Shadow on the Mountain recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the resistance movement. Espen gets his start delivering illegal newspapers, graduates to the role of courier, and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gains—and loses—friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him...
Shadow on the Mountain recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the resistance movement. Espen gets his start delivering illegal newspapers, graduates to the role of courier, and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gains—and loses—friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him as he sets out to escape on skis over the mountains to Sweden.
Preus incorporates archival photographs and other images to tell this story based on the real-life adventures of Norwegian Erling Storrusten, whom Preus interviewed in Norway.
Newbery Honor winner Preus (Heart of a Samurai) delivers a riveting story about teenage freedom fighters in WWII Norway. Espen and the other members of his soccer team hope to continue to enjoy the game they love following the Nazi invasion, but both Espen's teammates and rivals are soon pulled into the resistance movement as rations are cut and their families assaulted. Espen is drafted to be a courier for the resistance, while his younger sister, Ingrid, starts sneaking ration cards to starving Norwegians. Preus ably develops a large cast of characters, rendering them with persuasive vulnerabilities and showing how each is transformed by the war. Espen's skiing missions for the resistance combine the thrilling aspects of an outdoor adventure story with political peril and the threat of violence. An author's note with photographs of the real-life inspiration for Espen, Erling Storrusten (as well as appendices on code breaking and invisible ink), bring the truth behind the powerful story into startling focus. Ages 10–14. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. (Sept.)
- Vikki Terrile
When Nazi Germany invades Norway in 1940, the Norwegian people do not give in easily, nor do they give up hope. Espen, in many ways an average teenager, becomes part of the resistance, willing to risk his freedom and his life to combat the Nazis. Based on the true story of a young Norwegian resistance fighter and his peers, Preus has crafted an engaging spy story with likeable characters and an intriguing setting. Because the author borrows a number of historically true events, the narrative both expands and compresses depending on the timeline and action, sometimes losing a bit of the flow that otherwise works well. Espen is clearly an ordinary boy moved to take extraordinary action, and is thoughtful as he watches his best friend and an adversary do the same for the Nazi regime. Preus does not vilify the characters or their choices; her compassionate approach prevents any of the characters from becoming stock caricatures and provides opportunity for consideration and discussion. Where the novel works best is as an examination of the many ways a nation of people engaged in small acts of resistance, waiting out the occupation with courage and resiliency. This is a strong choice for historical fiction and spy story fans, as well as for genre reading assignments. Reviewer: Vikki Terrile
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—This engrossing offering sheds light on the Norwegians' courage during World War II. Preus masterfully weds a story of friendship with the complications faced by 14-year-old Espen and his friends as Nazi restrictions and atrocities become part of their everyday lives. Espen not only has to deal with the political turmoil, but also with discovering that his best friend has joined the German cause, which Espen is committed to work against. Even his young sister, Ingrid, joins the resistance when she gets a bit older. Norway's hazardous topography adds to the adventure as Espen must ski across dangerous mountain passes in order to carry out his secret missions. This is at once a spy thriller, a coming-of-age story, and a chronicle of escalating bravery. Multidimensional characters fill this gripping tale that keeps readers riveted to the end. An informative author's note explains that Espen was inspired by Erling Storrusten, who, as a teenager, helped in the resistance movement. A "Bonus for Code Breakers" and instructions for making invisible ink are appealing additions. Preus aptly celebrates the determination of ordinary citizens in this book. Similar truths are told in Mal Peet's Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passions and Betrayal (Candlewick, 2008) and Kathy Kacer's Night Spies (Tandem, 2003).—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
A teenage boy becomes a spy in Nazi-occupied Norway. After the Germans invade his country in 1940, Espen goes from a life of school, Scouts and soccer games to delivering underground newspapers. Gradually, he advances to transporting secret documents via bicycle or skis and spying on Gestapo locations for the intelligence branch of the Resistance. Along the way, he navigates relationships with a beloved best friend who has joined the Nazis, his younger sister and peers who share his passion for opposition, as well as a budding romance with Solveig, who wears a red stocking hat signaling displeasure with the new regime. Newbery Honor winner Preus (Heart of a Samurai, 2010) infuses the story with the good-natured humor of a largely unified, peace-loving people trying to keep their sanity in a world gone awry. Based on a true story, the narrative is woven with lively enough daily historical detail to inspire older middle-grade readers to want to learn more about the Resistance movement and imitate Espen's adventures. A selectively omniscient narrator moves from sister Ingrid's diaries to the inner thoughts of Espen's nemesis, Aksel. Preus also incorporates a Norse myth about Odin to shed light on what it means to be wise, the possibility of knowing too much and how to resist shadowing the mountain of hope. A morally satisfying page turner. (author's note, archival photographs, maps, timeline, selected bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Margi Preus has written many popular plays, picture books, and novels for young readers. She has traveled the globe to research her novels and, along the way, has made friends in Japan, Norway, and many other places. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota. Visit her online at margipreus.com.