Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Hitler’s Canary

Hitler’s Canary

Sandi Toksvig
Illustrator:  Sandy Nightingale 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 10 and up
Random House (UK), 2005   ISBN: 978-0385608893

Bamse would like to think that the German invasion of his homeland is "nothing to do with us." After all his father is a painter and his mother is a famous and much admired actress - they are not the types of people to get involved in the resistance movement. Surely the right thing to do is to simply keep his head down and stay out of trouble, just as his father advises. And yet, Bamse’s brother Orlando has quite a different point of view. Orlando thinks that it is the duty of every Dane to make the occupation of Denmark as difficult as possible for the hated German invaders.

At first Bamse follows his father’s lead but when the occupation starts to get more difficult and as the Danes begin to lose the freedoms that they hold dear, Bamse begins to think that perhaps Orlando is right; perhaps they all should fight against their oppressors. Bamse’s quandary is soon resolved for him, for when the Jewish community in Denmark is threatened not only Bamse, but his entire family are galvanised into action. It is one thing to sit tight and hope for the best, it is another to let the enemy round up innocent men, women and children for imprisonment and possible execution.

Touching and often funny, this is a wonderful tale based on the story of the author’s own family’s experience in Denmark during the German occupation. The Danish people fought hard and paid dearly for their efforts to save the lives of the Jews who lived in their country. In the end, less than two per cent of Denmark’s Jews were taken away by Hitler’s forces. The people whom many thought would play the role of being "Hitler’s Canary" instead ended being devious, courageous, and heroic fighters for the freedom of Denmark and all her people.