"Imagine waking up one morning to find foreign soldiers standing on the street corners of your town. Overnight, an enemy army has arrived and now occupies your entire country. This is what happened on April 9, 1940, when Germany invaded Denmark in World War II."Deborah Hopkinson begins the prologue to Courage and Defiance by asking readers to imagine just how world-changing the events of April 1940 were. As she relates stories of Danish people who were spies, saboteurs and ultimately survivors, she paints a picture of just how complicated and dangerous life was for people who dared to make a stand against the German army.
Courage and DefianceDeborah Hopkinson weaves together the complicated tale of how many different individuals took actions large and small to resist, disrupt and fight back against the German army occupying Denmark. As she acknowledges in her introduction, this is a multifaceted, complex story. One of my overriding impressions is just how frightening it would be to live in these times, precisely because you could never be sure who was an informer or in the resistance movement. Students who are fascinated by history and can grapple with its complexities will find this an engrossing account.
Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in World War II Denmark
by Deborah Hopkinson
Your local library
ages 11 to 14
"When students ask me my favorite part of writing about history, I tell them I’m a research nut. After all, the best way to really learn about something is to write about it. That was definitely the case with my new nonfiction title, Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in WWII Denmark, the first of three books I’m writing about the Second World War. And my favorite part of research is finding the stories of ordinary people.
Like the fictional characters in Lois Lowry’s classic Newbery-winning Number the Stars, also set during the German occupation of Denmark, the real resistance activists I encountered in my research for this book were driven by strong personal convictions. I learned that many were young college students, whose first steps were often working in small groups on an underground newspaper.
Others, like Niels Skov, defied the instructions of his own government to launch what he called his “private war against the Germans” very much on his own, setting out on a bicycle at night to find German vehicles to set on fire. Later he was arrested for his resistance work and deported to labor camps in Germany. Niels survived the war and came to the U.S., becoming a university professor. When I asked him his advice for young people today he said, “Swim against the stream.”
Young men and women in Denmark put their lives on the line to print and deliver underground newspapers, disrupt the German war machine by committing acts of sabotage, and prevent the deportation of their Jewish neighbors. Young readers in America today may be spared such life-and-death choices. But they nevertheless face difficult personal decisions every day.
The heroes and heroines of fantasy can certainly be models for young readers to emulate. But, I hope, so can real people. And history is full of them."
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©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books