"In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, 12-year-old ani unexpectedly gets drawn into a network of underground rebels working to thwart Franco's efforts to destroy the Basque people's way of life. . . . Exciting." -- SLJ
Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. For the first time, she's making a difference in the world.
And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.
Gonzalez (The Red Umbrella) stages a fast-paced historical thriller against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Insecure, friendless, and nicknamed Sardine Girl because of her job, 12-year-old Ani fears she will always be powerless and insignificant in her Basque town of Guernica. This changes when she meets the magnetic and challenging Mathias, a Jewish boy who has moved to town. When Ani and Mathias overhear the plans of his father and a band of spies, they volunteer to join the resistance and fight for Spain by delivering sardines with secret messages. Though at times excessively complicated, the spy story line is riveting, and the friendship and tentative romance between Ani and Mathias develops credibly. Despite the geographical and historical distance from readers, Ani is relatable as she battles with her bitter mother and struggles to identify her own desires and values. Gonzalez escalates the tension as Nazis bomb Guernica and conveys the magnitude of personal and universal loss, leading Ani to forge a future in war a path she claims with grace and fortitude. Ages 10 up.