Book of the Week: The Boy Who Dared, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

The Boy Who Dared, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Historical fiction

First line: “It’s morning. In a cell on the ground floor, the light shifts dark shapes into a small stool, a scrawny table, and a bed made of wooden boards with no mattress or blanket. On that bed, a thin, huddled figure, Helmuth, a boy of seventeen, lies awake. Shivering. Trembling. It’s a Tuesday. The executioner works on Tuesdays.”

Booktalk: Helmuth Hübener is only eight years old when the Nazis come into power, and at first, Helmuth doesn’t know what to think about them. He overhears arguments between adults, and he’s young, so at first the only change he notices is that he is no longer a Boy Scout, and instead must join the Hitler Youth. But it doesn’t take long for things to get worse: a Jewish classmate is forced out of his school, and his neighbors are all turning on each other.

Over the years, Helmut grows up and grows to hate the Nazi regime, and he decides to fight for the truth. He starts listening to illegal foreign radio broadcasts and composing pamphlets full of all of the information Germans aren’t supposed to know. He gets several friends to help him write, copy, and distribute these anti-Nazi brochures – and then he gets caught, and tried, and found guilty of treason. We meet him on the 264th day of his imprisonment, as he awaits execution and looks back on his life.

Based on real events, The Boy Who Dared is the story of a teenaged boy who took a stand for what’s right, and paid the ultimate price.

Similar titles: Hitler Youth (also by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, nonfiction), War Games (Audrey Couloumbis)

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