Wolf Children by Paul Dowswell
|Wolf Children by Paul Dowswell|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Paul Dowswell illuminates history once again with this story about children living in Berlin in the days after Germany's defeat in WWII. A fabulous read, wonderfully researched.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: August 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
It's 1945 and the Allied victory is assured. Hitler is dead, the Third Reich has surrendered and Berlin lies in ruins. The Russians have arrived and they are not kind - intent on wreaking revenge for the way the Nazi regime treated their countrymen. Many people have been shot. Women have been raped. It's dangerous in Berlin. And there's no water, no power, no food...
... hard then, for a bunch of kids separated from their parents and often not knowing if they are dead or alive. Otto leads one such band of kids. Camped out in the basement of a ruined building, Otto and Helene do their best to make sure the younger ones are fed and kept safe. But scavenging is hard and dangerous work. And it's also hard to keep Otto's younger brother, Ulrich, under control. By now, most Germans have disavowed Hitler, particularly once information started trickling in about the truth of the Nazi regime. But Ulrich is as committed as ever and he dreams of finding the Wereolves, a rumoured group who feel the same and intend to resist the Allied occupiers.
As Otto and Helene try to keep everyone alive, a man looks on from the shadows, a man who recognises the look in Ulrich's eye...
I love Paul Dowswell for illuminating the corners of history with very personal stories. I wonder how many children learning about WWII are asked to consider what it must have been like for German children living in a bombed out city after the war was lost? After all, Hitler's rise was hardly their fault. And no child should have to scavenge for food or live in dangerous, unstable building, whatever side their parents took in a war. Wolf Children accurately depicts the lawlessness that lingers in the aftermath of conflict and the dangers unprotected children face. It also shows the power of propaganda - long after the other children have come to understand the evils of fascism, Ulrich clings on to the indoctrination of the Hitler Youth. He also has a guilty secret that makes it harder for him to admit the truth.
Wolf Children is an absorbing read. Otto and Helene are courageous and determined and resourceful and you'll root for them all the way as they navigate hazard after hazard. You might even find some sympathy for misguided Ulrich - his is a hard path to the truth.
As ever from Dowswell, this story is the result of extensive and detailed research. Otto, Helene, Ulrich and the others are fictional, but the bombed out Berlin they live in is not. There were hundreds of children exactly like this, without the shelter of adult protection, in a chaotic and dangerous environment. Boys really did play with unexploded shells. And there really was a "Werewolf" resistance - but in the end, it was ineffective.
Another wonderful historical story from a great author. Recommended.
If Wolf Children appeals, you might also enjoy Auslander, also by Paul Dowswell, about a Polish orphan taken in by Nazis during WWII due to his Aryan appearance. Or perhaps My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith, in which two British children harbour a German airman whose plane has crashed.
You can read more book reviews or buy Wolf Children by Paul Dowswell at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Wolf Children by Paul Dowswell at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.