The Whispering Town

The Whispering Town

by Jennifer Elvgren, Fabio Santomauro

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The dramatic story of neighbors in a small Danish fishing village who, during the Holocaust, shelter a Jewish family waiting to be ferried to safety in Sweden.

It is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. The

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The dramatic story of neighbors in a small Danish fishing village who, during the Holocaust, shelter a Jewish family waiting to be ferried to safety in Sweden.

It is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to neutral Sweden. The soldiers patrolling their street are growing suspicious, so Carl and his mama must make their way to the harbor despite a cloudy sky with no moon to guide them. Worried about their safety, Anett devises a clever and unusual plan for their safe passage to the harbor.

Based on a true story.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
The heroism of ordinary Danish citizens during World War II, in their commitment to saving roughly 7200 of the country’s Jewish citizens from the Nazis, has been well documented in both fact and fiction. This wonderful picture book is another entry in the impressive list of books that includes Lois Lowry’s award-winning Number the Stars. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish family in their basement. This means that Anett has learned to keep important secrets and go to the people in her village who are equally committed to the humanitarian effort. When Nazis come to the town, and to Anett’s very door, it becomes obvious that the family will have to be moved. However, finding the way to a rescue boat at the harbor is difficult on a moonless night. Anett comes up with a plan inspired by secrecy. She and her parents invite all their neighbors to whisper directions to the escaping family who, under cover of night, are able to escape. This is a sophisticated subject reduced to a graphic novel high interest and lower-level vocabulary. The illustrations, while not shown in panels, are clearly modeled on those in graphic novels and they are marvelous. With minimal color and line, Santomauro manages to convey the distress of the secret burdened child and her family. Neutral colors convey the dire feeling of the time, but the greys, browns, and blacks are punctuated with red, most effectively on the Nazi soldiers’ armbands. The conversation bubbles marking the path to the coast seem to literally point the way. This is a very successful mix of a popular style of art and an important story that will appeal to a wider range of young readers. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross; Ages 5 to 10.
The New York Times Book Review - Elizabeth Wein
The setting is a Danish fishing village, but one of the book's charms is how little context you need to understand it…[The Whispering Town] feels appropriate for reading to very young children as an introduction to the subject of the Holocaust.
Publishers Weekly
Annet's family is part of the Danish resistance, hiding Jews in their cellar until the hidden refugees can escape by boat to Sweden. Unlike many stories set during the Nazi occupation, this one finds its protagonist, who narrates the story, an already accomplished insurgent: when her mother tells Annet, "There are new friends in the cellar," the girl knows whom to go to in the underground for additional food and even books for the young boy sheltering with his mother. These hushed requests inspire Annet to create a kind of whispering chain to guide the Jews to the harbor on a moonless night. Based on real events that unfolded in the Danish fishing town of Gilleleje, it's a story that feels urgent and refreshingly unsentimental. Elvgren (Josias, Hold the Book) never stops her reportorial storytelling for a speech about why these brave people are defying the Nazis—Annet just knows she has to act. Santomauro, who has a distinctly graphic novel sensibility, uses strong ink lines and a rich neutral palette (save for a few splashes of red) to convey a sense of secrecy, high stakes, and profound moral courage. Ages 7-11. Illustrator's agent: Advocate Art. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Residents of a small town in Nazi-occupied Denmark work together to provide a hidden Jewish mother and son safe passage to neutral Sweden. "New friends" are being harbored in Anett's dark basement for two nights. Though afraid, she allows their whispering voices to lead her down the stairs. Anett brings food from her mother's kitchen and books from the library until the boy and his mother can secretly board a fishing boat that will cross over to Sweden. Most of Anett's daily encounters with neighbors and shopkeepers show that the townsfolk support Anett's family in their dangerous effort. When the Nazis begin to search houses each night, the situation becomes even more perilous for Anett's family, and her father determines that they must be taken to the harbor despite the obscuring clouds. Without moonlight, the Jews are beckoned from door to door, guided only by whispering voices—"This way"—that indicate the route to safety. The direct simplicity of the story's telling serves well as an introduction for younger children to the Holocaust. Dark cartoon sketches reminiscent of Tomi Ungerer in opaque black, blues, grays and khaki green markers and word bubbles with the key words of direction paint the ominous atmosphere. This uncomplicated narrative of Danish resistance will facilitate teaching and discussion of a difficult yet necessary subject. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.80(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.30(d)
530L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Fabio Santomauro was born in Rome. He’s been drawing since he was very young – he once ingested a whole inkpot so ink is literally in his blood! He would like to become an inventor or a detective, but in the meantime he loves working as an illustrator. He studied animation cinema at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, the national school for cinema in Italy. On sunny days he likes to stroll around the villas of Rome juggling with clubs.

Elizabeth Cottle is an actress, singer, and theatre director based in Northwest Ohio. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Arts and Musical Theatre from Ohio Northern University, where she received an Irene Ryan Nomination. She is a veteran of more than 30 community theatre productions, and and was recognized for Excellence in Acting by the Ohio Community Theatre Association. In addition to her theatre background, Elizabeth has a wide variety of performing experience, from serving as lead vocalist with a jazz orchestra, to filming commercials, to doing improv sketch comedy.

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