Review Blog

Jun 27 2012

Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French

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Angus and Robertson, 2012; 311 pages; p/b. ISBN 9780732292096.
(Ages 14+) Highly recommended. From its opening pages, Pennies for Hitler will hold the young (and not-so-young) reader within its grasp. Pennies for Hitler is the latest in Jackie French's impressive list of works, and again she does not disappoint. For those familiar with her bestselling novel Hitler's Daughter, Pennies for Hitler is its companion piece. French tells her story with artistry, and with such poignant sensitivity for the small boy Georg, the reader cannot help being drawn into his world.
Georg is the only child of his English academic father and German mother. It is 1939 and he is happy attending the Adolf Hitler Schule in Alfhausen - meanwhile Hitler is amassing his troops to the cries of Heil Hitler. On graduation day at his father's University, Georg learns that his great-grandfather was a Jew, and he witnesses the death of his own father. Unwittingly he is caught in the rising power and terror of Nazi Germany. His mother arranges an escape from Germany that enables Georg to reach England and the relative safety of his auntie's home in London.
However hatred has long arms, and this child who has already lost so much, is soon facing a familiar foe in a new environment. Georg buries his German origins deep within, and eventually, after surviving the London blitz, he prepares for a journey across dangerous waters to Australia. Soon however, a new foe emerges providing Georg with a new perspective. Two years older, and not wishing to run anymore, he learns a life lesson.
This novel highlights the hardships, hatred and horrors of war. Jackie French weaves her story through these sensitive waters admirably. While factual incidents have been her inspiration, it is a work of fiction nonetheless. In the author's notes, French has included background information supporting the origins of some of the scenes used in her narrative. I highly recommend this novel for middle and senior school students of history and literature.
Colleen Tuovinen

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