In 1940, Hendrik is a typical 12-year-old Dutch boy. The son of a fisherman, Hendrik loves the sea. His life revolves around family, school, and friends. Until the Nazis step in. The Righteous Smuggler offers a child’s perspective on the Nazi invasion of Holland. Through Hendrik’s eyes, readers learn how the Nazis infiltrate every part of the Dutch community. Young Hendrik’s sense of dismay is evident as he sees the mistreatment of his Jewish friends. Hendrick is a fully developed character, a boy whose values are tested as he responds to the evil in his world. Hendrik’s emotions are genuine and believable. He seeks not to be a hero, but to help his friends.
Ultimately, Hendrik and his father risk their own lives to smuggle Jews out of Holland on their fishing boat. There is a fair amount of suspense and adventure, which will appeal to both boys and girls. The author has carefully crafted this historical fiction, with a satisfying ending, including photos that bring the story to life.
Like Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, this book honors non-Jews who saved lives during the Holocaust. The Righteous Smuggler can provide a springboard for discussions about the Holocaust, as well as other themes such as peer pressure, loyalty, and choosing good over evil. This book belongs in every school library.
Highly recommended for ages 8 – 12.