Monday, September 11, 2017

MMGM: Mari’s Hope

Don't you just love this cover? It just exudes hope!
While I love the modern books I’ve discovered that very few have the kind of characters that I think of as friends. As a child, Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, and Betsy Ray (of Betsy-Tacy fame) were not just characters to me; they were real people. So much of why I became a children’s writer and still read children's books is because of those books. When my friends didn’t understand me, Anne or Betsy did.

In the vein of those beloved classics is a modern series that has the same effect on me. In the Odin’s Promise series, Mari, a girl resisting the Nazis during the Norwegian occupation, is a valiant successor to my favorite characters of old. I’ve enjoyed not only reading Mari’s journey, but supporting its author, Sandy Brehl, through the whole series. So, with sadness I’ve finished the last book, but this is a series I won’t soon forget.

The synopsis (from Goodreads):

Mari’s Hope delivers the dramatic conclusion to the middle-grade historical fiction trilogy begun with Odin’s Promise, awarded the 2014 Midwest Book Award for Children’s Fiction, and Bjorn’s Gift (released in 2016).

In Mari’s Hope, set in a small village in occupied western Norway in the final years of World War II, young Mari has become a valued helper to the village doctor. She also plays a role in her family’s efforts in the local resistance, despite everpresent dangers, especially from the snooping soldier called Goatman and from Leif, her one-time school friend, now a German collaborator.

As the German war efforts falter, the pressure increases on the occupying troops to hold Norway firmly in their grip. But freedom-loving Norwegians will do their best to thwart those plans.

What to love:

1. Getting to spend time with people characters we love. The wonderful thing about reading the last book in a series is that you already know the characters so well. We get to see Mari, her parents, Besternor (her Norwegian grandmother), the various townspeople we’ve grown to love, the enigmatic Leif, Goatman, and many others.

2. An opening ending. Normally I don’t like open endings, but this fit this particular story—and one storyline that ran through the whole series. It fit Mari’s character so well, and had this book ended in a more typical way, I wouldn’t love her or this book quite so much.

3.  A main character who never whines. A lot of historical novels have a heroine who complains about her lot, as if she's been transported from modern times. Mari is completely different, and that’s what makes her historically authentic. Like many people in the World War II generation, Mari faces circumstances far more difficult than I can imagine, yet she never feels sorry for herself.

4.  A girl who is more focused on family than romance. I love, love this about Mari. Many of my friends who have daughters complain that so many books for kids, especially those marketed to girls, have romance as a strong theme. It’s refreshing to see that Mari’s focus is on saving her family and culture.

5.  Humor. I love throughout the series, but especially in this book, the small doses of humor, especially when it comes to thwarting the Nazis—priceless!

6.  (Because I can’t just stick to 5) Details. This is what reminds me of Little House or Anne of Green Gables. Brehl spends a lot of time giving us a lot of details about the daily life: the foods, the herbs used for medicine, the school day, train travel, etc. It is all lovingly done, and it makes you feel right there with Mari through it all.

 If you love books with strong, but quiet heroines, little known aspects of World War II, or character-driven historicals, you will love this series. Check out MARI’S HOPE, but if you haven’t read ODIN’S PROMISE or BJORN’S GIFT, get ye to a bookstore now!

A little bit about Sandy:

Sandy Brehl is the award-winning author of a Norway historical trilogy for ages ten-thru-adult. (ODIN’S PROMISE, BJORN’S GIFT, and MARI’S HOPE) She also writes a blog about picture books ( and contributes to a blog about historical works from middle grade readers ( She’s an active member and volunteer with SCBWI-Wisconsin. Sandy writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young readers of any age. A retired educator living in the Milwaukee area, Sandy offers programs for schools, libraries, and adult groups. Learn more at, follow on Twitter @SandyBrehl and @PBWorkshop, and on Facebook: Sandy Brehl Author. 

Have you read any books with memorable characters lately?

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reads, please go to Shannon Messenger's website.