When We Were Shadows

208p. (Holocaust Remembrance). Second Story. Apr. 2018. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781772600612.
Gr 5–8—The latest in the series is about the real experiences of Walter, a young Jewish boy, who fled Nazi Germany with his family to go into hiding in the Netherlands. Wees uses letters that Walter wrote to his granddaughter in the 1990s as the narrative structure to provide background and context, combining them with the wartime letters he wrote to his grandmother Oma that describe events when he and his family were "shadows." The story begins in 1937, when five-year-old Walter doesn't understand the peril his family faces. As he comes of age, he learns to conquer his fears and help his family survive. Wees emphasizes the transitory and fearful nature of Walter's family's wartime existence, but the narrative is short on historical detail and background about the Dutch Resistance and the "Hidden Village" that sheltered Jewish families and others. Walter's sister must leave the family due to illness, but the book fails to convey the extreme fear and worry that his family would have felt at such a development. Weaknesses in the narrative and lack of detail will limit readers' identification with Walter as well as their understanding of the war in the Netherlands and its place in the Second World War and Holocaust.
VERDICT An additional selection where works about World War II are in demand.

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