On My Bookshelf: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

September 09, 2019

The Boy Who Dared is a novel based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, the youngest person to be sentenced to death (by guillotine) by the Nazis during World War II. As Hitler rises to power, Helmuth becomes increasingly uncomfortable with what it means to be a German.
The basic plot from Amazon: Susan Campbell Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, Hitler Youth, and fleshed it out into a thought-provoking nonfiction novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he's tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut's story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times, to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself.

Why I liked it: The Boy Who Dared is a novel based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, the youngest person to be sentenced to death (by guillotine) by the Nazis during World War II. As Hitler rises to power, Helmuth becomes increasingly uncomfortable with what it means to be a German. When one of his brothers is home briefly from serving in the German army, he brings home an illegal radio, which Helmuth begins listening to in secret. Helmuth uses information from the foreign broadcast he listens to illegally to distribute pamphlets about the truth about the war.
The Boy Who Dared is a novel based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, the youngest person to be sentenced to death (by guillotine) by the Nazis during World War II. As Hitler rises to power, Helmuth becomes increasingly uncomfortable with what it means to be a German.

Helmut is just 16 at the time of his arrest. As an adult (and a mother) it was painful to watch how idealistic and trusting he was. His actions were bold and daring, but also put the lives of others around him at risk. He foolishly thought be would be able to keep the names of his friends secret, but did not know how intense his torture would be to get him to give them up.

I especially liked that the novel did not have a happy ending. As we move farther away from these events in history, there can be a tendency to only focus on the good or romanticize the past. It showed how dangerous life was even as an "ordinary" citizen and illustrated the culture of fear during the time period that caused people to turn on each other. The novel shows how difficult it was to resist without also risking your own life. It also had great author's notes at the end.

Classroom application: I used this novel as part of my 6th grade literature circles this year. All of the book choices connect to the theme of "decisions that matter" and are set during WWII and the Holocaust. My hope was that this choice in particular would show students that you are never too young to stand up to what is wrong.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Boy Who Dared for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

The Boy Who Dared is a novel based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, the youngest person to be sentenced to death (by guillotine) by the Nazis during World War II. As Hitler rises to power, Helmuth becomes increasingly uncomfortable with what it means to be a German.

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