Monday, June 8, 2020

Making Bombs for Hitler - Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Summary: Lida thought she was safe. Her neighbors wearing the yellow star were all taken away, but Lida is not Jewish. She will be fine, won't she?

But she cannot escape the horrors of World War II.

Lida's parents are ripped away from her and she is separated from her beloved sister, Larissa. The Nazis take Lida to a brutal work camp, where she and other Ukrainian children are forced into backbreaking labor. Starving and terrified, Lida bonds with her fellow prisoners, but none of them know if they'll live to see tomorrow.

When Lida and her friends are assigned to make bombs for the German army, Lida cannot stand the thought of helping the enemy. Then she has an idea. What if she sabotaged the bombs... and the Nazis? Can she do so without getting caught?

And if she's freed, will she ever find her sister again?

This pulse-pounding novel of survival, courage, and hope shows us a lesser-known piece of history -- and is sure to keep readers captivated until the last page.
  (Summary and pic from

My Review: This was a hard read for me. I have read quite a bit of the very excellent WWII historical fiction that’s out there. There’s just so much high quality writing in this genre and I love it. A few that come to mind that we’ve reviewed recently are Someday We Will Fly and We Were the Lucky Ones and Refugee.

Some of my favorite books are actually YA Fic books in this genre. In fact, Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire are two of my all-time favorite books. I actually even met Elizabeth Wein at a children’s book conference at a university here and it was basically the best day ever. She’s so awesome, and I love her writing and what she has contributed to the genre.

One thing I haven’t read in this genre yet is a middle grade book. I love really good middle grade books. They have such an ability to cut through the crap and just tell it like it is. Children are so easily able to accept things as they are, and I think middle grade fiction does a great job of capturing this. This book was no different in that Skrypuch just told it like it was, no beating around the bush. And people…

I couldn’t handle it.

I have read about so many books about work and concentration camps, especially Ravensbruck as many of the WWII books I’ve read are about women. But friends, I had a VERY hard time handling reading about children in work camps. There was one chapter in particular when they talked about what children were used for in the hospitals that I actually had to put the book down and walk away and didn’t read it for many more days. I don’t know how I missed what prisoner children were doing during WWII up until this point, but it was just really hard to read about it.

I try hard to be a diverse reader, and I often read things that are very hard topics for me because I think that it is part of my duty as a reader and a reviewer and a human being to read about other people’s struggles. Life isn’t always the cheery story we want it to be, right? And I think that what is happening right now in society with the protests and Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd shows that if we as readers don’t educate ourselves, and try and understand other people by reading about hard things and reading diverse authors, then we are not doing our part to be the change and foster the change in our children and in the world.

So I read on, and I read the book, and I will forever be haunted by what those children had to endure. All the evil that I’ve read about in WWII has now been exacerbated by the knowledge of children and what they were forced to go through.

I’ve tried to think about whether or not I would let my kids read this book right now. I think possibly my 14-year-old and my 12-year-old could read it, but I think they would really struggle and we’d have to talk about it. I don’t think I’d let a nine-year-old (there are characters this age in the book) read it, let alone someone any younger. It is just so shocking and I think would possibly shatter their world and the belief that they are safe. That being said, I think this is an important topic, and I am a firm believer that unless we learn about history and learn from it, we are doomed to repeat it.

I thought the story was a good one, and there were lots of good characters to learn from and relate to. My only complaint is that I didn’t really think that the protagonist had the voice of a girl as young as she was. She thought more like an adult and acted like an adult than I think a child of her age would act. I have children of this age, and they just don’t think or talk like she did. It would have felt more authentic (and frankly, more tragic) if there wasn’t a little adult marching around telling everyone how to feel and act and making very adult choices and being able to scheme like an adult. I think that there was a missed opportunity in allowing her to be a child. There is something heartbreaking about a child being a child in this situation, and I think although the story may not have gone the way it did, it would have felt more realistic.

Overall, I think this was a great book that certainly opened my eyes. It isn’t one that I suggest just handing over to your own kid without reading it first, and possibly reading it with them as well. There is just a lot of really difficult information to learn and process.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: As with all WWII books, there is violence that is very hard to read about, and this is manifested tenfold because the violence is perpetuated onto children.

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