A Thunderous Whisper

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Overview

Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him ...

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A Thunderous Whisper

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Overview

Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world. 

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2012:
"An engrossing tale set against a compelling, seldom-seen backdrop."

Publishers Weekly, December 21, 2012:
"Gonzalez stages a fast-paced historical thriller against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War...Ani is relatable as she battles with her bitter mother and struggles to identify her own desires and values. Gonzalez escalates the tension as Nazis bomb Guernica and conveys the magnitude of personal and universal loss, leading Ani to forge a future in war—a path she claims with grace and fortitude."

School Library Journal, January 2013:
"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."

VOYA
"The benefit of Gonzalez's novel is that the reader gets to experience Ani's thoughts and feelings firsthand...Ani's story shows the multiple layers of wreckage experienced during WWII, and would be an excellent addition to any Holocaust unit."

Publishers Weekly
Gonzalez (The Red Umbrella) stages a fast-paced historical thriller against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Insecure, friendless, and nicknamed Sardine Girl because of her job, 12-year-old Ani fears she will always be powerless and insignificant in her Basque town of Guernica. This changes when she meets the magnetic and challenging Mathias, a Jewish boy who has moved to town. When Ani and Mathias overhear the plans of his father and a band of spies, they volunteer to join the resistance and fight for Spain by delivering sardines with secret messages. Though at times excessively complicated, the spy story line is riveting, and the friendship and tentative romance between Ani and Mathias develops credibly. Despite the geographical and historical distance from readers, Ani is relatable as she battles with her bitter mother and struggles to identify her own desires and values. Gonzalez escalates the tension as Nazis bomb Guernica and conveys the magnitude of personal and universal loss, leading Ani to forge a future in war—a path she claims with grace and fortitude. Ages 10–up. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
The kids at school call her "Sardine Girl." Her mother, the sardinera, just calls her "girl." Her father calls her "preciosa," but he is away fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Twelve-year-old Anetxu just tries to be as invisible as possible, until Mathias arrives and gives her a new nickname: Ani. Mathias is able to give lots of reasons for their move to the Basque town of Guernica from Germany. His mother is Jewish, and things are starting to get difficult for Jews in Berlin in the late 1930s. Also, his father's job takes him from city to city to open new movie theaters. However, Mathias thinks there is another reason for their move; he believes his father is a spy. When new friends Ani and Mathias are caught eavesdropping on a conversation between the boy's father and a group of men from Guernica, they are given the opportunity to join in the mission and pass messages, using Ani's sardines as cover. Ani is happy to help the Basques in their effort to retain their culture in the uprising against General Franco; Mathias is excited by the danger and eager to work against Hitler, who has sided with Franco. All their work is not enough to stop Hitler's bombing of Guernica, which destroys the town and changes everything for both youths. This riveting novel tells the story of a girl discovering who she is in a world that has tried to keep her quiet. The setting and the history are so integrally connected to the story that the reader feels present in the action. The story ends with many questions about the future. While this is appropriate to the tale, the epilogue, although beautiful, does an unsatisfactory job of filling in the holes. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
VOYA - Courtney Krieger
Ani is a twelve-year-old girl living in Guernica during the 1930s while General Franco is waging a civil war in Spain. While her father is off fighting, her mother and she must fend for themselves by selling sardines. The constant stench of fish clings to Ani's clothes, hair, and body, making her the focus of ridicule from her classmates. She lives a lonely existence until Mathias Garza's family moves to Guernica. Soon, she and Mathias become best friends and co-conspirators in aiding the underground resistance against General Franco. Readers who enjoyed Zusak's The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006/Voya June 2006) will enjoy this historical fiction. Although the setting of Gonzales's novel is in Spain during its civil war, Hitler is a very real presence in the minds of the characters. Events that happen to Liesel in The Book Thief also happen to Ani, showing that no one is safe from the Nazi's destruction. The benefit of Gonzalez's novel, however, is that the reader gets to experience Ani's thoughts and feelings firsthand, which provide an insight that was lacking in Death's story of Liesel. Another benefit of this novel is that it adds another dimension to the devastation of WWII. Instead of focusing on the horror of concentration camps, Gonzalez presents the horror of children becoming orphans due to Nazi air raids. Ani's story shows the multiple layers of wreckage experienced during WWII, and would be an excellent addition to any Holocaust unit. Reviewer: Courtney Krieger
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, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Amid the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl begins to find her place in the world. Twelve-year-old Anetxu "Ani" Largazabalaga spends her few free hours trying to recapture the idyllic times before her father left Guernica for the front. Her often-disagreeable mother sells sardines and never fails to remind Ani how much she has sacrificed to keep them from starvation. Ani finds her first real friend in 14-year-old Jewish Mathias García, who recently moved from Germany, where he and his mother were facing increasing restrictions. A simple trip to the movies embroils Ani and Mathias in a local network of spies helping the British get supplies through Franco's blockade. While making house-to-house deliveries of sardines, the two deliver messages and hope that they are helping the war effort. After the infamous air raid lays the town to ruins, Ani and Mathias both face devastating losses and find refuge in a farm on the outskirts of Guernica. Gonzalez has the two characters handle the losses in vastly different but equally believable ways, and the inclusion of older, sympathetic characters to serve as a contrast to Ani's mother will be appreciated by readers. Also notable are multiple characters with disabilities, including Mathias. An engrossing tale set against a compelling, seldom-seen backdrop. (Historical fiction. 10-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375969294
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/9/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 580,096
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

CHRISTINA DIAZ GONZALEZ made her literary debut with the much acclaimed The Red Umbrella. She lives in Florida with her husband and children.

