Heavy footsteps sounded on the tiles in the hallway. Then three soldiers entered the living room. They all wore torn green jackets with small red flags sewn onto their sleeves. They shouted in Russian. Fritz held Mama's hand and tried to stay as close to her as possible on the sofa. One of the soldiers broke the glass of the sideboard with the butt of his rifle, took out the bottle of brandy, drank from it, and passed it to the others. They rummaged through the china cabinet, throwing the plates on the floor. . . . Mama held his hand with a firm grip. Suddenly, one soldier pointed his rifle at them. "No " Mama screamed. Fritz held his breath. "Stojat " Lech stepped toward the middle of the room, holding his arms up. --FROM THE BOOK
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 54.
- Review Date: 2009-11-16
- Reviewer: Staff
Ten-year-old Fritz lives in a small village in eastern Germany toward the end of WWII. His father died years earlier in the war, leaving Fritz with his younger sister, mother, a Polish farmhand, and his paternal grandparents (his Grandpa Karl is a Nazi sympathizer). When news reaches the family that the Germans have lost, Fritz's grandparents hang themselves, and sensitive Fritz takes solace in tending to the vegetables in his family's garden until Russian soldiers arrive. Fritz struggles with his identity and what to believe—are the Russians truly the enemies his grandfather believed them to be?—when he befriends Mikhail, a Russian commander stationed at his farm. Things take a turn for the worse when the family is forced to move in with Fritz's maternal grandmother in another village after their farmland is redistricted, and his mother is arrested for purported weapon possession. With nuanced characters (Russian and German alike) and a cautiously hopeful ending, Schröder's well-crafted debut, inspired by her father's childhood in Germany, is especially attuned to her protagonist's internal conflicts and worries, and reveals alarming truths about the far-reaching effects of war. Ages 10–14. (Nov.)