"My brother stood up so quickly he almost knocked Mama over. 'Why aren't you doing something? Do you know what the British are calling us? Hitler's canary! I've heard it on the radio, on the BBC. They say he has us in a cage and we just sit and sing any tune he wants.'"
Bamse's family are theater people. They don't get involved in politics. "it had nothing to do with us," Bamse tells us. Yet now he must decide: should he take his father's advice and not stir up trouble? Or should he follow his brother into the Resistance and take part in the most demanding role of his life?
In this insightful novel, Toksvig offers a unique glimpse of WWII, writing from the perspective of a 10-year-old Danish boy forced to grow up quickly. Bamse, the son of a famous stage actress and a talented set designer, has "lived in a make-believe world" until the spring of 1940 when Germany invades his country. In Copenhagen, Nazi soldiers now rule the streets, and native Danes begin to fear for their safety. Some, like Bamse's mother and father, try to keep a low profile in order to keep their loved ones safe. Others, like the boy's 16-year-old brother, refuse to act like "Hitler's Canary," and wish to take a stand against the invaders. When rumors spread that Jews are being taken from their homes, Bamse's entire family takes part in a resistance movement, hiding Jewish friends and later helping them escape. Based on true stories handed down to the author by her father, Toksvis's tale of courage in the face of tyranny sheds light on the difficult choices facing the Danish people and pays tribute to resisters (including some compassionate Germans), who make enormous sacrifices in order to save others' lives. Through the boy's narrative, readers witness his loss of innocence ("I knew my Danish history from school: for the first time in nine hundred years my homeland... was not free and independent"). The author thus brings to life the tensions in Denmark at a time when "it wasn't always easy to tell the difference" between the "good" and "bad" people. Ages 11-up. Agent: Nancy Gallt Literary Agency.
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Interesting account of Danish resistance to nazi occupation. Well written, easy reading. Would be a good read for an adult, too.