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Read an Excerpt

9780375869297|excerpt

Gonzalez / A THUNDEROUS WHISPER

One

Invisible. Irrelevant. Just an insignificant twelve-­year-­old girl living in a war-­torn country. At least that’s what I’d been told.

And, really, no one ever seemed to notice me when they walked past the school’s large courtyard. They only saw the other girls laughing and giggling in small clusters under the building’s arches while the boys rushed out to challenge each other in a game of soccer or pelota vasca.

Rarely did anyone see the quiet, friendless souls . . . but we were there. Not really worthy of being picked on, we just came and went to school in silence. We rarely spoke to anyone, not even each other, although I could never remember why.

“Hey, you! Wait!” a voice called out from across the courtyard, near the steps that led to the cobblestone street below.

I had just walked through the school’s main door when I saw Sabino, a boy from my class, waving. Immediately I turned to look back inside, certain that he must be calling someone else.

“No, you . . . Sardine Girl,” he said. “Don’t let the door close. I forgot our ball inside.”

That’s what I was called—Sardine Girl.

My father would say our family’s clothes carried the scent of the sea, but that was just his fancy way of saying that we reeked of fish. It made sense since Papá had worked as a merchant seaman before joining the army and Mamá had always been a sardinera, selling the sardines that were the size of my feet, but stinkier, door to door. No wonder everything they owned, including me, smelled of fish.

I propped the door open with my right foot and stared as Sabino trotted toward me. He slowed down, and looking back at his friends, he pinched his nose.

They all laughed.

It wasn’t that I was surprised at being ridiculed. . . . Usually, I just ignored it. But, on that particular day, the sun in a cloudless blue sky seemed to be signaling the arrival of spring, and I, like the weather, was ready for a change.

And so, taking a deep breath, I waited until Sabino was about four feet away, and then I moved my foot. Kadunk! The door reverberated, and I heard the latch click shut.

“¡Idiota!” he shouted as he pushed past me, pulling on the locked door.

“My name is not Sardine Girl,” I muttered, my eyes never looking up from the ground.

lll

I followed the narrow cobblestone streets back toward my neighborhood, passing the shoe store, the fruit stand, and the people sitting at the small tables of the sidewalk cafés. Glancing up, I could see a few women in the balconied apartments pulling in the day’s laundry that had been hung out to dry.

I picked up my pace when I noticed that the large clock above the Plaza de los Fueros showed that it was already five-­fifteen.

As I passed a few soldiers filtering into the local tavern, I couldn’t help wishing Papá were also on leave from the front lines. He could be so close—­the front lines being less than twenty kilometers away—­and yet the distance seemed so great. He felt farther away than when he’d leave for months on a merchant ship. Of course, this time he might not return home.

Rounding the final corner, where the last city street ended and the dirt road into the countryside began, I heard the sound of squeaky wheels approaching. As I stepped to one side, I saw two brown oxen pulling a large, mostly empty, rickety cart. As one of the beasts passed by me, it briefly turned its head, its eyes meeting mine, then, after a loud snort, it looked away.

“You don’t smell that great either,” I mumbled.

The farmer, walking on the other side of the street, next to the larger ox, gave me a friendly nod before cracking the whip against the animal. I could see there was a bit of a bounce to the old man’s step, which probably meant he had sold all his produce for a good price. At least someone was having a good day.

Actually, there were probably several people who were quite happy, as market days always brought an extra vigor to Guernica. Everyone in the region knew that Mondays in Guernica meant social events and jai alai games at the fronton after the market closed.

I loved Mondays too, but not because I wanted to socialize with anyone. No, for me this was the day that I didn’t have to sell sardines with Mamá or do chores. It was the one evening when I was free to do whatever I liked. So I was headed to the place where my dreams and stories were born.

It was really just a large open field with a big oak tree, but it had always felt like my special place. The tree was ordinary, similar in size to the famous Guernica Tree in the heart of the city, I suppose, but this one had no long history behind it. It was only special and significant to Papá and me.

From the time I was a little girl, whenever Papá was in town, he’d bring me to that tree. We’d have picnics, and I’d listen to tales of his travels. During the last few years, Papá had insisted that I come up with my own stories, and he’d lie back under the tree and get lost in my world of princesses and magical creatures. He always listened to every word I said, as if I were reading from the Bible, and when I finished, he’d usually smile and say, “Preciosa, tell me another.” And precious was how I felt.

I sighed. The last seven months of his being a soldier instead of a sailor had been like living on the edge of a crumbling cliff: any moment I feared that the land I stood on would give way. I couldn’t wait for the stupid war to be over and for life to go back to how it used to be. Without my father, the only good part of my day was going to class, and that wasn’t saying much. The only thing I liked about school was the books.

Walking up the mountainside, I clutched my sweater tighter to my chest as a cool breeze blew down the trail. Even in late March, on a beautiful afternoon, winter had not completely released its hold on northern Spain.

I had left the concrete and the muted colors of the city behind and stepped onto a grassy patch of land. Here I could drink in the brilliance of the sky, the green and brown of the neighboring mountains, and dream and forget the world around me.

I thrust my hand into my skirt pocket, and my fingers rubbed the edge of the satin pouch buried inside. It had been Papá’s gift to me before he left. A blue satin pouch made from the lining of his only suit. I grasped it and felt the small treasure it held. It was a reminder of all our days together.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    Excellent book. I loved the characters. They were very realist

    Excellent book. I loved the characters. They were very realistic. I also learned a lot about the Spanish Civil War and some of Hitler's pre WWII influences on Europe.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2012



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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