From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up–In June 1945, a U.S. soldier working as an interpreter for the Royal British Army visits the ruins of his childhood neighborhood in Hamburg and reflects on the events that changed his life forever. In 1933, 13-year-old Daniel, the well-to-do son of a prominent lawyer, and his working-class best friend, Armin, are wildly enthusiastic about the Nazis' rise to power. Both boys are eager to join the Hitler Youth, despite their parents' opposition. Daniel is horrified when his parents reveal that his mother is Jewish. He is furious with her for being Jewish, with his father for marrying "that Jewess," and with himself for being someone considered only half human according to the Aryan doctrine. While Daniel's father insists his status as a decorated World War I hero will protect his family, his mother urges her husband to emigrate. Armin, torn between loyalty to his best friend and pressure from Nazi leadership to sever his ties with Daniel, does his best to warn him of approaching danger. The author skillfully alternates between the protagonist's brief, first-person descriptions of his return to Germany and lengthier, third-person narratives of his life before Kristallnacht, the turning point that convinced his father to flee his homeland at last. The book's intense final scene is a fitting culmination to its exploration of the choice between official duty and loyalty to one's friends. Realizing the consequences of that choice makes a dramatic ending. Orgel's translation reads smoothly and movingly. An outstanding addition to the large body of World War II/Holocaust fiction.–Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
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Gr. 7-12. In Hamburg, Germany, in the 1930s, Daniel enjoys being part of the Hitler Youth until he discovers his mother is Jewish and he is thrown out of his elite school. He still has fun with his best friend, Armin, who falls in love with Daniel's Jewish cousin; but tension mounts, racism is rampant, and Armin begins to stay away, though he takes risks and warns his friend to hide. Daniel's return to Hamburg in 1945 as interpreter for the Allies frames the novel, which switches among the viewpoints of too many characters, including Daniel's parents, who fight about whether to leave the country. But the detailed history woven into the fiction (including the effect of Germany's defeat in World War I, Hitler's rise, and the violence of Kristallnacht) helps make this clearly translated novel an important title for the Holocaust curriculum, especially given the friendship drama that keeps raising ethical questions to the very last page. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved