Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Brave Deeds: How one family saved many from the Nazis

Brave Deeds: How one family saved many from the Nazis

Anna Alma
For ages 9 to 12
Groundwood Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-0888997913

It is 1944 in the middle of the night in Rotterdam, Holland. A young girl is in bed sleeping when her father wakes her up to tell her that the Germans are coming. He and his wife must go into hiding and she will have to go ""with the man with the black beard."" The man has been a good friend to her parents and he will look after her until they can come out of hiding.

The man is called Frans Braal, and he and his wife Mies have turned their home in the country into a refuge for people who are in danger, who are refugees, and who are homeless. Many of the people whom they are sheltering are children and at least one of these children is a Jew. Perhaps most dangerous of all, the Braals have a Canadian pilot under their roof. He was shot down over Holland and has been at their home for some time recovering from his injuries. If they are caught harboring the Canadian, the Braal family will be shot.

And so begins a very strange year for the girl. She and everyone one else at the house work hard to do their share of the work. They cut wood and stack it, clean the house, wash clothes, and prepare what little food there is. But there are also times when they put on little plays, play tug of war, sing, and generally forget that a black cloud hangs over them all.

By working together and supporting one another they manage to get by. But there some very frightening times when the girl and the others must hide in the woods, and when Frans has to go away because they are afraid that the Germans will come to get him.

In this incredibly moving and sometimes disturbing book, Ann Alma gives a powerful account of what it was like to be a child in hiding in Holland during the last year or so of World War II. Through the narrator's eyes we are able to see how brave the Braals were and how much they risked to help others. The black and white photographs in the book show the many people and places that are mentioned in the story, and these help readers to get a visual sense of what life in Holland in 1944 was like.

The author was inspired to write this book after she became good friends with Mies Braal.