Title: Odin’s Promise | Author: Sandy Brehl | Publication Date: April 20, 2014 | Publisher: Crispin Books | Pages: 238 | Recommended Ages: 10+ | Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
Summary: ODIN’S PROMISE is a historical novel for middle-grade readers, a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway in World War II as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked under the wings of her parents, grandma, and older siblings. After Hitler’s troops invade Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. As the year progresses, Mari, her family, and her neighbors are drawn into the activities of the Norwegian underground resistance.
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My Thoughts: Odin’s Promise is a moving historical middle grade novel set in Norway shortly after Germany’s invasion in 1940 during World War II. In a style reminiscent of Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, the author introduces us to Mari as she and her Norwegian elkhound, Odin cross paths with German soldiers “escorting” her battered and bleeding Jewish neighbor out of the village. We soon learn that the German’s occupation of Norway has created a culture of fear within the small village. But, underneath, the proud Norwegian people engage in a quiet rebellion as neighbors and friends band together in helping each other survive this horrific time in our collective history.
Odin’s Promise is a story of hope in the midst of fear and misery. Odin, the brave and loyal companion to Mari, represents the strength and defiance of Mari, her family, and their community in the face of the ever-present iron fist rule of the Nazi soldiers. Of note, Odin’s Promise is based on stories told to the author in her travels to Norway. Aside from the obvious factual information regarding Germany’s invasion of Norway, the author incorporates other real events into the story such as, a wedding on Constitution Day in 1941 in defiance of Germany’s civil rule laws forbidding the celebration of Syttende Mai (i.e., Norway’s Constitution Day); the hidden radios broadcasting news of the war; the bartering among neighbors and communities; and the sharing of information using codes. The blending of fact and fiction results in a completely captivating book, which taught me so much about the history of Germany’s occupation of Norway (which I admittedly knew little of until now).
My daughter and I, coincidentally read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry a few months ago for a school project. Number the Stars was set in Denmark, while Odin’s Promise is set in Norway. Lois Lowry’s influence on the author Sandy Brehl is obvious as in both these books, the author succeeds in creating a somber setting, which we, as adults, realize was the stark reality for the people involved in World War II. But, importantly, the themes of resilience and hope underlie both stories. In both stories, the German soldiers patrolling the community represent the evil shadow of the Third Reich, and the young girl in each story is rightfully frightened; but, the circumstances dictate that they must grow up and that is precisely what they do.
The author did a great job of depicting the inner conflicts experienced by the Norwegians. The characters struggled with decisions regarding whether the best decision for themselves, their family, their friends, and/or their community was to side with their captors or quietly resist and rebel at great risk to all. I liked the inclusion of a German soldier who also struggled with the moral and ethical implications of his actions. Novels such as Odin’s Promise and Number the Stars expose our children to these complex issues and open the discussion and debates as to what they would do if they were in those shoes – hopefully resulting in greater compassion and humanity. It is difficult to share with our children just how vicious and heartless people have been (and still can be), but both these novels demonstrate how compassionate and resilient they can be as well.
My Bottom Line: This book is brilliant and I can say without hesitation that it is one of the best middle grade books I have read thus far this year. There are scenes in this book that will tear open your heart, make you sick to your stomach, and but will also leave you cheering for the compassion and courage of the people who resisted the Nazi occupation. There is so much to love about this book with regards to the solid character development, the historical value and perspective with regards to World War II history, and a story that will have you alternating between weeping and cheering. In short, the writing is SUPERB and I LOVED it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for children aged 10 years and older. This book should be in classrooms worldwide. Did I say I loved it?
* This book was provided to me by the author free-of-charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. The author is participating in our Book Promotion services. *
More Buzz About the Book (From the Blog Tour)
“Mari is a great main character. The reader can really understand how she feels throughout the story. Ms. Brehl includes a bibliography and glossary in the back section of the book , which is very helpful. I enjoyed the descriptions of the Norwegian setting. I could picture the small streets and hillsides in my mind. It is a good contrast when Ms. Brehl describes the beautiful scenery and the harsh reality of the German occupation. I liked learning about the rationing during this time and how the citizens bartered with and helped one and other. I completely enjoyed this book “ ~ Review, Erik, This Kid Reviews Books
“Not only is this a sweet story about the relationship between a girl and her dog, but also the strength of the human spirit in finding ways to keep one’s hope up in the face of sometimes heart-breaking circumstances. For those who enjoy historical fiction, I can heartily recommend this one!” ~ 5 Star Review, Heidi, GeoLibrarian
“Odin’s Promise is a well written, very well researched novel!” ~ 5 Star Review, Alex, The Children’s War
About the Author
Sandy Brehl grew up in Ohio and has lived in Wisconsin for many years. She’s an educator with a long career teaching in elementary public schools. When people asked, “What do you teach?” her answer was “Kids!” Those kids ranged from kindergarten to sixth grade, in classrooms and with special services. Since retiring a few years ago she conducts literacy workshops for professionals. She’s been writing picture book text, poetry, professional articles, and longer works for years. She credits joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) after retiring as a major factor in developing her debut middle grade novel. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys gardening, art, and travel.
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Book Launch Party for Odin’s Promise (April 24, 2014)
* Giveaway *
Prize: There will be one winner who will receive a copy of Odin’s Promise (print version for the US & Canada; Kindle for international winners) + a $10 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.
Contest ends: May 25, 11:59 pm, 2014
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Sandy Brehl and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.