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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Neal Bascomb, author of The Nazi Hunters, returns with his next thrilling work of narrative nonfiction about a group of Allied POWs who staged an escape for the ages during World War I. Illustrated throughout with incredible photographs and published on the 100th anniversary of the Holzminden escape!At the height of World War I, as battles raged in the trenches and in the air, another struggle for survival was being waged in the most notorious POW camp in all of Germany: Holzminden. A land-locked Alcatraz of sorts, it was home to the most troublesome Allied prisoners--and the most talented at escape. The Grand Escape tells the remarkable tale of a band of pilots who pulled off an ingenious plan and made it out of enemy territory in the biggest breakout of WWI, inspiring their countrymen in the darkest hours of the war.…

Overall Book Review:

The Grand Escape was an excellent nonfiction narrative of the greatest prison escape of WWI. It takes the viewpoint of multiple prisoners of war, and describes how they collaborated with each other to achieve a breakout from one of the best guarded German prisons at that time.

I really liked how the author, Neal Bascomb, took multiple accounts of different prisoners during this period, described their various experiences in the war, and the events that occurred which landed them all in the same prison. There is an abundance of photographs included of the various prisoners mentioned, as well as diagrams of the prisons and tunnels the prisoners contrived to dig. There is also a wellspring of resources included in the citation pages for die-hard history fans to research.

While the content deals with a violent situation, there is relatively little description about the kind of violence used. There are very spare mentions of how prisoners are treated, but there is nothing graphic in the descriptions. Overall, an outstanding nonfiction story about the prisoners of war during the first World War, and I think any kids who are into history will love this book.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Arthur A. Levine (A Scholastic Imprint)

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  3 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name. 

Violence/Gore:  Many instances of violence and gore, including but not limited to: Many instances of prisoners being captured after falling into enemy territory; many descriptions of the treatment of prisoners in POW camps; mentions of ongoing war; descriptions of prisoners facing danger via digging escape tunnels, such as poor air quality, creepy crawlies, rats, and danger of tunnel cave-in; some characters suffer from claustrophobia; many instances of prisoners being beaten, flogged, shot at, sentenced to solitary, exposed to rats, etc.; description of a man getting shot in the chest, riddled with shrapnel and nearly buried alive before being taken prisoner and treated in a German prison hospital; many instances of characters being threatened with death if trying to escape or caught escaping; characters pretend to fight in order to steal tools for escape; characters fake insanity to assist with their escape; men bake a bonfire out of German furniture and property; mention of Nazis’ penchant for torturing and hanging POWs; a few instances of characters facing deadly danger during their last rush for freedom over the border; characters are frequently shot at.

Sex/Nudity:  Report of a woman falling in love with a man; a man dresses up as a woman to attempt an escape; characters strip to their underwear to cross a river; a man reports nearly being found naked by a mother and her children; men are left half-naked after being sent to solitary.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of friends, war, abuse, prisoners of war, bullies, starvation, escape.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Characters drink port; characters buy wine; a man is described as a gentle drunk; a man smokes a cigar; characters find bottles of wine to drink in celebration; mention of characters fueled by too much wine; mention of drunkards; a drunken orderly falls down and hits his head; mention of aspirin and tranquilizers; characters drink wine and smoke cigarettes to remain calm; a man swallows aspirin; a man orders beer at a tavern; a man drinks beer; a man drinks gin; characters smoke at roll-call, which is forbidden; men drink some cognac; men are said to be out of cigarettes; a man drinks too much alcohol.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Fantasy is my bread and butter. I read and write it. I’m obsessed with world-building and fascinated with lyrical prose. I love that I can contribute to the writing community by recommending good books that can actually make a difference in a person’s life.