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A Thunderous Whisper Library Binding – October 9, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, 12-year-old Ani unexpectedly gets drawn into a network of underground rebels working to thwart Franco's efforts to destroy the Basque people's way of life. With the threat of Hitler and the Nazis also on the horizon, Ani and her half-German, half-Basque friend, Mathias, work together to deliver messages for the rebels, using Ani and her mother's sardine business as their cover. When Guernica is bombed and both children end up without parents to care for them, Mathias vows to return to Germany to fight the Nazis, while Ani's father (who is fighting Franco's army) sends her to England along with hundreds of other Basque children. Through the tragedy of war, Ani discovers true friendship and loyalty for the first time. While readers will find her clandestine activities exciting, there is little explanation provided about the Spanish Civil War. Students unfamiliar with Spain's struggles during this period might not understand the gravity of the Basque people's problem, or its connection to Hitler's rise in power. However, this book provides a glimpse into an underrepresented world in juvenile literature, making it a good addition to middle-grade collections. Recommended it to fans of Roland Smith's Elephant Run (Hyperion, 2007).-Nora G. Murphy, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, LaCanada-Flintridge, CAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Unable to wash off the stench of her mother’s fish stall in the Guernica market, Ani is known as “Sardine Girl.” What little time she has after school and sardine selling, she spends alone beneath an enormous oak tree in the nearby countryside. It is there that she meets Mathias, a bold, mysterious boy who matches her timidity with roguish charm. Before long, the two become unlikely friends and find themselves embroiled in a local movement spying on Franco’s rebels. And just as she begins to find some meaning in her life, the Germans bomb Guernica, and everything is lost. Sent to England, away from Mathias and everything she has known, Ani finds new purpose as a shepherd to the younger children while she dreams of more. With indelible characterizations and straightforward plotting, and peppered with Basque and Spanish vocabulary, this painterly novel offers an intimate, immediate look at the Spanish Civil War and the depths of personal strength necessary to survive. Grades 5-8. --Thom Barthelmess --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
One afternoon, while sitting under her favorite tree outside the city, Ani sees a slightly older boy with a limp. She has never seen him before, and she learns that he has recently moved to Guernica because his father manages movie theaters for a large company. Mathias’s father is of Basque heritage, and his mother is a German Jew; for that reason, he too supports the anti-Fascist cause. After some mutual distrust, Ani and Mathias become friends. He brings her to his father’s theater, where they eavesdrop on his father and other community leaders who have become spies. Soon, the children are carrying messages to the anti-Fascist resistance about the location of Franco’s ground forces and Hitler’s planes and ships. However, they are unable to protect their city against the devastating bombing that destroyed Guernica and killed hundreds of residents.
Many young people learn about Guernica from the famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. Díaz González’s novel portrays the people in a way that contributes greatly to our understanding of the painting, of the war that has widely been seen as an Axis testing ground for the Second World War, and of the lives of children living in a war zone. The author realistically depicts life on the home front and the longing of many children to become part of the fight and to “make a difference” with little understanding of the true costs and horrors of war.
Excerpt from The Pirate Tree
The two meet, and become inseparable when Mathias convinces her to join him in a plan to help his father’s spy ring gain information about the invading Franco and his forces. A few months later, their lives change forever when Hitler sends planes to deliberately bomb their city. Guernica is in ruins and their family members are dead, leaving Ani and Mathias to find a new path for their lives.
Diaz Gonzalez’s carefully researched book unearths a long buried part of history. Previous to reading this book, I had never heard of the bombing of Guernica. On its 75th anniversary, it is important that others learn about it. Readers ages 12-16 will also learn of the Basque and Spanish culture, while the “Glossary” at the end of the book helps explain many of the terms used in the book.