Growing up is hard enough without the weight of war. By August 1941, Mari has been living in Nazi-occupied Norway for over a year but she’s far from forgotten the happier times before her siblings left home and the unwanted soldiers began arriving.
Set in the small village of Ytre Arne during World War II, this sequel to Odin’s Promise explores how Mari and those around her must either adjust to the New Norway or rebel at great risk. And not everyone is of like mind on how best to survive.
When her classmate, Leif, joins the Unghird (Nazi youth corps), Mari creates distance between them, but struggles to interpret his motives when Leif repeatedly tries to regain her friendship and questions Mari’s choices.
Is it childish to stick to ideals rather than make the best of things, as Leif has done? Is it wishful thinking, or warranted hope, to believe that the occupation will soon end? “I wonder what becoming a teenager feels like when there’s not a war going on,” Mari thinks, and grapples to understand her place by taking on responsibilities for which she is not sure she’s ready, but which she is certain are needed.
A soft-spoken yet moving depiction of life under siege, Bjorn’s Gift offers a lesser-told narrative of the Nazi era that opens the reader to another history and rich culture that faced the threat of extinction. For as Mari herself explains: “Every voice must be heard when Norway is finally ours again.”
Recommended for ages 9 to 13.