Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Plot Summary:
It's 1933, and Adolf Hitler has been appointed chancellor of the Third Reich. For Helmuth Guddat, he isn't sure how he feels about this man because he has made many promises to help Germany recover from the devastation of World War 1. Mutti (his mother) feels optimistic about it, but his Oma and Opa (his grandparents) feel differently, which leaves him conflicted. As time progresses, Helmuth starts to notice the subtle changes and it worries him. First of all, Mutti has started dating a man named Hugo, a Nazi. Secondly, Hugo replaces his mother's old radio with a government radio that is non-stop propaganda. Although these changes may seem minor, the economy is taking off and everyone has something to eat so things are getting better. Sadly, Helmuth witnesses the power and the horror of the Nazi party when the party started targeting Jewish businesses and the Jewish people. For Helmuth, he wants nothing to do with Nazis, but, when he is forced to join the Hitler Youth, he quickly learns that he has to keep his opinions to himself and tell his teacher, and leaders, what they want to hear. What was supposed to be an era of peace and prosperity, Hitler has declared war on Europe. For Helmuth, he has no idea what's going on other than what the government is telling him, which angers him. What makes him even angrier, is that Gerhard, his brother, has been drafted and he knows his brother can't stand the Nazis and is only doing it for his country. When Gerhard returns from boot camp with a short wave radio he bought of the Black Market, he asks Helmuth to not turn it on since there is a law banning citizens from listening to foreign program; it's against the law to listen to foreign news, but Helmuth is tired of the Nazis so he breaks his promise to Gerhard. Not only are the Nazis censoring news, and fabricating reports, the prosperity they once had is no longer where they are being forced to pay for war they didn't want. For Helmuth, the only way he is going to bring down the Nazis is to speak the truth, which is not only dangerous, but punishable by death.

Critical Evaluation:
Based on the true story of Helmuth Hubener, Susan Campbell Bartoletti crafts a beautiful tale about a life that was cut short for all of the wrong reasons. In this narrative, readers can already tell what kind of young man Helmuth was and that everything he did was for the greater good. Honestly, I have heard of the Hitler Youth, but I was totally unaware of this young man's courage and sacrifice. Adolph Hitler was a monster and the Nazi party carried out his atrocities without questioning him. Hitler managed to master the craft of indoctrination where he literally duped an entire nation with promises of peace and prosperity only to carry out his personal agenda and vendetta against the Jews. For Helmuth, his faith and his love for his brother is what gave him the courage to speak out against the Nazis because he and his fellow countrymen had a right to know what their government has been plotting and the ramifications of their decisions. I am humbled and amazed by the courage of Helmuth Hubener because he did the one thing that his elders could not do. What I appreciate the most about this story is that Bartoletti gave a voice to Helmuth's fear, hatred, and sadness before his execution. No on really knows what was going through his head before his death, but the author gave him the last word, which was awesome. Moreover, Bartoletti drives home the very notion that Helmuth's advantage is the fact that no one would suspect a minor to make all those pamphlets, but, in the end, his execution was a wake-up call for everyone: don't underestimate the will and the intelligence of a teenager who has something to say. Although Helmuth died so young, his sacrifice will outshine the darkness that plagues the German people (aka. Hitler). This is a very compelling tale that readers will have a difficult time putting down and inspire them to do further research. The author's note is amazing, which readers will want to read and there are pictures of Helmuth, his brothers, and best friends. 

Information about the Author:
 According to her website:
Although I have always loved to read, I had no idea I was going to be a writer when I grew up. In school, I liked art class best. In college, I filled my schedule with literature classes. I took a creative writing class where I wrote short stories and poetry for the first time. I interned as a journalist at a local newspaper. These experiences fueled a desire to write my own stories.
 But within days of graduation, I was offered a job teaching eighth-grade English, and I accepted. I never thought I’d stay, but I did. For the next eighteen years, I taught eighth grade.
When I left the classroom, I returned to school as a full-time doctoral student on a full fellowship. I earned a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University (State University, New York), where I won the Excellence in Research award for my doctoral dissertation. I also hold an M.A. in English from the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania) and a B.A. in English/Secondary Education from Marywood University (Scranton, Pennsylvania). I live with my husband near Scranton, Pennsylvania. We have two grown children, three grandchildren, two dogs (Shih Tzus), and a seventeen-year-old cat.
I am often asked where I found the time to write, while teaching full-time and raising a family. My answer is this: We make the time to do the things we really want to do. Weekdays, I wrote in the early morning hours, from 4-7 am, while my children were sleeping, and longer on weekends.
Tween War Stories, Tween Historical Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 7 & up

Books Similar to The Boy Who Dared:

Awards & Recognition:From
  • Starred Review from Booklist
  • Positive Review from School Library Journal
  • Positive Review from Publisher's Weekly

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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