Code Name Kingfisher

Code Name Kingfisher
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
May 07, 2024
ISBN
978-1665929738
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Thirteen-year-old Liv’s beloved ninety-two-year-old grandmother, Oma, is moving into a home where she can be cared for as her dementia worsens. As Liv helps her father empty Oma’s house, she finds an old chest which opens up a whole world that Liv never knew about: the hidden world of Oma’s childhood.

Through the letters and other mementos, Liv learns that Oma, given name Mila, had a sister, Eva, that no one in Liv’s family ever knew about. In 1942, Mila and Eva are sent away from their parents to a non-Jewish family so they will survive the war. Twelve-year-old Mila believes that they will soon be reunited with their parents and go back to their normal lives, but fourteen-year-old Eva knows better, and soon gets involved in the Resistance. Eva takes on more and more dangerous assignments until a betrayal forces her to decide between running away with her sister or fully committing to mission. Tragedy strikes, and Mila goes to England on her own to restart her life from scratch, vowing never to talk about her childhood again.

In the present day, Liv reads how Mila builds something new from the shattered pieces of her childhood while giving beloved Oma all the support she can. Both Liv and Mila grapple with loyalty, family, and love as they discover what it means to be brave and go above and beyond to offer someone else a life of dignity, happiness, and freedom.

Editor review

1 review
The Past is Always With Us
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Liv resides with her mother, a busy charity manager, and her father, an artist who works at home, in England. Her father's ninety year old mother, Bubbe, lives nearby, but is having lots of memory problems and has locked herself out of the house on several occasions. The mother, whose charity helps the elderly, would like to see Bubbe move to an assisted living facility, Rocklands, but the father is apprehensive. Liv is just embarrassed by her grandmother, and misses her grandfather. She's deeply involved with drama with her best friend, Karly, who has started to not only ignore Liv, but to be actively hostile towards her. When a school project on family history is assigned, Liv works with Gabi, who turns out to be a much better friend. Gabi has recently lost her own grandmother, and is understanding when Liv has to spend time helping to clean out Bubbe's house, and is even willing to join her. While working on these two projects, Liv finds information about her grandmother's life, tries to piece things together, and eventually locates a connection to the past for her grandmother to help her make peace with what happened to her during World War II.

In alternating chapters, we have the story of Mila, also known as Mimi, who has to leave her Jewish family along with her older sister Hanni and go live with strangers, the Van de Bergs, in Amsterdam. They no longer mention that they are Jewish, but cling to the story that they are cousins of young Dirk and Markus. Hanni is not content to lay low and stay safe, and starts to work with the Resistance, helping children be removed from dangerous situations. She works with Hugo, while Mimi makes friends with a neighbor, Willem, who has a dog, Bo. Mimi manages to make friends who are fairly understanding of her situation, but she misses her parents desperately, and also misses the closeness she has with Hanni, who is very secretive because she wants to keep Mimi safe. When a chance discovery puts people, including Hanni, in mortal danger, will Mimi ever be able to forgive herself?
Good Points
In alternating chapters, we have the story of Mila, also known as Mimi, who has to leave her Jewish family along with her older sister Hanni and go live with strangers, the Van de Bergs, in Amsterdam. They no longer mention that they are Jewish, but cling to the story that they are cousins of young Dirk and Markus. Hanni is not content to lay low and stay safe, and starts to work with the Resistance, helping children be removed from dangerous situations. She works with Hugo, while Mimi makes friends with a neighbor, Willem, who has a dog, Bo. Mimi manages to make friends who are fairly understanding of her situation, but she misses her parents desperately, and also misses the closeness she has with Hanni, who is very secretive because she wants to keep Mimi safe. When a chance discovery puts people, including Hanni, in mortal danger, will Mimi ever be able to forgive herself?

The two storylines weave together very well; we know that Mimi is Bubbe, and Liv finds just enough information for her to approach Bubbe and get a few details. It's realistic that Bubbe wouldn't have wanted to talk about her past; few people did. There are few Holocaust survivors left, and this is a poignant story about a situation that would have happened again and again. It reminded me a bit of Moskin's I Am Rosemarie, although in that book, the main character ended up in a concentration camp, a fate that could have easily befallen Mimi. Nielsen's Resistance portrays experiences similar to Hanni's. I love that Kessler has turned her hand to historical fiction, and she does an excellent job. Not surprisingly, there is a wealth of British children's fiction about World War II that hasn't made it to this side of the pond, so I'm glad that this one did.

I LOVE the David Dean cover, although it makes me want to watch BBC period dramas, because a similar style is used in the introductions to The Durrells in Corfu and All Creatures Great and Small!

It's interesting to see Kessler change from fantasy books like Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? (2015), North of Nowhere (2013), A Year Without Autumn (2011), or the famous Emily Windsnap books (2003!) to more historical titles like When the World Was Ours.

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