________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005



Carol Matas.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1987/2005.
135 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-439-95638-2.

Subject Heading:
World War, 1939-1945-Underground movements-Denmark-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Patricia Fay.

**½ /4



Scholastic's reissue of this award-winning book will be a timely addition for those looking for World War II stories to complement the new Grade Six Social Studies curriculum in Manitoba.

     Lisa and her family, consisting of her father, mother, brother Stefan, and cousins, live in Denmark during the time of the Nazi invasion. Some members of her family, like cousin Erik, think that everything will be all right if they just mind their own business. Others, like her brother Stefan and his best friend, Jesper, feel they have to do everything they can to stop the Nazis. They both join the resistance movement. Lisa begs to join and is soon delivering pamphlets.

     On Lisa's fourteenth birthday, they all go to the dance hall that is owned by the family of her best friend, Suzanne. After their wonderful afternoon of dancing, the Germans blow up the dance hall, and Suzanne's parents are killed. Suzanne comes to live with Lisa's family, and she joins the Resistance.

I see that Erik is really upset. "I was walking here, and they started firing at people for nothing," he says. "There was this little kid—I don't know, maybe ten—"

"Still think you should just mind your own business?" asks Suzanne sharply.

He looks up and I can see tears in his eyes. She's hit him where it hurts.

"Well, maybe—maybe if there hadn't been so much sabotage, if we'd cooperated..."

"Ooooh!" Suzanne screams. "You're hopeless, hopeless! Don't you understand, Erik? They're bullies! And the only thing a bully understands is someone standing up to him and saying 'We're not afraid of you, and we're not going to let you walk all over us!'"

Erik shakes his head. He's all mixed up, and I don't blame him. He believes in peace, and it's not getting him anywhere. I look at Suzanne. She's my best friend. She just killed a man, and she doesn't feel any remorse. But I feel it for her. For all of us.

"Look what's happening to us," I murmur to myself.

     When they learn that the Nazis are planning to round up all the Jewish people at Rosh Hashanah and send them to concentration camps, Lisa and her family warn as many people as they can. The Resistance arranges for them to travel to Sweden to escape.

     Carol Matas has created a well-written account of what it must have been like at that time. She includes details such as Lisa's "new" dress being made from the material in a parachute her brother found. She also mentions the rationing of gas for heating as well as for cars. She manages to convey the fear and the helplessness, but also the feeling of hope. In spite of the overwhelming sadness of innocence of youth lost to harsh reality, Matas showcases Lisa as a strong character who believes that one person can make a difference.


Patricia Fay is a teacher-librarian at Beaumont Elementary School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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