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Last year I won two things.

I was hysterical with excitement about this, as I never win anything.  I won a pair of fabulous pyjamas in a giveaway on a blog and the book Cross My Heart by Carmen Reid on a Books With Bunny giveaway.

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I was particularly pleased about winning the book. You can never have enough books.

So, what did I think of it?

It tells the story of fifteen year old Belgian girl, Nicole.

Her whole life gets turned upside down when the Nazis invade Belgium at the beginning of WWII.

Nicole’s best friend starts dating a Nazi soldier. Her other, Jewish friends disappear and nobody knows if they have escaped or not. Her father has to go on the run, and nobody knows if he is alive or dead.  The world Nicole knew and loved is suddenly being destroyed before her eyes. What will she do?

Nicole joins a resistance cell with her friend Anton, and they begin their dangerous work of sabotaging the enemy from within.

The story isn’t a true one, but it is based on similar, true accounts of teenage girls who worked for the resistance during the war, and has enough established detail about the war to make Nicole’s story ring true. Where the author has veered away from the real events of the war she explains her reasoning in an afterword, so that if you were to want to use the book in school, you can make the correct distinctions between fact and fiction.

I found elements of it frustrating at times. Nicole is repeatedly warned not to show compassion to people when she is going about her work, and she flouts the rule with disastrous consequences for herself and other people, not once but several times.  I confess to having rolled my eyes at this.  Having thought about it a bit more deeply I think it’s actually a strength of the book that Nicole messes up in such a human way. She is, after all, only fifteen, and a pretty young fifteen at that. What she was being asked to do was extremely difficult, and threw up lots of moral dilemmas that, until you were in the situation itself, you would not necessarily know what you would choose to do.  If she had been ruthless from the start it might have made her seem more unrealistic as a character.

The book is aimed at the teen market, but I would suggest that it would be fine for upper KS2 children, so for children aged ten and up. The fact that it is written from a girl’s perspective, and the romance element of the text means it is marketed at girl readers, but the romance part quickly takes a back seat to the resistance work and it suddenly becomes a book that would appeal equally well to boys, if you could get them past the girliness of the cover.  In terms of age appropriate material it has elements of romance in it, but nothing more than hand holding and a bit of kissing, and although there is violence it is contextualised against the backdrop of the war and not too graphic.

It would be a good text to study alongside a topic on World War II, particularly if you wanted to look at the role children played. Reid’s research showed that teenagers did have a part to play in the war and it would be interesting for children to be able to compare their own reality with that of their peers at that time in history.

It is rather long for use as a guided reading text, but would work well in excerpt form. If you were working with older children, it would be good to read alongside something like Tamar by Mal Peet which deals with resistance work in Holland. It would also make a good companion book to Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig which is about a young boy’s experience of living in an occupied country during the war.

 

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