Sunday, May 29, 2022

Weekend Review: Making Bombs for Hitler


Making Bombs for Hitler / Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
TO: Scholastic, c2012
186 p.

This middle grade novel is a companion to Skrypuch's earlier novel, Stolen Child. This one follows the elder sister of this Ukrainian family that is broken up when Nazis kidnap children in WWII. Lida pretends she's 13, even she is small, knowing that if the Nazi work camp doesn't find her useful for work she'll have a worse fate ahead. Thanks to her cleverness in speaking up about a loose button on an officer's jacket, she is assigned to the laundry, where she performs back-breaking washing and ironing, and is then put to work mending sheets and clothing. Her sewing skills are eventually praised by the head laundress, and her sewing keeps her safe for quite a while. 

However, her quick seamstress hands lead her to a new role alongside a few other girls; they are reassigned to work in a munitions factory, assembling bombs. The descriptions of their daily life and routine are horrifying but well-known to anyone who has read WWII fiction or non-fiction. Lida and her fellow bomb makers decide that they will sabotage the bombs, ruining the gunpowder so that the bombs won't explode on use -- even though they could easily be caught doing this and that would be their death sentence. These scenes draw from the true story of Jewish slave labourers in Czechoslovakia,  who removed the charges from Nazi ammunition and left a note instead, found when a British plane was shot at but wasn't destroyed.

Eventually their munitions factory comes under fire itself, and Lida is sent to another work assignment on a farm where they are starved and cold; but then they are freed by the American forces. During all this time, Lida can't stop wondering about her younger sister Larissa (of The Stolen Child) and what might have happened to her.

This is well written, thoroughly researched, and emotionally compelling, while also pitched just right for the juvenile audience. Skrypuch is really good at these kinds of stories, and this one caught my eye because of the role of sewing in keeping Lida alive. But it's also a powerful story of war and survival, pinning both the Nazis and the Soviets down for their horrific actions. It's timely again, sadly enough. 

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