Kurt’s older brother, Albert, is a member of the Edelweiss Pirates, a group of young people who are dedicated to resisting Hitler’s edicts. Hitler has outlawed jazz music, so the Edelweiss Pirates play it every chance they get. Kurt, who plays the trumpet, asks if he can join the group; Albert refuses but gives him a Louis Armstrong record, which Kurt and his Jewish classmate, Fritz, listen to so much, they can eventually play by ear. At school, Kurt witnesses Fritz’s growing degradations. Finally, at the band concert, Kurt is instructed to play a piece by Wagner, Hitler’s favorite composer. Instead, he breaks out with a riff on Armstrong’s “Saint Louis Blues.” After the concert, he receives a note from Albert with his new code name: “Blues.” Kurt is finally a member of the Edelweiss Pirates.
Like Elvgren’s The Whispering Town (2014), this Jewish story is told from the perspective of non-Jews. The author uses music to demonstrate the increasing loss of freedom suffered during the Holocaust. Her book also weaves a tightly crafted narrative, using first-person point of view and present tense, based on the powerful picture-book formula of threes: Kurt asks to join the Pirates three times, and is shown learning three different subjects at school.
The color palette and style of Stamatiadi’s illustrations effectively evoke the 1930s. Back matter explains the real Edelweiss Pirates, a brave corps of some 5,000 teenagers who defied Nazi Germany and the Hitler Youth.
Barbara Krasner is the author of many books across genres, including fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civilian Casualties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosenberg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Golda Meir’s First Crusade was a recipient of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holocaust and genocide studies from Gratz College, teaches in the Holocaust and genocide studies program at the College of New Jersey, and serves as director of the Mercer County Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Center. She also holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.