Smith, Dan. My Friend The Enemy
August 26th 2014
by Chicken House
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Also reviewed at YABC.
When a German plane crashes in a field near Peter's house in the English countryside, he and the other children in the area are enthralled. When the adults have cleared off, Peter and Kim, an evacuee, search the plane and find a "souvenir" handgun as well as the body of one of the pilots. Other children have seen a parachute go down, so Peter and Kim search for another German soldier, and find one. He begs them not to shoot him, and the children decide that if they turn him over, the Home Guard might well kill the man, who is injured. They put him up in a pheasant coop that Peter's father (who was a gamekeeper for Mr. Bennet's estate and is currently a pilot) built and attempt to bring him food and mend his injuries. The war has caused everything to be rationed, so this is not an easy thing to do. Kim becomes a great friend to Peter; even though she is a girl, she dresses like a boy and is fearless. The two spend a lot of time with Erik, the flyer, and come to understand that he is just like Peter's father and Kim's brother, who are fighting even though they don't particularly want to. The people in Peter's village continue to look for the downed flyer, and a local bully makes Peter's life even more difficult, although Mr. Bennett has taken a shine to Peter's mother and brings the struggling family much needed supplies. The children know that they can't keep Erik a secret forever, and a tragic accident leads to his discovery.
Strengths: While there have been plenty of books about children taking care of enemy soldiers, this one seemed fresh and very interesting. The details of life for the British during the war is told in vivid detail in a way that will be applicable to young readers, and the slow realization that the Germans are just the same as the English is well done. Even the minor sub plot of Mr. Bennet's interest in the mother was a nice touch. The cover is fantastic, so I will definitely buy a copy for y insatiable WWII readers.
Weaknesses: While Kim was a fantastic character, she seemed a bit anachronistic, and I kept wondering where she managed to get the boy's clothing she wore and who allowed her to cut her hair.
McKay, Sharon E. The End of the Line
August 19th 2014
by Annick Press
Five year old Beatrix is riding on a train in Holland where brothers Lars and Hans are working. When the Nazis board the train and take her mother away, she is left behind, and Lars claims that she is his niece. There's nothing to do then but to take her home and figure out how to care for the girl, unless the brothers want to turn her over to the Nazis. They ask their elderly neighbor Mrs. Vos what to do, and she gives them advice and helps them out. She also visits every house in the neighborhood to announce the arrival of the men's "niece", also mentioning information or infractions that the neighbors might not want the Nazis to know about, to ensure that they won't inform about the girl! The war continues, and the makeshift family pools their resources to survive in the best way that they can.
Strengths: This was a very sweet, short book that will be excellent for some of our students who need a book about the Holocaust for our eighth grade unit on that historical time period, but who are of a more delicate sensibility. I liked McKay's more young adult books, but this is a great one to have as well.
Weaknesses: There could have been a little more information about the war and occupation, although this is a difficult balance in a book for younger readers.