"It is the end of April, 1945 in a small village in eastern Germany. The front is coming closer and ten-year-old Fritz knows that the Soviet Army's invasion of his family's home can be only a few days away. Grandpa Karl, a Nazi sympathizer, takes Fritz into the forest that surrounds the family farm to show him a secret.
Under a tall pine tree, Grandpa Karl has dug a pit and covered it with branches.The hole is to hide Fritz's sister, mother, and grandmother when the Russians invade their village. Grandpa Karl is convinced that he and Fritz will defend to the death the Friedrich family.
But when the Russian soldiers arrive, Fritz, his sister, and his mother find themselves alone. They look to Lech, a Polish farmhand, for help, but new communist policies force them off their farm and into the role of refugees. Separated from his home and eventually his family, Fritz has to find his own way in a crumbling world."
Wow. Heavy stuff people. Powerful and haunting are some other words that come to mind. And such an important message. Debut author Monika Schroder gives us this huge novel in such a short and compact package, one that really puts the effects of war out there and makes them known, without skirting around the edges. Schroder is not subtle in her descriptions and neither is the heart of our main character, Fritz, with his love of his vegetable garden and his family and his fear of his current world.
There are some really difficult parts, but they're truth and we can't ignore that. These things happened to people during World War II (and a lot of them are probably happening in other parts of the world as we speak), but we can't keep quiet and hide our children's eyes. We have to teach...and The Dog in the Wood would be a great companion to a unit on WWII.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Hand it to students and older tweens that love deep stories and real character connections. It's not a cheerful book, but it's a well-written one, with a very important message attached. Incredibly inspirational and discussion-provoking.
You can find more thoughts over at Becky's blog, Becky's Book Reviews.
The Dog in the Wood
Review copy received from publisher
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