Freedman, R.  (2016).  We will not be silent: The white rose student resistance movement that defied Adolf Hitler.  New York, NY: Clarion Books.

SUMMARY:  

We Will Not Be Silent covers the Scholl siblings, primarily Hans and Sophie, and their peers as they change from devoted Hitler Youth members and leaders into leaders of a literary resistance against the Nazi regime, writing and distributing leaflets to sympathizers in an effort to influence action.  This book provides examples of key players in Hitler’s Nazi party, as well as some of the major events of World War II, while also allowing the reader to emotionally connect to the unexpected heroes and heroines of the White Rose Student Resistance Movement.

APPROPRIATE TARGET AUDIENCE:

School Library Journal suggests that the novel is intended for grades 6 through 8, while Amazon suggests grades 5 through 7.  While there are some questionably controversial issues dealt with in the book for a younger audience, such as mention of a gay relationships with Hans Scholl and another male member of the Hitler youth, as well as the graphic scene at the guillotine once Hans, Sophie and Christoph are the first to be prosecuted and found guilty, it is a useful tool to introduce students to World War II, the Nazi regime and the atrocities of the time period.  Also, it may prove prudent to discuss any questionable content with students in a safe environment rather than attempting to shelter them from the real world or having them face this content on their own.

STRENGTHS:  

Relevant Photographs:  All throughout the book there are archival photos of the Scholl family and other members of the White Rose Resistance, as well as photos of Hitler and known Nazis, key locations from World War II, including Munich University, Russia and Poland, as well as others that serve as mementos from the time period, the places and the people.  For readers/students to be able to visualize what they are reading about allows them to connect on a deeper level to the world-altering events that preceded them.

Source Notes/Bibliography:  At the end of the book, the author has created a list of source notes for the reader to reference in regards to various quotes in the book, separating them by chapter and page number.  It is easy to follow and is also supplemented by a decently-sized Bibliography, suggesting that the author has done his research in order to present factual information for the reader/student.

WEAKNESSES:

Background Information:  The book has one chapter that presents background information on the Scholl family, discussing their time in the Hitler youth.  During this first chapter, all five siblings are mentioned and seem as though they will be relevant to the rest of the book; however, in reality it is primarily about Hans and Sophie Scholl (the second and fourth children, respectively) and their involvement in the White Rose Resistance Movement.  It distracts the reader by including random snippets of Inge and Werner when you don’t get much depth from them.

MEANINGFUL/CREATIVE USES:

In the classroom:

Research and Presentations:  This book could serve as a resource or starting point for students to research other notable sympathizers and anti-Hitler activists during World War II.  They could gather information, create a PowerPoint or Prezi and then present their findings to their peers.  It is a great lesson in humility and standing up for what is right.  (Note: see link for a great list of 10 notable individuals/groups who were anti-Hitler activists)

PBL on Human Rights: In following the lead of the Scholl siblings and their like-minded peers, students could look for a human right of their own to take a stand on.  They would need to research the human rights, choose one, find example(s) of how they have been violated, and then create some sort of solution or activism to the issue.  (Note: see links for assistance in PBL learning, as well as a link to Youth for Human Rights, which dissects the 30 rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and makes them more manageable for a younger audience)

Out of the classroom:

Veteran’s Day:  The library (whether school or public) could invite Veterans to come in and engage with young students, briefly discussing their time at war and accepting (previously monitored) questions from students.  Since Hans Scholl was both a soldier and a student during World War II, it would be a great experience for students to be able to connect with an older generation to help them better understand the hardships.

“Fundraisers” for Charities:  The library could team up with students to hold a fundraiser for a charity associated with soldiers by either writing letters, gathering and sending care packages, or raising money to support soldiers and veterans.  This could help students connect to the issues seen in the novel, as well as experience first-hand what it means to lend a helping hand.

AWARDS:

  • Robert F. Sibert Honor Award Winner
  • 2016 Kirkus Prize Finalist
  • Chicago Public Library Best of 2016
  • Kirkus Best of 2016
  • Raleigh News & Observer Best of 2016
  • Nonfiction Detectives: Best of 2016

IF YOU LIKE WE WILL NOT BE SILENT, YOU WILL ALSO ENJOY:

  • Sachiko
  • Caren Stelson’s Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story:  In this nonfiction piece, Stelson uses interviews with Sachiko to tell the story of surviving the U.S. bombings of Japan in late World War II, including the initial and long-term effects of the bombs.  Like We Will Not Be Silent, the book covers this content in a way that late elementary and middle school students can comprehend and connect with, utilizing archival photos from the time period and researched information.
  • Remember World War II
  • Dorinda Nicholson’s Remember World War II: Kids Who Survived Tell Their Stories:  This book is geared for grades 5 through 8 and could certainly be used to supplement the information found in We Will Not Be Silent.  As the title suggests, students will be able to connect to the memoirs of the survivors because they are told through the eyes of their childhood innocence in a war-torn world.  The major themes will connect students to the bombings, fear and loss present during World War II.  There are also supplemental archival photos for students to use to visualize the time.
  • WWII for Kids
  • Richard Panchyk’s World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities:  Here is another supplement to We Will Not Be Silent, geared for the same age group but with various activities that can assist students in better understanding the hardships of many people during World War II, including teaching student to ration when rations/supplies are low, as well as military strategy.  The book provides a brief collective history of the war, beginning with Hitler’s rise to power in the early 1930s to the Japanese surrender after the bombings in the mid 1940s.
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