Another winner from Alan Gratz: action, intrigue, and real live history.
Recommended grade level: 5-8
Pages: 320 (for ISBN 9780545880169)
Summary: World War II is raging. Michael O’Shaunessey, the son of the Irish ambassador to Nazi Germany, lives in war-torn Berlin with his parents. Like the other boys at his school, Michael is a member of the Hitler Youth. But Michael has a secret:
He and his parents are spies.
Michael and his family help downed Allied airmen to safety and send the Allies coded messages with the locations of Nazi factories, but when one of the boys in Michael’s Hitler Youth group shows him the secret plans to Projekt 1065, a prototype Nazi jet plane that could change the course of the war, Michael knows he has to steal the blueprints. To get close to the boy and the blueprints Michael has to go deeper and deeper into the madness of the Hitler Youth, and to do that, he may just have to sacrifice everything—and everyone—he loves. (Source)
Who will like this book?: I would give this to most readers. It has action, historical events, solid character development, and is fairly short. It shows the horrors of WWII but isn’t especially gruesome in its details. It also features an admirable and relatable protagonist.
Who won’t like this book?: Naturally, I wouldn’t give it to readers who aren’t interested in history or spy stories. World War II is a difficult subject for some readers.
Other comments: I haven’t tried it yet, but this would make a great booktalk for students who need to do a project or report. It has both appeal and plenty of educational material. I’m a big fan of Gratz (though I wish he’d stop putting 4-digit numbers I can never remember in his titles).
Readalikes: Alan Gratz has a winning formula mixing social studies issues with action. Try Prisoner B-3087 and Code of Honor. Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac also involves WWII espionage carried out by people of a nationality not given much credit for their part in the war. Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus features a young spy in a Nazi-occupied country. The main character of The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is a saboteur in Germany, similar to Michael. For nonfiction, try The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russel Freedman, and
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (which Gratz credits in his afterword).