“Faith, without action, is no faith at all. Love, without sacrifice, is no love at all.”
What books inspire you on a profound level, maybe even on a spiritual level? I am of the belief that stories have the capacity to change the reader from the inside out.
If you are familiar with this blog and my research, you might remember one idea I propose. Reading and responding to books for young readers is one way to nurture our spirituality as adults. And this is exactly what happened as I read Faithful Spy, a nonfiction text with amazing graphics by John Hendrix.
DIETRICH BONHOEFFR, SPY IN THE RESISTANCE
This moving story depicts the courageous life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who spoke out and took a stand for justice during the dark era in WWII Germany when the Nazis were in power. This is a true story about someone incredibly interesting. And Bonhoeffer was a member of the Resistance, a spy, a pastor, and ethical thinker! The text includes direct quotations from Bonhoeffer himself, adding a rich dimension to a well-researched biography. Take a look at the illustrations in this one. You will probably be mesmerized!
Something else I love about this book is the way the author charts the journey of Bonhoeffer as he realizes he must alter his life in order to truly take a stand for what he believes.
Bonhoeffer recognizes that what the Nazis are doing is wrong and his life choices reflect amazing conviction and courage. As a result, he works to convince others to do the same. Like Bonhoeffer, we can confront injustice in the ways we are able, but maybe this stand for justice can be even more effective when in the context of community.
Hendrix provides a well-needed book for today’s young readers, and I’m interested to know what other readers think about Bonhoeffer’s life and the way he took a stand in the face of evil and hatred.
A YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalist, this young adult text is engaging and inspiring. So, once you open this book, you might not be able to put it down until you’ve turned the last page. Faithful Spy, like many other books for young readers, reinforces to me that adult readers also have opportunities to be inspired and grow in compassion and wisdom.
What books for younger readers have inspired you? Are there other biographies or autobiographies for young readers that you would recommend? If so, tell me about them!
I’m excited and honored to host one of my favorite YA authors to work with–Anne Blankman–again on the blog for an Exclusive Interview featuring the NINE MOST INTERESTING FACTS she uncovered during her research for her books that you won’t find anywhere else. Enjoy! (Warning: Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my review of CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE and I’ll be giving away one copy of the book!!)
From Anne: One of my favorite parts of writing historical fiction is doing research. Sometimes, though, it’s the most frustrating—especially when I find a fascinating detail I can’t use. Maybe my character wouldn’t know the information, or it’s an event that occurs after my story’s time frame. I ran into this problem a lot while working on Prisoner of Night and Fog and its sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (out on April 21st!). So today I’ve decided to share the top nine most interesting facts I uncovered that didn’t make it into the books.
In Prisoner of Night and Fog, Gretchen, the main character, learns that Adolf Hitler lived in Vienna when he was a teenager, but she can’t find out anything about his time there. The reason Hitler shrouded his Vienna years in secrecy? For part of them, he was homeless.
Hitler’s father was born Alois Schicklgruber. When he was forty, he took on his adoptive father’s last name, Hiedler, which somehow ended up as Hitler.
Hitler’s half-nephew, Patrick, loathed his uncle and immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. During World War Two, he fought for the U.S. Navy.
Patrick’s younger half-brother was Hans Hitler (they had the same father, Hitler’s older half-brother, Alois, Jr.) Hans fought for Germany. He was captured by Russian forces and allegedly tortured to death.
Currently, Patrick’s sons live under new names in the United States. As young men, they vowed not to have children, believing the Hitler line should die out with them.
During the 1920s, Germany suddenly experienced a surge in serial killers. Infamous examples include Carl Grossmann, Fritz Haarmann, aka the “Butcher of Hanover,” and Peter Kürten, the “Vampire of Düsseldorf.”
A minor character in Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke is “Iron Fist” Friedrich Walter, the head of a Ringverein, the gangs in Berlin’s organized criminal underworld. Iron Fist may be fictitious, but he was inspired by a real-life gangster, “Muscle Adolf” Lieb. Muscle Adolf spent about a decade in various concentration camps and, amazingly, managed to survive the war. By the 1950s, he was once again committing crimes, such as robbery and fraud schemes.
Hitler’s favorite movie was King Kong.
This isn’t a historical fact, but it is a secret that was never revealed in either Prisoner or Conspiracy: In both of these books, there’s a hidden meaning behind each of the fictional characters’ names. For example, remember Gretchen’s sadistic Nazi brother, Reinhard? His name means “fox.” And Adolf means “sacred wolf.” I wanted to tie these two predatory characters together. Think you can figure out the secrets behind the other fictional characters’ names?
Did any of you know that Hitler’s favorite movie was King Kong?
And imagine that the sons of Hiter’s nephews live in the U.S. under new names?!? Fascinating!
So we have some of our own “research” we can dive into with the names of the characters. I love that Anne infused such significance into the character names.
Thank you for sharing these interesting facts you uncovered, Anne! As usual, it’s a pleasure to host you on the blog.
If you missed the first time Anne visited Bookish Illuminations, you can see that post here.
You can also read my review of Prisoner of Night and Fog here.
BIO: Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn’t writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
After earning a master’s degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she’s not writing young adult fiction, she’s playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.
Anne Blankman is the author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, the first in a three-book deal slated for publication on April 22, 2014 from Balzer + Bray | HarperCollins. The sequel, CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE, comes out on April 21, 2015, and a standalone novel will be released in 2016. Anne is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.
Published by Harper Collins on April 22nd 2014
Genres: Europe, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, People & Places, Social Issues, Young Adult
Suggested age range: 13 and up
The Book: Gretchen is living in 1930s Munich—a time of rapid change, uncertainty, and darkness. Though her father is dead and she misses him terribly, Gretchen goes to school and dreams of one day becoming a doctor. She is adored by her “Uncle Dolf”, a close family friend…who just happens to be Hitler. And he is growing in power. It isn’t until Gretchen receives a message from a Jewish reporter about her father’s death that she begins to question all she has been led to believe about Uncle Dolf and what is happening in Germany. What begins as a search for information about what happened to her father turns into a dangerous and risky adventure that will affect Gretchen and her family far more than she thought.
Spirituality in Prisoner of Night and Fog: One reason why I appreciate books set during World War II so much is because of the way these stories often illuminate the simple bravery, compassion, and love found within people. Though there is also the very real juxtaposition of the battle between good and evil in such stories, these books highlight how people make sacrifices for one another, sometimes even for people they don’t know, because it is simply “the right thing to do.” This story expertly depicts how a person might be raised with a particular worldview, but that perspective can either deepen or change as other viewpoints come into focus. Gretchen’s character reflects someone who desires to connect meaningfully with others, and is not afraid to go after what is right.
Who Should Read This Book: If you liked The Book Thief or Code Name Verity or just a good historical novel with intrigue, suspense, and some romance, you should certainly pick up this new release by Blankman. I read this in one afternoon, and was thinking about the book for several days afterwards. What would it have been like to be a family member or close friend of Hitler’s? From the first page, readers will be drawn into an exciting story set within a turbulent and significant time in history.
The Final Word: I loved this book! It was one of my highly anticipated releases by a debut author for 2014, and I was not disappointed. I read the book as part of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and I would have read it all in one day, even if I hadn’t participated in the read-a-thon. The pace of the story was perfect, and the development of Gretchen’s character was not too rushed. I was very interested in her as a character—Blankman has created a female protagonist whose story I am anxious to know about when the next installment is released.