Friday, April 02, 2021

WWII--Rescue and Flight

Nielsen, Jennifer A. Rescue
March 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Meg lives an area close to the German border, but when the Germans invade France, her family moves in with her grandmother in the Perche, an area in France. Her father leaves, and Meg is angry that he won't be with them. Her mother seems to be involved in something, but hasn't shared anything with Meg, and Meg herself sells food on the black market, which is risky as well. When she finds a downed British officer who claims to know her father, wheels are set into place, and her quiet life comes to an end. Meg and her father traded codes, and she's been trying to spy on a local officer, Herr Becker. When the pilot, Captain Henry Stewart, asks for her mother by name, Meg doesn't give him any details. It turns out that both her father and Stewart are part of the Special Operations Executive, and Stewart has information about her father. In order to rescue him, Meg has to help a family called the Durands get out of France and into Spain. It's felt that the Germans won't suspect a child. Meg has a cryptic note from her father, and decides that he really wants her to go to Switzerland. With Albert, Liesl, and Jakob Durand in tow, and armed with a backpack full of spy tools from Captain Stewart, Meg sets off on a treacherous journey. She hopes to find her father, and then get her mother and grandmother out of France. Of course, nothing goes smoothly, and as Meg is able to figure out more of her father's clues, the more dangerous her journey becomes. Herr Becker is determined to find her, and the journey becomes one that involves hiding on trains, escaping avalanches, and relying on the vast resistance network in France as well as the kindness of strangers.
Strengths: My favorite part of this book was the author's note: "World War II is a perennial favorite for historical novels.. part of the fascination is because it instills in us questions of the choices we would have made had we been thrust into the challenges and horrors of that war." This really is a great explanation for why this remains a hugely popular topic so many years after the war. Nielsen does great research, and there are lots of good details about little known facets of the war. I want to know more about the S.O.E. now! Meg is a brave and driven character, and readers who enjoy codes and ciphers will find this has as many interesting codes as Hopkinson's How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London. 
Weaknesses: I've read enough WWII books that I was somewhat annoyed by Meg and her insistence on following vague leads. She and her traveling companions made some critical errors that probably would have most likely resulted in their deaths. I read this on a long, cold weekend in January, so it might just be my general annoyance, since I loved this author's Resistance and Words on Fire
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this is another good portrayal of life in France during World War II. Hand to readers who enjoyed Gratz's Allies, Korman's War Stories, Hartnett's The Silver Donkey, McDonough's The Bicycle Spy and especially Preus's Village of Scoundrels.

Harbour, Vanessa. Flight
Published March 2nd 2021 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jakob has been working with Herr Engle since the capture and suspected death of his parents. They Jewish, and Austria in 1945 is not a kind place. When a particularly nasty Nazi officer, Bauer, comes looking for Jakob, he shoots the boy's beloved horse, Allegra. Knowing that things are only going to get worse, Herr Engle decides to take the remaining horses and try to get to a Spanish Riding School headquarters, which were moved from Vienna to Sankt Martin in Upper Austria. While he is mourning his own horse, Jakob does find a good match in Raluca, and he and Herr Engle are joined by a Roma girl, Kizzy, who is a great help. The journey is a treacherous one, and there are lots of close calls, since Bauer seems to be following them. Near the end of the journey, Herr Engle is badly wounded, and the two children manage to make a sled to drag behind the horses in order to get him to the training center. Jakob is badly injured as well, but once he is recuperated, he works on training Raluca to perform with the other Lipizzaner horses. While most of the stallions were saved, the mares are still stranded in Czechoslovakia. After the Americans arrive in the area and set up in the training school, Jakob has the opportunity to plead the mares' case with none other than General Patton. Will he be able to get enough help to save the other horses?
Strengths: This was a briskly paced adventure story about trying to outrun the Nazis that had the added bonus of horses. The different facets of WWII seem endless, and I'd never read anything about the famous Lipizzaner stallions before. The details about trying to travel cross country through back roads to escape detection are great. Herr Engle was a sympathetic character who really cared about Jakob, and the inclusion of a Roma girl, Kizzy, was interesting as well. Having General Patton appear as a key character was fun and makes this a great book for researching what is real and what is not! 
Weaknesses: I would have liked to see more information about why Herr Engle took in Jakob, and what the circumstances were with his parents. The killing of the horse was especially brutal, and I could have done without that, although the fact that the butcher was called to deal with the corpse showed how dire the need for food was. 
What I really think: This is another good WWII choice for readers who liked Kerr's Winter Horses or who want a story that does not involve Concentration Camps. I will definitely purchase, since I lost so many WWII books back in March of 2020. 

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