Rise of the Spider

 
4.5 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
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Rise of the Spider
Age Range
8+
Release Date
September 24, 2024
ISBN
978-1665947213
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Witness the chilling rise of Hitler’s Germanythrough the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy in this first book in the action-packed middle grade series Web of the Spider for fans of I Survived and A Night Divided.

1929, Heroldsberg, Germany. Rolf might only be twelve years old, but he’s old enough to know that things have not been good in his country since the end of the Great War. Half of Germany is out of work, and a new political movement is taking hold that scares him. Every night, Rolf’s father and older brother, Romer, have increasingly heated arguments about politics at the dinner table. And when two members of the new Nazi Party, Hans and Nils, move to town as part of the Hitler Youth, Rolf is uneasy to see how enamored Romer is by their promises of bringing Germany to glory.

Rolf doesn’t trust Hans and Nils for a moment. For all their talk of greatness, they act more like bullies, antagonizing shop owners who are Rolf’s friends and neighbors. Yet Romer becomes increasingly obsessed with their message of division, and Rolf watches in horror as his family fractures even further.

When there is an act of vandalism against a Jewish-owned business in town, Rolf fears Romer might have had something to do with it. Can Rolf find a way to intervene before things get any worse?

Editor reviews

2 reviews
The rise of Hitler Youth
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
This book is historical fiction focusing on a time period not often seen in books for young readers. Many middle-grade readers will know that Hitler took control of Germany and led them into World War ll. This story looks at his rise to power following Germany’s loss in The Great War, World War l. The author shares the feelings of many Germans who think the punishments leveled against the country are too harsh and their new leaders are too weak. Many younger people listen to Hitler’s criticism of their government and join his Hitler Youth, a part of the Nazi Party. This book describes the conflicted emotions of the citizens and the internal conflicts created by a country struggling to survive.
Rolf doesn’t understand the politics going on but he knows he gets a bad feeling when he’s around the two Nazi Youths his brother has connected with. He listens to Romer as he spouts Hitler’s propaganda and his father’s angry retorts about how the Nazis will lead the country to violence and another possible war. Rolf is trying to figure out the world as he sees Jewish people in his neighborhood being mistreated and bullied. Few citizens are willing to stand up and help as they either agree with the Nazis or are afraid of being attacked themselves. Rolf can’t comprehend the complexities of government and adult life but he’s fully aware of what’s right and wrong.
Rolf’s best friend is Ansel and this character adds tension and suspense to the story. Rolf wholly agrees that Ansel is annoying, rude, and outspoken and these are dangerous qualities while living among Hitler Youth. Ansel shows no fear or restraint when insulting these characters and he won’t back down when threatened. Readers will cringe during these moments because they won’t know how violently the Hitler Youth may react. Ansel’s father is a reporter so Ansel always sounds like he’s well-informed. His comments provide a stark contrast to the Nazi rhetoric. Young readers will be immersed in the turmoil within Germany as it marches to World War ll.
What didn’t work as well:
Some parts of the book come across as very informational. Ansel, Rolf’s father, and the Hitler Youth spout facts and news regarding the political atmosphere in Germany from this time in history. It can sometimes take over Rolf’s storyline although the book is, after all, historical fiction. The plot and politics are closely connected so it’s a balancing act.
The final verdict:
This book will appeal to readers with an interest in politics and history, especially Europe around 1930. Rolf is an engaging character as he sorts through the opposing viewpoints concerning the growth of Naziism. The book’s topics won’t appeal to everyone but I still recommend you give it a shot. It’s a lesson for democracies that say “It can’t happen here.”
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A Must Read WWII Title
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
It's 1929 in the Bavarian town of Heroldsberg, Germany. Rolf, who is 12, is worried about his older brother, Romer. A brilliant soccer player, Romer is increasingly dissatisfied with life, and fights frequently with their father, who runs a toy factory in nearby Nuremberg that is experiencing difficulties. Rolf knows that things are hard in Germany; after the Great War, the country had to pay reparations, and the economy was suffering. Ansel, Rolf's best friend, is well versed in the news of the day because his father is a reporter for the Nuremberg Zeitgeist. When the two friends see Romer talking to two young men, they are worried to find that Hans and Nils have moved to town to set up an office for the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazis. While Ansel isn't pleased with the spidery Hans' glib replies and calls Hitler an idiot, Rolf is more circumspect in his speech. He does tell his father, who is not happy that Romer is considering joining the Hitler Youth. Rolf asks if his older brother, Klaus, who died in the Great War, was also troublesome at that age, and the father does remember that Klaus fought quite a lot with his mother, who died of the Spanish flu. Still, when Mrs. Hufnagel's bakery is attacked and set on fire, and Romer's shirt smells of kerosene, Rolf becomes very worried about his brother. When he finds that Romer has traveled to Nuremberg for a rally, he and his father go after them. With things heating up in the country, will Rolf and his father be able to keep Romer safe?

Good Points
Unfortunately, this ends on a cliffhanger, and the next book, Threat of the Spider, doesn't even have a publication date yet! I love the description of what everyday life was like in Heroldsberg, and the information about the economic difficulties makes it easier to grasp why the German people supported Hitler and were coerced into believing his lies about the Jewish population. Almost one hundred years later, many of these details tend to fade away, so Rolf's experiences are a good foundation for understanding how Hitler's rise to power was possible, and how the Holocaust was able to happen.

Spradlin has done a number of books about World War II, including The Enemy Above, Prisoner of War, and Into the Killing Seas, as well as the nonfiction Jack Montgomery: Gallantry at Anzio (Medal of Honor), so he brings not only incredible historical research to this book, but also a good feel for the time
period. As soon as I found out that Rolf's mother had died, I thought "Who's the family's housekeeper/cook?" Sure enough, we soon met Mrs. Holsten, who was supporting her seven children after her husband perished in the Great War. I loved the father's explanation that he had to keep her on as a way to support the economy!

There are many stories of fighting during the war, and of the wide range of experiences of Jewish citizens in horrible circumstances, but in the US, there aren't many stories about how ordinary German citizens lived, and how they felt about the Nazis. I had dear friends who were just about Rolf's age. Both were forced into being in the Hitler Youth, but got into quite a bit of trouble for putting the uniform neckerchief on a dog! Seeing the political events through Rolf's eyes was very interesting, and the stage is set for even more enlightening and exciting adventures. Hand this to readers who enjoyed Smith's My Brother's Secret, Hoose's The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, McCormick The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero, Osbourne's Winter's Bullet or other books that give more background about the lives of ordinary people during the lead up to World War II.
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