Written by Paul Dowswell
Published by Bloomsbury
Publication date: 24th August 2017
Age range: 13 +
Summary (from Goodreads):
It is July 1945, Hitler’s Third Reich has fallen, and Berlin is in ruins. Living on the edge of survival in the cellar of an abandoned hospital, Otto and his ragtag gang of kids have banded together in the desperate, bombed-out city.
The war may be over, but danger lurks in the shadows of the wreckage as Otto and his friends find themselves caught between invading armies, ruthless rival gangs and a strange Nazi war criminal who stalks them …
A climactic story of truth, friendship and survival against the odds, Wolf Children will thrill readers of Michael Morpurgo and John Boyne.
Otto laid out his stash carefully on the floor. There were twelve. Not bad for a night’s work.The gaudy blue tins, with their American words, seemed like objects from an unimaginable world of plenty. A world where people were safe to go about their everyday lives and always had enough to eat. For a moment he was struck with a deep longing to be somewhere as safe as that in the world. To wake up in the morning and know that his life was not in danger and he would have enough to eat for the day. Where was like that? America, certainly. Canada, Australia? He had been born in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
I previously enjoyed Dowsell’s book, Auslander, so was quick to request this when I saw it on Netgalley. The story follows a group of children, trying to survive and create some semblance of normalcy in Russian-occupied Berlin. Each of the characters is strong, though some get more development than others. At the centre of the book is the struggle Ulrich faces trying to reconcile his teachings in the Hitler Youth with the reality he is living in. If what he was taught is untrue, it paints his past actions in an unfavourable light…therefore the Nazi ideals must be true. Otto, his older brother, with whom he has a rather strained relationship, was never so firmly entrenched in his Nazi beliefs so has already re-evaluated the world and found Hitler’s ideology lacking. Ulrich, on the other hand, clings desperately to the certainty of the ‘Master Race Ascendancy’ when everything else he has know has fallen apart.
This would be an interesting addition to a collection of books looking at the experiences of children on all sides during World War II.
On the night after that raid the Roths came out of their basement shelter at first light, and Otto could now remember that more clearly than the awful blur of the fighting he had just lived through. It had been a beautiful spring morning, blue sky hazy with the first heat of the day, but with a thin film of dust hanging in the air and covering everything around them. What had really shocked him had been the bare trees. That previous evening they had been covered in luminous cherry blossom, now blown off in a single brutal moment.
What I liked: The perspective of the effects of the war on ordinary people living n Berlin, particularly the children struggling to survive. The juxtaposition of the beauty of life and the horrors of war and the unexpectedness of tragedy.
Even better if: I felt that the ending as quite abrupt – I would have liked to see more of Ulrich’s response to the post-war period, particularly as he was still struggling to change his views.
How you could use it in your classroom: It would be an interesting read for anyone studying the Second World War; although it does not ‘teach’ much of what happened, it provides a viewpoint that many may not have considered by showing how children in Berlin would have been affected by events happening in other parts of the world.
(Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for my review copy)