The Night War

The Night War
Age Range
Release Date
April 09, 2024
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“We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act.”

It’s 1942. German Nazis occupy much of France. And twelve-year-old Miriam, who is Jewish, is not safe. With help and quick thinking, Miri is saved from the roundup that takes her entire Jewish neighborhood. She escapes Paris, landing in a small French village, where the spires of the famous Chateau de Chenonceau rise high into the sky, its bridge across the River Cher like a promise, a fairy tale.

But Miri’s life is no fairy tale. Her parents are gone—maybe alive, maybe not. Taken in at the boarding school near the chateau, pretending to be Catholic to escape Nazi capture, Miri is called upon one night to undertake a deadly task, one that spans the castle grounds, its bridge, and the very border to freedom. Here is her chance to escape—hopefully to find her parents. But will she take it? One thing is certain: The person Miri meets that night will save her life. And the person Miri becomes that night could save the lives of many more.

In her return to the era of The War that Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley brings a new and different story, one with a mystical twist, that explores a little-known slice of World War II history, a highly unusual friendship, and the power of choosing courage even when—especially when—there are no good choices to be had.

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The Night War
(Updated: March 23, 2024)
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What worked: Engaging tale of a twelve-year-old Jewish girl from Paris who flees being rounded up by Nazis during WWII. In this story, we meet Miri who lives in Paris, and the horror she witnesses as French police officers round up all Jewish citizens and send them off to Auschwitz. Miri escapes with Nora, a neighbor friend's toddler, and is helped by a Catholic nun. Miri is sent to a Catholic school and she is determined to get to Switzerland, which Nora's mother said would help them. Another nun uses her to help Jewish people and even a pilot, who was shot down and wounded, escape. Then she sees a woman who claims to own the castle near the school. This woman is bossy and not too nice. The surprise reveal makes sense when readers follow Miri in the castle gardens.

I really loved the overall theme of this story. Miri's mother told her before the roundup that we don't choose who we feel, but we choose how we act. Choose courage. This is shown throughout this insightful story when Miri has to choose whether to look the other way whenever she hears hateful comments against the Jewish people. Or to accept it's safer being at the Catholic school and do nothing. Deep down Miri can't deny who she is and it's that courage that leads her to make choices that some might not do otherwise.

Miri is strong, courageous, and very determined. The two other girls she's with, Beatrice and Jacqueline, bring their secrets and truths to the story. Jacqueline shows how being taught hatred happens at a young age. Beatrice at first comes across as abrasive, but little by little opens herself up to Miri.

A fantasy element is woven throughout the story and readers won't catch on until halfway through the novel though the author leaves clues before then. At the end of the novel is the history behind the castle of Chenonceau and about Catherine de Medici. Plus, there is a list of 160 Jewish children who were rounded up on that fateful day. Most were born in Paris.

Fast-paced historical WWII story of a young girl whose courage to refuse to deny her identity but rather choose to do the right thing has her standing up to wrongs in her village. A must-read for those who enjoy WWII stories. Also very timely with its message that there is no place for anti-Semitism in this world or any place for racism at all.
Good Points
1. Engaging tale of a twelve-year-old from Paris during WWII occupation
2. Fantasy element woven throughout
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