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Hitler's DaughterReview - Hitler's Daughter
by Jackie French
HarperCollins Juvenile , 2003
Review by Su Terry
Jul 8th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 28)

Hitler's Daughter is a gripping story for preteens about human evil and family love. It asks the very challenging question: what would you do when someone you love does something really bad?

The story of Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French is set in contemporary Australia. "The Game" began as a diversion for Mark, Anna, and Ben, and to ease "Little Tracey" anxieties about starting school. Anna created stories to amuse the foursome and continued them in a serial manner day-by-day. The early stories involved magical fish and fairies but with the advent of the rainy season, Anna's stories took on a more serious, almost sinister tone. Her newest story is about Heidi, the secret daughter of Adolph Hitler. Heidi is a young girl living in her father's country villa with Fraulein Gelber, her governess, and a housekeeper and a cook. "Duffi" (her name for her father) visits only sporadically and then only briefly bring her a doll as a gift. Heidi knows that her father is an important and busy man, but she suspects that part of her father's distance has more to do with the birthmark that covers half her face and her limp. She is aware of his desire to create a "master race" of perfect and beautiful German people like her dolls, but she knows that she is far from beautiful and physically perfect. When Heidi and Fraulein Gelber are move to a new house further into the countryside, Frau Leib is engaged as their new housekeeper/cook. With the move, Fraulein Gelber grows distant and focuses more on the letters she received from home then on Heidi who begins to spend more of her time with Frau Leib. Frau Leib is uncomfortable with silence and chatters continually about Hitler, his War, and his plans to "purify" the master race. Heidi has heard very little about most of this and begins to suspect that either Frau Leib has it all wrong or her father is really a very "bad man." Anna's story about Heidi and her father races on to its heart stopping climax in a Berlin bunker.

As Anna's story about Heidi and Hitler unfolds it begins to raise questions for Mark, the most intellectual of the four children. Mark becomes obsessed with learning the truth about the real Hitler, and as he does, he explores the issue of human evil. He begins to confront the issues of love and familial loyalty versus evil actions. How can someone love a person who does evil? And what should someone do if that person is a family member?

There is one complication for young readers. The contemporary example Mark reflects upon and discusses with his family concerns Pol Pot, the Cambodian leader responsible for "the killing field". From the limited information supplied in the book, a young reader may only be able to surmises that Pol Pot must be like Hitler, but not be aware exactly how. Teachers using this book might want to brush up on the background of Pol Pot and also have a ready supply of other examples that might be more relevant for their particular audience. Otherwise this is an excellent book for introducing the ethical issues of dealing with loyalty and evil actions.

Jackie French is the author of numerous children's and young adult books. She studied Graphic Design at Swinburne University (Australia). She worked as art director and creative director, before becoming a full-time illustrator and author. Some of her award winning books for children include: Rain Stones (1991) the CBC Children's Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers; Walking the Boundaries (1994) a Notable Book in the CBC Awards; Somewhere Around the Corner (1995) an Honour Book in the CBC Awards; and How to Guzzle Your Garden (2000) CBC Eve Pownall Award for Information. Most recently, French won the 2002 ACT Book of the Year Award for In the Blood. Hitler's Daughter won the Australian Children's Book award, the CBC Younger Readers Award, and the United Kingdom WOW! Award.

Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French is an engrossing novel that demands the reader confront the challenging issues of "relative" evil. This is a great book for the classroom. I highly recommend this book for teachers and parents – my one caveat is the above mentioned reference to Pol Pot. Teachers and parents should be ready with information about Pol Pot as well as having additional contemporary examples to use as substitutes. Recommended. (Ages 8 and older)


© 2003 Su Terry

 

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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