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Levitin (Journey to America), a survivor of Hitler's Germany, offers a panoramic view of Denmark during the German occupation. Beginning with the German invasion in April 1940, her novel traces the experiences of a varied, loosely linked group. Julie, from an assimilated Jewish family, at first can't understand her father's apparent resignation to the Nazi regime and wants to fight back; Julie's friend Ingrid opposes violence for any reason. But Ingrid's older brother, Niels, secretly joins a resistance group; and Ingrid and Niels's older sister, Fredericka, embarks on an ill-fated romance with a Jewish Zionist. Levitin also introduces a friend of Niels who admires the Nazis and thinks about going to fight on the Russian front, and the author assigns the protagonists' parents and relatives distinct points of view as well. There's even a German soldier who expresses his beliefs via letters to his mother. While a number of these characters seem designed to occupy a position on a spectrum of possible responses and reactions, overall Levitin succeeds in illuminating a complex set of historical events. She emphasizes the groundwork necessary for the heroic rescue of the Jews more than the rescue itself; the title refers to a revealing Danish proverb, "Where there's room in the heart, there's room in the home." Readers whose interest in the Danish resistance has been piqued by such works as Lois Lowry's Number the Stars will especially welcome this large-scale novel. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 7-10. Ellen Levine's nonfiction work Darkness over Denmark (2000) does a great job of documenting the role of ordinary people in the Danish rescue of the Jews. This novel, based on true events, shows how fiction can intensify the same history, by dramatizing the personal experience. Julie, a Jewish girl, hides and then takes a boat with her family to Sweden. Her friend Niels plays a big role in the resistance. Niels' friend Emil is attracted by Nazi guns and power. The novel's huge cast and constantly switching viewpoints are sometimes confusing, but they allow Levitin to show the diversity of the experience. While telling the upbeat, heroic story (most of Denmark's 8,000 Jews survived), Levitin makes clear what she calls the disgrace of human nature, including a horrifying account of Nazi cruelty to residents of a home for the aged. What will grab readers is the picture of young people as survivors and heroic rescuers, the secrets and adventure, the fear and exhilaration. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 6 Up-Levitin presents a fully fleshed-out story of the Danish Jews' miraculous escape from the Nazis as seen primarily through the alternating narratives of two young people. Julie is 13 when Germany invades Denmark and life gradually becomes increasingly restrictive for her Jewish family, with more soldiers, curfews, and finally martial law being declared. Her best friend's brother, Niels, is angry that his father doesn't seem to notice what is happening and upset that his friend Emil admires and imitates the Nazis, so he joins the resistance. When Julie learns that the Germans plan a roundup of all the Jews in Denmark, she must warn her family and make plans for everyone to go into hiding. At the same time, Niels absorbs new knowledge about his father's involvement in the resistance movement and confronts Emil about his beliefs and actions. Also included are letters a soldier writes home to his liebe Mutti (beloved Mother) about the glorious victory the Germans expect to have and entries from a diary kept by Niels's sister, who records her growing love for a Jewish farming student. The dangers of the time are never far from the surface, and the story has immediacy because of the feelings readers will have for the characters. A must-add for all collections, this compelling book can be paired with Johanna Reiss's The Upstairs Room (HarperCollins, 1972) or Lois Lowry's Number the Stars (Houghton, 1989) for maximum impact.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.