When Teens Change the World: The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

BookendsLynn: Phillip Hoose’s new book, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club (2015), is a gripping, suspenseful read. Wonderfully constructed, documented, and nearly impossible to put down, this is one of those books that made me want to stop perfect strangers on the street just to share its fascinating information. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip HooseIt deserves every star it has garnered. The story itself has tremendous historical significance and, I believe, is little known in this country.  Public perception of Denmark, here at least, is of a small, brave, and beleaguered land that stood bravely up to Hitler without a moment’s hesitation. Hoose sets the less flattering facts on the table: its government, when faced with an ultimatum, capitulated without a shot being fired. And, even more troubling, some rejoiced and celebrated the new potential customers with open arms.

This is the story of Denmark’s eventual resistance and a group of cocky middle-school boys who led the way. If that weren’t compelling enough, the story is told both by Hoose and by Knud Pedersen, one of the original members of the Churchill Club, who sparked the resistance movement. Hoose was able to extensively interview Pedersen, who was then in his late 80s, exchanging thousands of emails with him. Pedersen’s sharp, determined voice adds an unforgettable element to this important account.

The boys in this book are quintessential middle-schoolers
and that reality radiates from every page.

This is a treasure for the classroom. The first-person sources, the careful documentation, the innumerable areas of discussion topics and the historical information are all presented in a story that will grab every teen’s attention. Teens on bikes—carrying weapons such as mortars—who stood up for a righteous cause when no adult would!

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell BartolettiI respect and admire this book tremendously. It is brilliantly crafted in every way and I learned so much through the reading. It touched me in another way that relates to my many years teaching middle-school age kids. The boys in this book are quintessential middle-schoolers and that reality radiates from every page. Outraged by the adults’ capitulation, they were fueled by restless energy; a teen’s innate sense of immortality, cocky self-confidence, and naivete; and the secret thrill of defying authority. Those of us who work or live with teens see these qualities every day. How inspiring to be reminded that these very qualities can be used to change the world.

Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell BartolettiCindy: This book is chock full of booktalking points, including the frightening scene of a boy bicycling past a German checkpoint with rifles hidden under his pants and ammunition secreted in his shirt, making his cycling a bit awkward, to say the least. One of the most popular WWII historical fiction titles in my middle schools is Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s The Boy Who Dared (2008), based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, a German teen who staged his own resistance against Hitler after he learned what was really going on. Along with Bartoletti’s nonfiction 2006 Newbery Honor book Hitler Youth, Hoose’s book makes a perfect companion for students who want to know more about teens who risked everything to stand up for what they believed was right.




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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