Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Girl in the Blue Coat--Shelf Awareness Pro

I had a new book review in Shelf Awareness Pro!

YA Review: Girl in the Blue Coat

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Little, Brown, $17.99 hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780316260602, April 5, 2016)

Girl in the Blue Coat by Washington Postjournalist Monica Hesse (Stray; Burn) is not only an intriguing missing persons case, it's a poignant, wonderfully crafted story of love and loss, courage and redemption. In 1943 Amsterdam, 18-year-old Hanneke Bakker--so blonde and green-eyed someone said she's "the girl Hitler is dreaming of to put on his Aryan posters"--trades in the Dutch black market to support her family.

Making deliveries on her secondhand bicycle, Hanneke finds and sells goods such as tea and cigarettes that are hard to come by now that the German Green Police occupy the city. Hanneke's heart has hardened since her boyfriend, Bas, died at the hands of the Nazis she encouraged him to fight, and she is missing her best friend, Elsbeth, who married into the Gestapo. So when elderly Mrs. Janssen begs her to find a missing Jewish girl named Mirjam Roodveldt, a 15-year-old she had been hiding in her pantry, Hanneke surprises herself by reluctantly agreeing to help: "That action is soft; I am practical. That action is hopeful; I am not," she thinks.

Once she commits to helping Mrs. Janssen, however, Hanneke becomes obsessed with finding clues about the girl in a blue coat "the color of the sky," who apparently disappeared into thin air. When she goes to the Jewish Lyceum to investigate where Mirjam went to school, Hanneke is confronted by memories of her own carefree days at school, a life which has since been "demolished, brick by brick." With that one dangerously high-profile act, she becomes an accidental member of the "huge and sprawling" world of the Dutch resistance, and slowly her worldview broadens. There's Judith who smuggles food to Jewish prisoners; Mina who finds homes for Jewish babies and secretly photographs the German occupation; and a surprising number of Hanneke's neighbors who harbor Jews in hidden rooms, all forming an intricate web of underground activity that becomes apparent the deeper Hanneke digs.

Although Judith is initially scornful of Hanneke for being concerned only about the welfare of Mirjam and not the greater cause, it is by following the trail of "a scared girl, one of many" that Hanneke is slowly able to make sense of the horror, and the heroism, abundant in this war. As she says, "But maybe because, in a country that has come to make no sense, in a world I cannot solve, this is a small piece that I can." Hanneke does solve this mystery, and finds a way to heal. And she will touch readers' hearts, too. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI. Printed 3/8/16.

Shelf Talker: In this fine YA novel, the search for one missing Jewish girl in German-occupied Amsterdam makes 18-year-old Hanneke an accidental member of the Dutch resistance.

No comments:

Post a Comment