary; this book would be fine for upper elementary or middle school students.

So there you have it!  A pairing of two excellent choices for your World War II buffs!

Note:  I am an Amazon affiliate, so I earn a few pennies if you buy either of these books from my link.  If you'd rather purchase them from an independent bookstore or from Scholastic Books, please support them, too! 

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