Hitler’s Canary: A (mini) Review

Hitler's Canary by Sandi ToksvigBased on accounts of her own grandparents’ work in the Danish resistance, Sandi Toksvig tells a compelling story of the many Danes who helped smuggle Danish Jews out of the country to Sweden before they were taken to Hitler’s Concentration camps in Hitler’s Canary (2007). Find it on Bookshop.

The story revolves around ten-year-old Bamse and his family–a group of “theater people” as he calls them (the story is broken into scenes and acts instead of chapters). The story begins with the German occupation of Denmark in 1940 (when the BBC began to call Denmark “Hitler’s Canary” because it was so accomodating) and finishes in 1943, shortly after the resistance foiled Hitler’s attempt to seize all the Jews during their Rosh Hashanah dinners.

Toksvig does an excellent job of making these events approachable to a younger audience (the idea of the story came when she was telling her ten-year-old son about her grandparents). The text is clear and concise while maintaining a surprisingly high level of emotional involvement. Several times during the story I found myself tearing up. The characters are vivid without becoming cartoonish and the story is, at its core, a very uplifting one. This book is sure to join other classic children’s historical fiction books like Alan and Naomi and Number the Stars which also look at the events of the Holocaust through the eyes of young people.

Also, be sure to read the material after the end of the story to hear about the real Danish resistance and Toksvig’s inspiration.

Possible Pairings: Alan and Naomi by Myron Levoy, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Tamar by Mal Peet, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak