Hitler’s Canary

October 28, 2007

Bamse is a young Danish boy who is forced to grow up quickly. Bamse comes from a family of theater people. His mother is a famous actress, his father is a talented set designer and up until now he has lived in a wonderful world of make-believe. But there is nothing make believe about the Nazis who now rule the streets of Denmark or the fear that his Jewish friend feels. Bamse own family is torn on how to proceed. Should he lay low like his Mother and Father suggest and keep a low profile to protect his family?Or, like his older brother is doing, should he risk everything and take a stand against the German invaders? Nothing is clear to Bamse anymore. The one thing that Bamse is beginning to understand is perhaps the most confusing thing of all-that not all of the Germans are bad and not all of the Danes are good. There are just some good people and some bad people, and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference.

Will Bamse be able to make the decisions necessary to save both his family and his friends? Based on a true story Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig is both a funny and gripping novel about the extraordinary courage it takes to survive.

Begin the booktalk by reading from opening pages of the book:
Before the War…the evenings lingered longer, and it was always summer when it wasn’t Halloween, or Christmas. Long, lazy light reached between the houses, and the whole street played our version of hide-and-seek, called only by olly-olly-in-free and supper time. Before I could keep up, I rode my brother’s shoulders, hung in the crook of Dad’s good arm. I rode them across the long shadows of afternoon, high over hedges, heading for home base, when our street was the world, before the war, when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”

When America enters WWII life changes drastically for Davy Boman. Instead of playing in the street, the neighborhood children spend their time collecting for the war effort. The blue star that hangs in Davey’s window means someone in his family is away fighting in the war. There is also his new teacher Miss Eulilia Tulis who happens to look like, “a walnut with a mustache” and the pranks that are played on his friends and his neighbors. A a cast of odd ball characters and outrageous situations keep the adventures and misadventures of Davey Bowman from being anything but mundane as everyone waits to see who will safely return home from the war. On The Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck.

Its 1943, there’s a war going on, and Dewey Kerrigan lives in a place that “officially doesn’t exist.” She lives on “The Hill” with her mathematician father who is working with scientists from all over the world, racing to invent “the gadget”- a secret weapon that will end the war. Dewey enjoys life on the hill despite the fact that she is shunned by most of the children her own age. Most of the girls she knows call her “Screwy Dewy” and can’t understand why she would want to spend so much time with her nose buried in a book called “The Boy Mechanic.” Dewey enjoys inventing things on her own, and spends most of her time in the company of both boys and men who share her interest in building and inventing things.  Things become a bit more complicated for Dewey when she is forced to live with Suze, a girl in her class who tries too hard to fit in and often makes fun of Dewey as a way of getting attention.   But Suze and Dewey aren’t the only ones who are being forced to make adjustments.  Life for everyone on The Hill intensifies as the grownups race to finish the gadget, and everyone faces difficult questions of their own.
Can Suze and Dewey learn to become friends? Will the Gadget work and if it does, what will happen? People are saying that when “the gadget” is tested the air will catch on fire. Will it? With all that is going on around them, how will Suze and Dewey cope with the information they receive on the afternoon that everything changed?
Read from the book pg 225.

“Girls, sit down,” Mrs. Gordon said, and her voice quavered. Suze had never heard her sound like that before. The sat, one on each chair, and Suze braced herself for the biggest lecture of her whole life. Then Oppie spoke.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. He held up a piece of flimsy yellow paper, a telegram. “There’s been an accident.”
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.

Imagine what it would be like if you, your family and all of your friends were suddenly forced to move. Imagine what it would be like if your new home was so crowded, and the living conditions were so terrible that 1 out of every 4 people you knew died.

Now, imagine that it was our government, the Government of the United States of America that had forced these horrible changes on you. What you are imaging did happen. It happened to the people of the Aleutian Islands. It is a dark and seldom shared moment in American History. The disturbing way that American’s treated some of their own people during WWII is revealed through heartbreaking verses in Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse.