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A Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Winner
At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation’s leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys’ exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is National Book Award winner Phillip Hoose’s inspiring story of these young war heroes.
This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.
Gr 9 Up—In April 1940, occupying German forces made Denmark a “protectorate” of the Third Reich. The Danish government accepted the occupation, but a small group of teen boys, angry at their nation’s cowardice, formed the secret Churchill Club to resist the Germans and conducted a six-month spree of sabotage and destruction. Incorporating lengthy first-person reminiscences of one of the group’s leaders, Knud Pedersen, Hoose describes how the club recruited members, exploited their youth and innocent looks to deceive their parents and the Germans, appropriated weapons, and carried out guerilla-style attacks from their bicycles. Although the boys were eventually arrested and imprisoned, their exploits made them national heroes, shamed many adults, and fueled Danish resistance. After the war, Winston Churchill honored their efforts. The book is well organized, effectively integrating Pedersen’s vivid descriptions of his group’s motives, determination, and sometimes foolhardy bravery within the larger narrative, which includes information about Denmark, the war, and the boys’ families and lives. Sidebars, detailed maps, and period photos supplement the text. Often reading like a thriller, this title puts a human face on the often-overlooked Danish Resistance and complements titles such as Michael Burgan’s Refusing to Crumble: The Danish Resistance in World War II (Compass Pt., 2010) and Ellen Levine’s Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews (Holiday House, 2000). VERDICT A captivating work that will appeal to many readers.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO