Hitler’s Canary

San­di Toksvig
  • Review
By – April 2, 2012
This mid­dle-grade nov­el begins on the day the Ger­mans invade Den­mark, in April 1940. Ten-year-old Bamse, the youngest son of an actress and an artist, has grown up sur­round­ed by the­ater peo­ple; his mother’s response to the German’s arrival in Copen­hagen is we must change at once.” Bamse and his best friend, Anton, a Jew, amuse them­selves play­ing tricks on the Ger­man sol­diers. The sit­u­a­tion quick­ly becomes more seri­ous when his old­er broth­er, Orlan­do, joins the resis­tance and is increas­ing­ly involved in more dan­ger­ous activ­i­ties. Bamse’s father, on the oth­er hand, remains cau­tious of get­ting involved. One year after the Ger­mans invade, the British refer to the Danes as Hitler’s Canary,” imply­ing that they will sing any tune he wants.” But as the war in Europe esca­lates, Bamse and his fam­i­ly learn that pas­sive resis­tance is no longer an option. This inspir­ing sto­ry of an ordi­nary Dan­ish fam­i­ly ral­ly­ing togeth­er to save the lives of Dan­ish Jews is based on the author’s father’s expe­ri­ence dur­ing the war, and in her nov­el, San­di Toksvig brings to life a cast of cap­ti­vat­ing char­ac­ters that will remain with the read­er long after the final chap­ter. She expert­ly bal­ances the seri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion with humor and adven­ture, as she depicts the war through the eyes of a remark­ably brave boy. Ages 10 – 14.
Ali­son Kel­ly holds a B.A. in Amer­i­can His­to­ry from North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty and an MLS from UCLA. She is a librar­i­an at Stephen S. Wise Tem­ple Ele­men­tary School.

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