Monday, March 10, 2008

The Boy Who Dared

The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth
Scholastic Press, 2008

Remember back to reading Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. Susan Campbell Bartoletti also wrote this book. It was a nonfiction book (or "informational book" according to the Sibert Award committee). Hitler Youth won a Newbery Honor and a Sibert Honor. It's a fascinating book that really delves into the lives of specific young adults who were part of the Hitler Youth--those who were in support of Hitler and were trained (or brainwashed) at an early age to serve and submit to Hitler. However, a few began to see Hitler for who he was. They secretly rebelled. Some of them even paid a high price.
One of those young men was Helmuth Hubener. This book is about his life. Unlike Bartoletti's Hitler Youth which was nonfiction, this book is historical fiction. Bartoletti tells Helmuth's story in flashback. It begins with Helmuth in jail on death row. The jail scenes are set apart in italics, but most of the story is set in the past as Helmuth remembers his life.
Helmuth was once a Hitler Youth. But then he began to listen to the BBC German broadcast. It was forbidden for Germans to listen to it, but he did anyway. He realized how different it was from the government sponsored broadcast and he began to take notes. He and two other friends began to write pamphlets telling the truth. Helmuth's Morman faith and his activities with the Hitler Youth seemed to be in conflict. When Helmuth was finally captured, tortured, and put on trial, and ultimately died, he died knowing he stood for what he believed in and spoke up for those who were dying without a reason.
Just like Bartoletti's nonfiction books, this one is impeccibly researched. There are photographs of Helmuth and a timeline of Third Reich events. She provides an extensive author's note where she delineates what is real/factual and where she has filled in the gaps as a novelist.
Her writing is so memorable, just like in all of her other historical fiction novels. Here is a brief description from the jail cell:
Footsteps. A rustling sound at the heavy blue door. Helmuth
takes a great gulp of air. His heart pounds in his ears. The small latched
window slides open. Please, God, no, not the executioner.

He sees an eye, a nose, half a mouth, half a face. The morning guard.
Helmuth breathes again. Part of a prisoner's punishment is not knowing his execution date.
This is a must read historical fiction novel for 2008 and would be a perfect pairing with the nonfiction Hitler Youth for students studying the Holocaust.

1 comment:

haley said...

Absolutely fantastic book!!! I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it and cried when I finished it the second time around. So far I've read it three times and I want more books about Helmuth so i can know more about him. This book inspired me to read and to stay true to what I believe in. I love Helmuth, The Boy Who Dared, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti for writing this awesome book about him!!!