|________________ CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 3 . . . . October 5, 2001
The wind had died down. Charcoal clouds flocked the darkening sky and dropped soft, feathery snowflakes on her hair and face. In no time, her coat was covered with white lace. Ria started running. She shielded her eyes with one hand. There were no streetlights. Two trucks drove by, but Ria hardly noticed them. The houses had pulled down their blackout curtains. Her shoes were soaked. The cardboard soles opened and closed, flapping with every step she took.To capture the essence of war in a novel without giving young readers nightmares is no small challenge. Which horrors should be included? Which ones should be left out? It is important to portray the period accurately, but too much information will either overwhelm early readers or frighten them. In Daughter of Light, Martha Attema has handled the task masterfully. By viewing the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands through the eyes of a 9-year old girl, Attema has succeeded in depicting World War II in terms children can understand. Ria knows only what a child would know, and through her, readers experience the hardships, injustices, sacrifices, fears, confusion, and courage that she experienced.
The plot, based on a true incident, is simple. In order to serve their own purposes, the Nazis have turned off the electricity in Ria's town. But it is the middle of a bitterly cold winter, and the residents are hard-pressed to keep from freezing to death. To complicate matters, Ria's mother is expecting a baby at any time, and Ria's father is in hiding from the authorities. Though she is terrified of the soldiers, Ria - with the help of a friend - decides to confront the mayor and ask him to turn on the power so that the new baby can be born safely.
Daughter of Light is a novel that should be shared by children and adults. The story provides plenty of food for thought and discussion.
Kristin Butcher, a former teacher, lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.