The Dog in the Wood

( 1 )

Overview

When the Russians come, where do you go? Fritz loves his vegetable garden. His tomatoes are delicious, he's attentive to the asparagus, and he remembers how to keep slugs off the strawberries. But his tranquil life on the family farm is about to end—the Russians are near, Hitler has died, and known Nazi sympathizers like the Friedrich family brace for the Bolsheviks to take over their town. Local German supporters of the Bolshevik regime seize the Friedrich farm in the name of Communism, forcing Fritz's family to...

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Overview

When the Russians come, where do you go? Fritz loves his vegetable garden. His tomatoes are delicious, he's attentive to the asparagus, and he remembers how to keep slugs off the strawberries. But his tranquil life on the family farm is about to end—the Russians are near, Hitler has died, and known Nazi sympathizers like the Friedrich family brace for the Bolsheviks to take over their town. Local German supporters of the Bolshevik regime seize the Friedrich farm in the name of Communism, forcing Fritz's family to flee to the distant house of his grandmother, Oma Clara. Life there for Fritz is horrible, made even worse when Communists arrest his mother and Lech, the Polish farmhand who has tended the Friedrich land, for hiding weapons. Though there is no evidence to support the accusation, Gertrude and Lech are taken away, and Fritz commits to finding where they are imprisoned. Despite the boy's heroic efforts, the story ends with one of the war's ambiguities: that Lech and Gertrude may not return home.

Heavy footsteps sounded on the tiles in the hallway. Then three soldiers entered the living room. They all wore torn green jackets with small red flags sewn onto their sleeves. They shouted in Russian. Fritz held Mama's hand and tried to stay as close to her as possible on the sofa. One of the soldiers broke the glass of the sideboard with the butt of his rifle, took out the bottle of brandy, drank from it, and passed it to the others. They rummaged through the china cabinet, throwing the plates on the floor. . . . Mama held his hand with a firm grip. Suddenly, one soldier pointed his rifle at them. "No!" Mama screamed. Fritz held his breath. "Stojat!" Lech stepped toward the middle of the room, holding his arms up. —FROM THE BOOK

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ten-year-old Fritz lives in a small village in eastern Germany toward the end of WWII. His father died years earlier in the war, leaving Fritz with his younger sister, mother, a Polish farmhand, and his paternal grandparents (his Grandpa Karl is a Nazi sympathizer). When news reaches the family that the Germans have lost, Fritz's grandparents hang themselves, and sensitive Fritz takes solace in tending to the vegetables in his family's garden until Russian soldiers arrive. Fritz struggles with his identity and what to believe—are the Russians truly the enemies his grandfather believed them to be?—when he befriends Mikhail, a Russian commander stationed at his farm. Things take a turn for the worse when the family is forced to move in with Fritz's maternal grandmother in another village after their farmland is redistricted, and his mother is arrested for purported weapon possession. With nuanced characters (Russian and German alike) and a cautiously hopeful ending, Schröder's well-crafted debut, inspired by her father's childhood in Germany, is especially attuned to her protagonist's internal conflicts and worries, and reveals alarming truths about the far-reaching effects of war. Ages 10–14. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
It is the spring of 1945 and Fritz and his family live in terror of what is about to happen to them. Living on a farm in eastern Germany, Fritz's family realizes that the war is lost. Russian troops are surging forward and will soon occupy their town. News comes that Germany has surrendered and the arrival of Soviet occupation forces creates a world of fear and terror. Over a relative few months Fritz loses his paternal grandparents, sees the family farm taken from them, becomes a refugee, and experiences even deeper losses. Based upon the life experiences of Monika Schroder's father during his childhood, The Dog in the Wood is a fascinating story about an occupied people generally overlooked in fiction. The Nazis started the horrific conflict that came to be known as World War II. The hate crimes that spawned the abysmal losses attendant to the Holocaust make it easy to forget that German civilians suffered as well during the war. In this work of historical fiction readers are provided not only an interesting story but also a look into a German child of war's personal narrative. Written in an authentic manner this book will appeal to readers with an interest in history, and in particular, World War II. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—It is 1945; Fritz, 10, lives with his mother, sister, and father's parents in Soviet-occupied Germany. War has stolen Fritz's father from the family, while every day refugees travel the main road, heading west ahead of the Russian troops. As word arrives of Hitler's death, Fritz's Nazi-sympathizer grandparents hang themselves, and loss blankets the family again. Hope for a better future proves harder and harder to find with each upheaval. First-time novelist Schröder pulls readers through a harrowing period in the life of a young boy, engaging them in episodes taut with danger and uncertainty. This specific transition in history—from the chaos of World War II to the oppression of Communist occupation—is not often covered in children's fiction, making this book an asset to most collections. Its pace, emotion, and eventual hope also make it a powerful, inspiring read.—Bethany Isaacson, Wheaton Regional Library, Silver Spring, MD
Kirkus Reviews
While a wealth of children's books set during World War II focus on the Holocaust, Schroder brings some of Germany's other young victims to light in her exceptional debut novel. Still coping with his soldier father's death, ten-year-old Fritz keeps hearing that the "worst is over" and that peace is in sight. But when his Nazi sympathizer grandparents commit suicide before the Communist Russians invade his town, Russian military leaders set up office in his house, vindictive neighbors eject Fritz's family from their beloved farm and his mother is falsely accused of a crime, the aspiring farmer can't help but wonder when the worst will really end. Pocketed amid the death and destruction, a few caring individuals-from the family's Polish farmhand who shows Fritz how to carve wood to smiling Russian soldiers who give him his first chocolate bar-help the boy discover the courage, hope and friendship needed to survive. Based on the author's grandfather's experiences, this poignant look at the effects of war and propaganda, especially on children, resonates with candor and eloquence. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590787014
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Pages: 168
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Monika Schroder grew up in Germany and lived there for the first thirty years of her life. She studied history at the Ruhr University in Bochum and worked in the German parliament before becoming an elementary-school teacher. She has taught in international schools in Egypt, Chile, and Oman and is currently the elementary-school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Kira M for TeensReadToo.com

    It's 1945, and the Germans have invaded Russia. War has taken Fritz's father. After his grandparents commit suicide when they hear about the German invasion, Fritz, his mother, and sister are forced to make it on their own on the farm Fritz has grown up on.

    As the invasion spreads and communist policies get strict, the three are forced to abandon their home and hit the road like many other refugees. Will they find a place to call home? Will they find happiness?

    Based on the author's grandfather's experiences, this novel is heart-wrenching, endearing, and tells a story from a perspective that's not often told. The characters are well-developed, and the plot keeps its readers' interest.

    Those who like historical fiction, WWII novels, and true stories will enjoy reading THE DOG IN THE WOOD.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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