This was a title I won recently from Suzanne Warr. But even if I hadn’t, I would’ve picked up this book. I have Norwegian heritage, so I'm fascinated by books set in Norway. But the fact that this was about the Nazi occupation--a part of World War II history I knew little about--made this a must read.
Here’s the synopsis:
ODIN'S PROMISE is a historical novel for middle-grade readers, a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway in World War II as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked under the wings of her parents, grandma, and older siblings. After Hitler's troops invade Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her "little girl" nickname to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. As the year progresses, Mari, her family, and her neighbors are drawn into the activities of the Norwegian underground resistance.
What I loved about this book:
--Mari, the main character, is not like most historical fiction characters I’ve met. She’s shy. I loved how Behr used Mari’s shyness as an advantage, rather than something that she needed to get over. Mari also had an innocence about her that was really appealing. She didn’t want to be the “little one” anymore, but she was still a child and enjoyed being a baby at times. I found this very refreshing, since it’s almost become a cliché for historical main characters to be feisty and spunky and not at all like their times.
--Family: You might be able to tell from previous MMGM posts that I’m a sucker for stories where family is central to the story. Mari solves her own problems, but her family is a great support to her and a source of wisdom. I loved how her family interacted: parents, grandparents, siblings in this book. It truly was lovely and inspiring.
--Handling of difficult themes—You would think that a book about the German occupation would be violent. There is a small amount of violence, but it is not gratuitous. This is not a book showing the grim reality of war. It’s more a book about how one family, one community, and one child find a way to resist evil. It is a story about finding the good in the midst of the bad. Because of that focus, I think this book would be appropriate for kids on the younger end of the middle grade age range and would also make a good read aloud or addition to a study about World War II.
If you like classic, old-fashioned books with memorable characters, check it out. I think fans of the Little House series and Number the Stars (Lois Lowry) would love this book.
To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.