White Rose

  • Review
By – January 9, 2020

In lyri­cal and flow­ing free verse, author Kip Wil­son tells the sto­ry of young Ger­man Sophie Scholl. Sophie comes of age while the Nazis slow­ly and insid­i­ous­ly gain pow­er, chang­ing life as she knows it and inspir­ing her to fol­low her con­science to resist their ever-increas­ing influ­ence. Based close­ly on actu­al events, Wilson’s sto­ry presents a fright­en­ing pic­ture of a polar­iz­ing soci­ety with a coura­geous few will­ing to risk impris­on­ment and death in order to protest, but with many more either sup­port­ive of Hitler’s regime or too afraid to act.

The sto­ry trav­els back and forth in time, high­light­ing the grow­ing ter­ror, as well as Sophie’s matur­ing point of view. As events unfold, the read­er sees Sophie trans­form from an enthu­si­as­tic mem­ber of a Nazi youth group and Hitler sup­port­er, into a young woman inspired to activism in an ide­al­is­tic attempt to fight the grow­ing hor­ror. Sophie watch­es her Jew­ish friends and neigh­bors first face dis­crim­i­na­tion, then the vio­lence of Kristall­nacht, and even­tu­al­ly their steady dis­ap­pear­ance from Ger­many’s cities and towns. Rumors about where they have gone shock and ter­ri­fy her, rein­forc­ing her wish to be an agent of change.

In a futile attempt to rouse fel­low uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents and oth­ers to resist, Sophie, her broth­er Hans, and a few close friends estab­lish a resis­tance group under the name White Rose, to print and dis­trib­ute anti-Nazi leaflets on cam­pus and send them through the mail. When she is caught and forced to con­fess, she faces death brave­ly with the firm con­vic­tion that she has done what was right.

The author’s choice to tell the sto­ry through poet­ry reflects the beau­ty and opti­mism of Sophie’s ear­ly years in a warm and sup­port­ive fam­i­ly, her relent­less deter­mi­na­tion to make a dif­fer­ence, and, in con­trast, the grow­ing dark­ness sur­round­ing her.

An appen­dix updates the read­er about the fates of the par­tic­i­pants in Sophie’s sto­ry. There is also a glos­sary of Ger­man terms used in the book and an exten­sive author’s note which pro­vides his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive as well as expli­cates which events were com­plete­ly fac­tu­al and which required a bit of poet­ic license.

This sto­ry is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed — a dis­turb­ing and pow­er­ful recount­ing of a hor­rif­ic time in his­to­ry, it also presents a vivid and inspi­ra­tional role mod­el for read­ers to admire and emulate.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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