The Boy Who Dared

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Helmuth Hübener was just seventeen when he was charged with high treason and... read more

Helmuth Hübener was just seventeen when he was charged with high treason and executed by the Nazis. His crime was listening to enemy radio broadcasts on an illegal radio, spreading the news by typing up reports of what he had heard and secretly distributing copies around Hamburg with the help of friends. As the novel opens, Helmuth is alone in a prison cell, awaiting his execution. Flashbacks reveal details of his short life, from being raised by his widowed mother to his spiritual life as a member of the LDS church, his involvement in the Jungfolk, and his boyish interest in detective work. Inquisitive and intelligent, Helmuth resents being chastised when he begins to question the propaganda fed to him in school, so he seeks answers from another source: the radio his older brother has locked away in a closet to avoid breaking the new Radio Law. Helmuth starts to listen to it at night when everyone else is asleep. He is shocked by what he hears from the BBC and other sources, and wants other Germans to know about the lies they are being fed by their leaders. Helmuth’s acts of courage and resistance resulted in his being the youngest German citizen executed by the Nazis. Susan Campbell Bartoletti first learned of Hübener when she was doing research for her book Hitler Youth (Scholastic, 2005), and additional research—much of it primary research that included interviews with Helmuth’s friends and family—led to this novel. Bartoletti accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of building dramatic tension in a story whose outcome we know from page one. We read on, hoping somehow for a different ending. There never will be one, but Helmuth’s questioning voice lives on in the pages of this compelling work. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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