My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith

It’s the summer of 1941 in Germany, and 11 year old Karl Friedmann is training to be a soldier for the Fürher in the Deutsches Jungvolk. He believes in Hitler, in the war and in being a good German. He will follow in his Papa’s footsteps and fight the enemy as soon as he’s old enough.

Then, on his 12th birthday, as he’s about to open his present, there’s a knock at the door. His Mama returns with a letter, and just like that, his birthday is over, and his life changed. His Papa is dead. The family move out of the city to live with his grandparents. A brief encounter with the Kriminalinspektor, a new friend and his family’s halting conversations start him questioning what he believes in, as he witnesses for himself that not everything about Nazi Germany is what his teachers and Nazi Youth Leaders have taught him. Maybe his brother, Stefan, isn’t just a trouble maker, maybe he has a point…

A fast-paced adventure with unrelenting action, Karl’s story immerses you into the day to day life of a family Germany during World War II, and the pressures it put on families and neighbours as the Gestapo’s grip tightened. At times, deeply uncomfortable, at others horrifying, Dan Smith takes you on a journey through a whole host of emotions from love and grief to hate and despair. It also offers a fascinating insight into the Edelweiss Pirates, a group opposed to the Nazi regime.

This book demonstrates so clearly the need to question, and not blindly believe what we are told by those in power, to trust our own moral compass when we feel that something isn’t right but are told that it is, and keep questioning until we know enough facts to form our own opinions. That’s a message I definitely want to share with my class.

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Great for fans of John Boyne, Robert Westall, and Michael Morpurgo.

Thank you so much Dan for sending me this book for my bookshelf at school. There has been a lot of nagging by children as to when they can get their hands on it. The answer is, now! And, it will make them smarter…

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