Friday 19 April 2013

Hitler's Daughter

Original cover,
which doesn't do the book any justice I think

Jackie French is one of my favourite Australian authors. I particularly loved Nanberry in 2011. I was so excited when I got to see her speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2012. She is quite astonishing in the range of stories she tackles and genres- picture books, nonfiction, books for older kids and adults. I think that perhaps historical fiction is where she shines best. She's amazing though.

I write because I believe that giving children fiction is one of the most valuable things you can give them. When you tell a children’s story, you are telling them life holds other possibilities. Encouraging fantasies of mermaids and unicorns just around the corner, may well foster creative imaginations that one day lead to social reform, or new theories of the origin of the universe, or simply, a knowing that life can be better. Source.

I was naturally excited when Master Wicker brought home his first ever English book from high school a few months ago. I was even more thrilled when it was Hitler's Daughter, winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers in 2000. A really interesting double story- a group of four country kids waiting for the school bus each day play a game where they tell stories to pass the time. All sorts of stories- about disappearing fish and secret passages under the school.

This rainy day Anna starts to tell a story about Hitler's unknown daughter Heidi. In a stroke of brilliance Heidi has dark hair, an obvious birthmark on her face and a limp. Heidi is hidden away, rarely seeing her father. He does visit her briefly from time to time, but even his gifts make her sad- the dolls with long blond hair "made her cry secretly at night, because they were beautiful and she was not." The story switches back and forth between our modern kids waiting for the bus during a rather prolonged rainy week, and Heidi living out her life in Germany during the war. 

Jackie French likes being a bit subversive. In Hitler's Daughter she dares to suggest that parents might do things that are evil, or believe things that are wrong. 

'All the things your mum and dad believe in- have you ever really wondered if they are right or wrong? Or do you just think that they're right because that's what your mum and dad think, so it has to be right?'

At 136 pages Hitler's Daughter is a super quick read. It manages to be a really interesting story and give you plenty to think about. Those clever folks at Monkey Baa have turned it into a play- I'd love to see it sometime. Recently the rather prolific Jackie released a companion book, Pennies for Hitler. It has been shortlisted for the Childrens Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers this year.

A far better modern cover



Dr. Mieke said...

Very interesting, indeed! What age group would you recommend it for, Louise? My daughters are 16 and 17 and they both enjoy historical fiction very much. I'm wondering whether it would be just the thing for them to read.

Louise said...

Mieke, it's probably aimed younger than your girls, but if they enjoy historical fiction they might like it. Although they might think it's too young for them, that's probably not teenage cool I guess.

Brona said...

My Yr 7 stepson came home with a heavy fantasy book by Garth Nix. He hates fantasy and struggled all the way through it. He would have been much happier with this book!

Mieke, your girls might prefer French's older books - A Rose for Anzac and a Waltz for Matilda.

Dr. Mieke said...

Thank you Brona and Louise!

Louise said...

I know Lachlan's class are getting a fantasy novel later in the year- I wonder if it will be Garth Nix?

Lucy Crowe said...

Hi there!
I'm new to blogging (I have a book getting published soon, so I'm trying to get "out there" so to speak) and in my quest for joining new blogs, I came across yours. :)

Hitler's Daughter sounds like a short, but powerful read. I've never heard of the author though, but seeing as she's one of your favorites, perhaps I should give her a try.

Anyway, just wanted to drop by, say hi, and comment that I enjoyed your review. Have a nice day! :D

Swan Pond said...

Good recommendation. Thanks Louise.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Great review. As always.