Melodrama substitutes for conflict in this heavy-handed novel set in Nazi Germany. At 13, Korinna Rehme is just like the other members of her girls' youth group: besotted with the Fhrer ("Hitler is the most wonderful man, Mother. Don't you think so?") and rabidly anti-Semitic. When she discovers that two Jews, a mother and young daughter, are hiding in her very own house, she is horrified at her parents' calumny. As Korinna weighs the possibility of turning her parents in, her best friend, Rita, begins to grow suspicious and starts laying a deadly trap for the Rehmes and their clandestine guests. Neither subtlety nor insight plays a part in these proceedings: Williams doesn't suggest the attractions of the Hitler youth groups or allow for the range of attitudes within these groups, described so persuasively in such memoirs as Ilse Koehn's Mischling, Second Degree or Hans Peter Richter's I Was There. Instead, the dilemmas faced by these characters come across to the reader as crystal-clear choices between good and evil. This type of simplification makes for bad historyand a flat read. Ages 9-13. (July)
Gr 5-8Korinna, 13, loves her country and is active in the Jungmadel, Hitler's youth group for girls. When she learns that her parents are hiding Jews, she is shocked and angry. A series of events, including her reluctant, but growing attachment to the little girl hidden behind the wardrobe in her room, leads her to conclude that the price of being loyal to the Fatherland is too high. It is Korinna's quick thinking that saves the family during a night raid. The atmosphere and mood of the times are palpable, with Korinna and her family forced to flee Germany. If the characters are "types," such as the brave father, the nasty so-called "best" friend, and the vicious Gestapo agent, they are clearly drawn and appropriately employed in a fast-moving, believable plot with an inevitable ending.Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Korinna is a loyal member of the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany, and she is appalled to discover that her parents are hiding a Jewish family right there behind her own bedroom wall. Aren't Jews vermin? What if the authorities find out? Should she report her parents as traitors, as she has been taught to do? This novel won the Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature. The history is accurate, and the plot is dramatic; but, unfortunately, the writing is florid, with contrived dialogue and with tears and trembling on every page. The illustrations are awkward and superfluous. Instead of the understatement of Holocaust accounts like Leitner's "The Big Lie (1992), there's melodrama ("No more would she walk through the beautiful countryside. No more would she smell the sweet flowers of spring. No more . . ." ). Still, readers will be caught by the courage of the Righteous Gentile family and by the changes in Korinna as she gets to know these Jews as people. The ending is taut: Korinna and her parents must go into hiding behind someone else's bedroom wall.
A loyal member of Hitler's Jungmädel has some choices to make when she discovers that her parents are hiding a Jewish family.
Having uncritically accepted the pervading anti-Semitism and faithfully parroted its slogans, Korinna, 11, is horrified when her wardrobe swings back to reveal Sophie Krugmann and Rachel, her 5-year-old daughter, in a secret room. Does Korinna believe in the party line strongly enough to turn in her own mother and father? In the agony of indecision, Korinna skips school, loses sleep, and arouses the suspicions of her best friend, Rita, whose brother is a Gestapo agent; meanwhile, reluctantly succumbing to Rachel's charms and thinking about how Jews and anyone who associates with them are being brutalized, her attitudes begin to change. Williams (The Long Silk Strand, 1995, etc.) has her young characters obediently repeating patriotic Nazi slogans and promises, but presents counterarguments more subtly, by simply showing the Gestapo's cruelty, Sophie's bitterness and exhaustion, Rachel's fear, and the general climate of repression. In the end, Rita betrays Korinna, but then warns her of the impending raid; the Krugmanns are spirited away just in time, and Korinna's family must also go into hiding. Confusingly, Williams's suggestion in the afterword that freedom may be more important than love isn't a theme she develops in the story, but she pays stirring tribute to the courage and ingenuity some outwardly ordinary people showed in those dark days. With scattered, stiff b&w illustrations.