We Are Wolves

We Are Wolves cover
We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad

By Katrina Nannestad
A Caitlin Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2022
304 pages

Ages 9-12

Wolfskinder, German children left to survive in East Prussia after World War II, are the lesser-known subject of this moving historical novel. As the story opens on the aptly named Wolf family, Papa has been called to war. Germany is losing, but 11-year-old Liesl, seven-year-old Otto, and toddler Mia don’t know that. Soon after Papa is reported missing in action, Russian soldiers invade and the Wolfs flee their village. They hope to cross the frozen Vistula Lagoon and reach a ship that can take them to safety, but the children are separated from Mama during a Russian attack. Liesl, Otto, and little Mia take temporary shelter in an abandoned farmhouse before Russian soldiers find them and take the children to their camp. Liesl and Otto work in exchange for food. But when one soldier expresses interest in taking Mia home with him, the children run. Scavenging for food, constantly near starvation, Liesl worries that she and her siblings have become “wild.” Eventually, the three make their way to Lithuania. They’re taken in by a couple who nurse them back to health, but this good fortune comes at a cost: They must give up their German identities and learn to speak Lithuanian if they want to survive. This sensitive survival story that shines a spotlight on the humanity of the many children behind the “Wolfskinder” label offers the fictional family at its heart welcome relief by tale’s close.  ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center