Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Boy Who Dared

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2008. The Boy Who Dared. Read by David Ackroyd. Listening Library.

Based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, The Boy Who Dared is told in a series of flashbacks by an imprisoned Helmuth as he awaits his sentence of death by guillotine. Helmuth revisits the events and decisions that drove him to defy the Nazi party and the Gestapo.

Many children's books have been written on Nazi atrocities, each with its own particular vantage point.  Milkweed looks at the plight of a young Gypsy.  Number the Stars tells of the Danish resistance. The Boy Who Dared focuses on what Helmuth Hübener would have known best - the experience of Germany's young, non-Jewish citizens. Forced to join the Hitler Youth and adhere to strict curfews, forbidden to attend school with their Jewish friends or shop at Jewish-owned stores, and particularly grievous to Helmuth, forbidden to read non-German books or listen to any radio other than The People's Radio.

This is a powerful story for middle-schoolers and is especially relevant because it highlights the impact that one single young person can have on his society.

However, as is often the case, the truth is a more compelling story.  Susan Campbell Bartoletti's earlier book, Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler's Shadow. It's a powerful and fascinating story that follows the lives of numerous young Germans and explores why some succumbed to the Nazi propaganda machine and others resisted. The outcome of their decisions is revealed as well. Katherin Kana's accent and "matter-of-fact" style of reading, is perfect for setting a chilling tone to a horrific period in history. Hitler Youth is the winner of over 10 major awards including a Newbery Honor and a Sibert Honor. Best for 7th grade and up.
Scholastic's video booktalk for The Boy Who Dared is available here.

An excerpt from Listening Library's Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow, also by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and read by Katherin Kana. (2006)

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