I'd bought this book years ago planning to use it for a reading selection at a time when we were going through WWII in history. I wasn't rushing to read it since the cover had it portrayed as a "youthful romance." Still it was a "National Book Award Finalist" and "An ALA Notable Book" so I held out hope for something worthwhile. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that the characters held my attention well after I'd finished reading the book. I found myself pondering the arrangement of the friendship and recalling another friendship of great value to me.
I am friends with two dear people who love beyond the pain and 1940s wartime memories....one of German decent and one of Jewish decent.
The main character, twelve-year-old Patty, tells the story of living during this difficult period in history. Her family is Jewish, lives in Arkansas and owns a store.
Small town life in Arkansas was the setting for the strong emotions of a war that waged in Germany and in the hearts of the faithful southern Americans who'd sent their sons to fight. Loyalty was prized and the idea of a Jewish girl aiding a German was unthinkable. But Patty was anxious for acceptance and though her parents offered none, she tried diligently to gain their respect.
Patty's tale became captivating as I followed her desire to impress and please her parents. She longed for their attention and love. I felt myself cringing as she was mistreated by her father and as her mother looked the other way and was interested only in her own personal affairs.
Anton, one of the German prisoners, recognized Patty's strengths and through their friendship he boosted her confidence and reminded her of her own personal value. Anton, though supposedly "bad" since he was German, taught Patty that she had a worth that even she had begun to question. Their friendship enabled Patty to transition into a deeper and more meaningful life.
The family housekeeper, Ruth, was one of my favorite characters. She genuinely loved Patty and faithfully cared for her much as her own mother should have been doing. I could easily picture her and her gentle ways.
Summer of my German Soldier was not the "happily-ever-after youthful romance" I feared it might be. There were twists and turns that kept my attention. I look forward to using it later in our schooling as we discuss WWII. But more than the political discussion it might arouse, I look forward to the discussion surrounding how we value others and the situations that cause us to risk all for someone else.
I have already chosen next month's selection. It won't be a children's book, however it will still be historical in nature. Thank you to Some of a Kind for planning this project. Look forward to seeing you then.....