Friday, June 5, 2015

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler tells a long overlooked story from World War II that is incredibly interesting. Phillip Hoose, author of The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, Claudette Colvin and many other impressive nonfiction titles, tackles here the story of the teenagers who served as the primary resistance against the German occupation of Denmark starting in 1942. It's a story of stealing guns, cutting wires, sabotage and bombing during wartime. For readers looking for something new on WWII (which I think is pretty much everyone), this is a must read.

Hoose takes readers through his discovery of the story and how he met Knud Pedersen, one of the teens primarily involved. Using numerous sources as well as Pedersen's own words (denoted throughout the text), he explains how the RAF Club was formed soon after the German Army arrived and then, a few months later, how the larger Churchill Club was formed. In both cases the members were teenagers (and later a few young men), who dedicated their time to making life difficult for the Germans even though most of the adults around them appeared determined to cause as little trouble as possible.

The personal story of the boys and their escalating efforts is peppered with information on the larger issues of the bloodshed in Norway (which did not allow the occupation), the underground efforts in Sweden (which was neutral but supportive of the resistance), and more importantly just why the Germans were interested in any of these countries to begin with. (It's not about occupy and conquer for the sake of occupy and conquer, but rather about raw materials, trains, industry and infrastructure).

I have long felt that WWII literature for children's & teens relies far too much on the Holocaust to the detriment of many other important stories from the war. It's way past time for books like The Boys Who Challenged Hitler (and M.T. Anderson's upcoming Symphony for the City of the Dead) to be written so teens can learn more of the complex elements of the war.

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