Room in the Heart

Room in the Heart

4.0 2
by Sonia Levitin

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Told from several points of view, this novel reveals how life in Copenhagen was soiled by the Nazi occupation and how the Danes fought back with courage and kindness. Julie lives with the constant, nagging fear that her family will be sent to a concentration camp. Niels can't stand the brutish, arrogant Nazi soldiers and finds himself drawn to the Danish resistance

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Told from several points of view, this novel reveals how life in Copenhagen was soiled by the Nazi occupation and how the Danes fought back with courage and kindness. Julie lives with the constant, nagging fear that her family will be sent to a concentration camp. Niels can't stand the brutish, arrogant Nazi soldiers and finds himself drawn to the Danish resistance. When Niels learns of the Nazi plot to round up all of Copenhagen's Jews, he is dominated by a single thought: rescue. Julie wonders how she will endure so many good-byes, especially to Niels. This riveting read is based on the true story of how thousands of Denmark's Jews were saved from the Nazis.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Levitin (Journey to America), a survivor of Hitler's Germany, offers a panoramic view of Denmark during the German occupation. Beginning with the German invasion in April 1940, her novel traces the experiences of a varied, loosely linked group. Julie, from an assimilated Jewish family, at first can't understand her father's apparent resignation to the Nazi regime and wants to fight back; Julie's friend Ingrid opposes violence for any reason. But Ingrid's older brother, Niels, secretly joins a resistance group; and Ingrid and Niels's older sister, Fredericka, embarks on an ill-fated romance with a Jewish Zionist. Levitin also introduces a friend of Niels who admires the Nazis and thinks about going to fight on the Russian front, and the author assigns the protagonists' parents and relatives distinct points of view as well. There's even a German soldier who expresses his beliefs via letters to his mother. While a number of these characters seem designed to occupy a position on a spectrum of possible responses and reactions, overall Levitin succeeds in illuminating a complex set of historical events. She emphasizes the groundwork necessary for the heroic rescue of the Jews more than the rescue itself; the title refers to a revealing Danish proverb, "Where there's room in the heart, there's room in the home." Readers whose interest in the Danish resistance has been piqued by such works as Lois Lowry's Number the Stars will especially welcome this large-scale novel. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Julia was leading a security and happy life with her family and friends in Copenhagen, Denmark even though the Nazi regime was killing in other cities. Julie and her friends knew they didn't have anything to worry about. In 1940 her world changed. For the first time Julie had to come to terms with the possibility of her family being sent to a concentration camp, and being separated from everyone important to her. When the Nazis arrive in her beloved city, her brother Niels was so incensed at the arrogance of the Nazis that he sees the Danish resistance as one of the few hopes for Danish Jews. This is a compelling story and based on facts about how many of Denmark's Jews were saved. Readers will learn about heroes, kindness, and strength of endurance. Many emotions are tapped while reading this book and once started, you just can't put it down. The way this book is written, invites thinking about the topic, characters, and courage long after you have finished it. 2003, Dutton Books, Ages 12 up.
— Kathie M. Josephs
This book held my interest because of the way Levitin ended her chapters in the middle of a compelling conflict. By alternating the viewpoint of each chapter, Levitin is able to show both sides of the war. She made her characters seem lifelike because she went into depth about their conflicts, and she did a good job of portraying their emotions. I think that this book would appeal to mainly girls in the middle school to early high school range. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Dutton, 256p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Rebecca Moreland, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Levitin presents a fully fleshed-out story of the Danish Jews' miraculous escape from the Nazis as seen primarily through the alternating narratives of two young people. Julie is 13 when Germany invades Denmark and life gradually becomes increasingly restrictive for her Jewish family, with more soldiers, curfews, and finally martial law being declared. Her best friend's brother, Niels, is angry that his father doesn't seem to notice what is happening and upset that his friend Emil admires and imitates the Nazis, so he joins the resistance. When Julie learns that the Germans plan a roundup of all the Jews in Denmark, she must warn her family and make plans for everyone to go into hiding. At the same time, Niels absorbs new knowledge about his father's involvement in the resistance movement and confronts Emil about his beliefs and actions. Also included are letters a soldier writes home to his liebe Mutti (beloved Mother) about the glorious victory the Germans expect to have and entries from a diary kept by Niels's sister, who records her growing love for a Jewish farming student. The dangers of the time are never far from the surface, and the story has immediacy because of the feelings readers will have for the characters. A must-add for all collections, this compelling book can be paired with Johanna Reiss's The Upstairs Room (HarperCollins, 1972) or Lois Lowry's Number the Stars (Houghton, 1989) for maximum impact.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A solid historical novel explores the Nazi occupation of Denmark, from the night it begins to the extraordinary boatlift that saved some 7,000 of the country's 8,000 Jews. Alternating third-person narrations focus on Jewish Julie and Christian Niels, the older brother of Julie's best friend. The two young people-Julie is 13 at the beginning, Niels, 15-undergo a parallel politicization, Julie learning of Nazi atrocities through the underground leaflets Niels delivers as his part of the Danish Resistance effort. The lead-up to the boatlift spreads over three years and occupies fully half the story, taking a deliberate pace that highlights the tensions of occupied Denmark. Less successful than the primary narrative are the diary entries of Niels's older sister (a terribly self-conscious budding writer), as well as an unfortunate tendency to write in set-pieces. But when the story moves into the two days of crisis that precede the evacuation of the Jews, the tension ratchets up so effectively that readers will be on the edges of their seats, historical fact having become immediate textual present. (Fiction. 12-15)

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Sonia Levitin is the author of many acclaimed novels based on Jewish history, including The Cure, and the Journey to America series.

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