You will long remember The Boy Who Dared

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; published by Scholastic, Inc., New York, 2008; 165 pages.

Helmuth Hubener, the illegitimate son of a poor German woman, grew up in the frenzy that led up to Hitler’s reign of terror.  He, his friends and his half-brothers were taught from birth to support the Fatherland.  But his faith in God superseded all thoughts of patriotism.  When Hitler’s campaigns against the Jews in Germany extended into Europe, Helmuth questioned the information he was being fed by the government and found ways to uncover the truth for himself. His superior intelligence and deep religious foundation gave the impulsive teenager strength to speak out for the truth and for justice.  Although he was captured, tortured and imprisoned by the Gestapo, he never lost his faith in man or God.  Even though he was executed at age 17, his selfless actions live into eternity as a beacon of hope for all who suffer injustice.  Bartoletti sums up the book in the final line of her author’s note: “Helmuth Hubener is a boy who dared to speak out for the truth.”

Historical fiction is a hard sell with teens.  I was lucky enough to participate in a middle school book discussion group last year (thanks, Mrs. Tulloss) and the only book the students did not enjoy was historical fiction.  With a little coaxing, I think this book would be interesting to teens, but I don’t think they would recommend it to each other nor would they choose to read it for entertainment.

Middle school students in my school district (in Ohio) are required to do a unit on the Holocaust.  Even more study is required in ninth grade.  This book would make a terrific cross-curricular piece to use in language arts, to correlate with the social studies unit.  It is beautifully written, using fiction to expand on facts of the Holocaust, as well as the impact of hope, faith and courage.  Bartoletti has included information literacy resources at the end of the book: an author’s note that describes the differences between historical fiction and nonfiction, and includes primary source information, such as the people she interviewed and photographs of Hubener and other “characters” from her story; a Third Reich time line; the web address of a teaching guide; and a bibliography.  These are terrific tools to incorporate information literacy lessons with the language arts and social studies curricula.  Also, I believe that this book is at a reading level that is closer to upper elementary into middle school.  However, given the beautiful way in which the author addresses the subject matter, I would recommend it for high school students who are doing a unit on the Holocaust.

 3P     4Q     Grades 7-9

boy_who_daredCover Art:  For students that read Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children Series, or have read other Holocaust books for social studies classes, this cover of haunting eyes peering through a peephole of a locked door will either be intrigued or turned off, depending on their reactions to the genre.  The spine, with “Dared” in red type and the rest of the title set in white on a dark background will certainly stand out on the shelves.

From Reading List: The Way It Was (Historical Fiction)


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