Peter Liebig can't wait for summer. He's tired of classrooms, teachers, and the endless lectures about the horrible Nazis. The war has been over for ten years, and besides, his town of Rolfen, West Germany, has moved on nicely. Despite its bombed-out church, it looks just as calm and pretty as ever. There is money to be made at the beach, and there are whole days to spend with Father at his job. And, of course, there's soccer. Plenty for a thirteen-year-old boy to look forward to.
But when Peter stumbles across a letter he was never meant to see, he unravels a troubling secret. Soon he questions everything—the town's peaceful nature, his parents' stories about the war, and his own sense of belonging.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—In Germany, in 1955, scars of the Nazi regime and anti-Semitism are still evident. When a school assignment includes researching a "good German" who opposed Hitler's government, Peter Liebig finds himself in a dilemna. He searches his parents' letters written during the war and finds a picture of a woman whose face he recognizes from his lifelong nightmares. Everything he has known about his family and upbringing is contradicted by his discovery that he is a Jewish boy, rescued and adopted by a woman working with the Red Cross when his biological mother was sent to Dachau. A conflict of emotions develops as Peter is angry and resentful yet still loves the parents he has known. At the same time he is disturbed by a sense of loyalty and a need to find out the true fate of his birth parents. Whelan's well-developed story line and characterization present a short, psychological drama of a boy struggling to come to terms with his past so that his future identity, be that Jewish or Christian, can be formed. Supporting roles of Peter's peers, as well as that of a new friend, a Holocaust survivor who helps him with gentle advice and a caring introduction to a Jewish environment, bring this boy's story full circle.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
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Growing up in Germany in the 1950s, Peter is tired of his eighth-grade teacher droning on about the evils of anti-Semitism and all the bad things the Nazis did. He knows that the Holocaust happened, but why must he hear about it and feel guilty? He just wants to play soccer with his friends and think about the present. Then he discovers that he is adopted and that his birth mother was Jewish and died in a concentration camp. There are many plot contrivances as Peter finds secret files his loving Catholic adoptive parents have kept, including a picture of his birth mother. But the intensity of the issues, the blend of personal conflict and historical facts, and the young teen’s present-tense narrative will hold readers as Peter embraces his Judaism, attends synagogue, and confronts the prejudice that continues among classmates and adults. Grades 6-9. --Hazel Rochman
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