Told from the perspective of Rudi, a Jewish nine-year-old boy living in Frankfurt, Germany, this is a Holocaust survival story with a twist; the protagonist has a dog and he wishes to save the dog’s life along with his own.
It’s 1939 and Rudi’s parents make the painful decision that in order to save the lives of Rudi and his sister, they must send them to live with families in England where they will be safe from the Nazis. Rudi, though, is very worried about his dog, Hanno. He is worried about Hanno’s safety and survival just the way his parents are worried about his. He knows he will not be able to take Hanno along with him when he departs for England.
Amazingly, the family finds a non-Jewish man who is willing to help. This man volunteers to take the dog to England for Rudi. After a six-month period of quarantine for the dog, Rudi will, he hopes, be able to reclaim Hanno.
Rudi is taken to live with a non-Jewish, childless, loving family in London, however his fifteen-year-old sister does not fare quite as well. Although now safe from the Nazis, she has become a maid for the family who has agreed to take her in. The only comfort is that she is housed close to Rudi so that on her days off they can see one another. Due to the kindness of the people he lives with, Rudi makes an excellent adjustment and, after the designated period of time, Hanno is returned to him. Then Britain declares war on Germany. Everyone prepares for war and, and Rudi must problem solve once again to make sure his dog stays safe and to prevent him from becoming euthanized as were many pets of the time.
Readers will be exposed to the cruelty of the Nazis and the deprivations the Jews endured, but, although the story’s background information is factual, there are no graphic scenes of violence. They will admire Rudi’s loyalty to his dog and his creative efforts on the dog’s behalf. Children who are bonded to their pets, as well as other sympathetic animal lovers, will appreciate Rudi’s love of Hanno and the efforts he makes to save him, and will understand that war is a painful and complicated time.
There is a useful appended author’s note which presents further background about the time and place in which the story is set and puts the events of the story into historical perspective, as well as giving added information about some of the actual events on which the story is based.