Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: The Whispering Town, by Jennifer Elvgren

Wow, I'm not sure what I thought this book was about by the title and cover - something silly maybe - 

The Whispering Town

It is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. The soldiers patrolling their street are growing suspicious, so Carl and his mama must make their way to the harbor despite a cloudy sky with no moon to guide them. Worried about their safety, Anett devises a clever and unusual plan for their safe passage to the harbor.

Oh, okay, not silly.

First let me say that I absolutely love stories of the Danish resistance. It can be easy to read through history or watch the evening news and despair of humanity, but that's not what we want for our kids, is it? I want mine to always hear of people, particularly kids like them, standing up for what is right and doing what they can to help, in both big things and in small. 

Hiding Jews was, of course, a very big thing, and hard to talk about with young children. Elvgren's careful text and Santomauro's stark pictures manage to convey the sense of danger without getting too graphic - no mention of concentration camps or death, just threats from the soldiers that they will arrest people. Anett's fear - of the dark basement and of the Nazi soldiers - comes across loud and clear. Children will no doubt still ask why the family needs to be hidden, but this enables parents to formulate an age-appropriate answer. Be ready with it!

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