Brehl, Sandy. Odin's Promise
(first published April 20th 2014)
Copy provided by publisher for Cybils consideration.
Mari and her dog, Odin, are suffering under the German occupation of Norway during WWII. The food is wretched, the schools are not even safe, and horrible Nazi soldiers roam the town, beating up old men and dogs. Mari's much older brother and father are working with the Resistance, and even her grandmother is trying to do her part to fight against the Nazis. Mari even tries her hand at helping a little, but when a tragedy occurs and she no longer has Odin, she realizes how horrible the war is.
Strengths: The research that went into this book is very evident, and the characters are all well drawn and sympathetic (at least the Norwegian ones!). The Norwegian Resistance was very clever and very interesting, and there aren't a lot of books that cover it. This would be a good introduction to the topic for middle grade readers.
Weaknesses: There wasn't anything fresh in this for me. The Nazis are portrayed very briefly as sympathetic, but evil in the end, which seemed reasonable but trite. I had a good friend who fought in the Wehrmacht, and he certainly didn't agree with Hitler-- there just wasn't much else he could do without being killed himself, so I always hope that books that talk about the Nazis will address soldiers like my friend. Reducing the soldiers to stereotypes and calling them the Scarecrow and Rat is just less interesting.