Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Gudrun Pausewang
For ages 12 and up
Lerner, 2006   ISBN: 978-0822561958

One day, while walking home from the train station, Anna discovers that there is someone taking refuge in her family's barn. At first she thinks he has escaped from the local institution for mentally ill people but then, in the house, she hears that some Russian prisoners of war escaped from the nearby camp. All the prisoners were caught except for one man. And now he is in her barn and in need of help.

Anna agonizes about what she should do. She knows that she will get into terrible trouble for helping the Russian. After all, Russia is one of Germany's enemies. But, at the same time Anna cannot help feeling sorry for the poor man who is so young, so sick, so thin, and so defenseless.

And so Anna manages to move the Russian to a nearby bunker. Doing her best to keep her activities a secret, Anna brings the man some old clothes, blankets, and whatever food she can steal from her family's table and larder. This is not easy because rationing is getting more and more strict. There is not much extra food to be had. And yet Anna finds enough to sustain the man.

Over time Anna learns that her Russian is a teacher called Maxim and she develops a friendship with him. Even when Anna's brother is killed on the Russian Front Anna still does everything she can to take care of and protect the escaped prisoner. Her job is a very dangerous one because Anna's younger brother Felix is a radical supporter of Hitler and Nazism. Over time Anna comes to realize that Felix would think nothing of turning her to the authorities if he knew what she was doing.

In this very powerful and moving novel the author not only tells a riveting story about what it was like to live in Germany during the last month of World War II, but she also explores what true bravery is and the idea that there is good and evil in everyone. Anna struggles with her decision to help Maxim but at the same time she cannot help feeling that what she is doing is right. She finds goodness in the Russian whom she is supposed to hate and she finds evil in the brother whom she is supposed to love.