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The Boy Who Dared

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Published by Scholastic, 2008
202 pages
ISBN: 978-0-439-68013-4

Age 12 and older

Podcast featuring this book

Helmuth Hübener was just 17 when he was charged with high treason and executed by the Nazis. His crime was listening to enemy radio broadcasts on an illegal radio, and spreading the news by typing up reports of what he had heard and, along with two friends, secretly distributing copies around Hamburg. As the novel opens, he is alone in a prison cell, awaiting his execution. Through flashbacks, we learn the story of his short life: about his family, his spiritual life as a member of the LDS church, his school years, his involvement in the Jungfolk, and his boyish interest in detective work. He has a complicated relationship with his new stepfather, a rigid Nazi sympathizer who, for some reason, makes Helmuth’s mother happy. He’s an inquisitive and intelligent boy so when he begins to question the propaganda they are being fed in school, and is chastised for it, he seeks answers from another source: the radio his older brother has locked away in a closet to avoid breaking the new Radio Law. Helmuth begins to listen to it in secret at night when everyone else is asleep. He is shocked by what he hears, and wants other Germans to know they’re being lied to. Helmuth’s acts of courage and resistance led to him being the youngest German citizen to be executed by the Nazis. Susan Campbell Bartoletti first learned of Hübener when she was doing research for her book Hitler Youth (Scholastic, 2005), and further research – much of it primary research that included interviews with Helmuth’s friends and family – led to a full-length novel. Bartoletti accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of building dramatic tension in a story whose outcome we know from page one. Still, we read on, hoping that somehow there will be a different ending. There never will be, but at least Helmuth’s questioning voice is still being heard in the pages of this compelling novel. (KTH) ©2008 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


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