Published by Tyndale on March 3, 2020
Genres: Children's, Fiction, Historical
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The story of one boy's quest to find his father and protect his younger sister during the great Dutch famine of World War II."Sometimes you have to take a chance, because it's the only chance you have."
Thirteen-year-old Dirk has been the man of the house since his papa disappeared while fighting against the Nazis with the Dutch Resistance. When the Gestapo arrests Dirk's older sister, who is also a Resistance fighter, Dirk fears that he and his little sister, Anna, might be next.
With only pockets full of food and his sister asleep in his arms, Dirk runs away to find his father. As Dirk leads Anna across the war-torn Netherlands, from farmyards to work camps, he must rely on his wits and his father's teaching to find his way.
It’s the middle of World War II. The Nazis are closing in on the leader of the Dutch Resistance. And his children must go on the run to save themselves from the Gestapo. Hunger Winter is a fast-paced middle-grade fictional telling of three young kids and their escape from the Nazis.
As the Nazis close in, Hans is forced to leave his family behind. Els, a teenager, is given the responsibility of looking after 13-year-old Dirk and 6-year-old Anna. But when Els is captured, Dirk and Anna must make a run for it, going through enemy territory to reach their grandparent’s house.
This is a pretty standard middle-grade story with characters rushing from scene to scene, no real danger or plot development: things happen and then the characters move on to the next scene. There’s a lot of easy wish fulfillment, the main characters never really run into a problem that seems weighty, and they just sort of gallivant toward the finish line.
Els’ storyline is a little darker, taking her through psychological torture by the Gestapo. By nature of the intended readership, Currie has to tone it way down—almost to the point of ludicrousness—in order to keep it appropriate. Again, nothing ever feels weighty in this storyline. You know what’s going to happen, you’re just not sure how.
From a structural perspective, my major concern about this book is that it doesn’t quite know what age it is targeting. With the main protagonist being thirteen, that usually indicates that the intended reader will be in the 8-12 range. But the size of the book (~250 pages for an estimated 125k wordcount) is a little heavy, as is the book’s WWII backdrop.
The whole book is a little dissonant because it is nearly impossible to take the storyline of “run across the country to escape Nazis” and fit it into a mold appropriate for young readers. Hunger Winter lacks the depth its source material and size demands. With a tighter, shorter storyline to appeal to younger readers or more complex characters and suspense to appeal to older readers, this book may have shined. As is, it tries to bridge an awkward gap and doesn’t quite hold up.