Publisher's Note:  

A fascinating new perspective on World War II; a fictitious, personalized take on the real-life rebel German youth group, the Edelweiss Pirates.

Karl Friedman is only twelve, but like all boys his age in Germany, he's already playing war games, training to join the Hitler Youth. Stefan, Karl's nonconformist older brother, wants nothing to do with it. Then their father is killed, and what had been a game suddenly becomes deadly serious. Karl's faith in the Fuhrer is shaken: Is Hitler a national hero--or a villain? What is the meaning of the flower symbol stitched inside Stefan's jacket, and what is the mission of the shadow group he belongs to? Karl soon finds out as he joins his brother in a dangerous rebellion against the burgeoning threat of Nazism.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic

My Brother's Secrets

by Daniel Smith

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Overall Review:  

Author Dan Smith delivers yet another poignant and well-written historical novel that is set in the time of World War II. My Brother's Secret is a look at the events of WWII through the eyes of twelve year old Karl.  While Karl is trying to do everything right, including putting his heart into the Hitler Youth Program, things are never what they seem, nor do they always go the way they are planned. One day brings things crashing down and Karl has to take a second look at how things really are and at which things are really important:  namely family and staying true to who you really are.

The atrocities of WWII are a difficult subject in any light, but in My Brother's Secrets these horrors are tempered by being seen through the eyes of a twelve year old.  However, Dan Smith does not tip-toe through them and his novel is a great introduction to these historical events. Along the way, there are lessons of courage, forgiveness, and standing up for what is right that are displayed as well. This novel is a book that will introduce young readers to historical events as well as helping them learn what it takes to stand up with courage.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  8 religious exclamations.

Violence/Gore:  Description of "war games" that seems realistic in the descriptions of dead kids lying around and as part of the "game" boys attack with fists and tackle others to the ground (3 different descriptions); boy grabs another by shirt and pushes him around to make him stand; in a PE-type setting, boys are instructed to box and boys start to egg on a boy to hit another and the boy hits the other knocking him out; character goes in a destructive rage, fueled by grief, which results in broken furniture; mention of killing in a vague sense, i.e. "He is killing our fathers", "He will kill us if he catches us" (5 accounts); character hit by car while riding bike; secondhand account of 2 boys fighting; account of an air raid with characters hiding out in the cellar (3 pages); characters mention people in other cities getting killed by bombs; mention of people being forcibly taken away (2 accounts); description of cartoon depicting someone standing over another with a knife; 4 page account of man being beaten (with description of injuries), his shop being ransacked and him being taken away; character describes how sons were killed in war; children chant about killing Jews; kids get in a fight where they are outnumbered with description of resulting injuries (5 pages); man assaults a woman, smacking her, knocking her down which results in a bloody injury; man points gun at an injured and helpless woman; description of boys fighting that results in a bloody nose; 3 page account of bombing resulting in destruction of buildings; 2 accounts of dead people  being pulled from the rubble; character imagines what kind of torture could happen in a room with blood stains on the floor; man threatens to "do away" with 2 children; man instructs boy to hit a girl with a leather strap; man hits hands of 2 children with leather strap, several times, drawing blood (3 pages); description of characters injuries from being beaten; character knocks man to ground in a rage, whips him and knocks him unconscious; man fires gun at 2 children; car runs into an unexploded bomb, detonating it and killing a character inside.                                                        

Sex/Nudity:  2 accounts of boy and girl holding hands.

Mature Subject Matter:  

War (particularly WWII), persecution of Jews, death of parents.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Adults and two youth smoke cigarettes.

Reviewed By Sally
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