“There was something the war couldn’t take from me either. The Nazis couldn’t stop the wind and the snow. The Russians couldn’t take the sun or the stars.”
Nearly 9,000 souls were lost at the bottom of the sea when the Wilhelm Gustloff sank. It had carried 10,000. The ship was mostly carrying German civilian refugees who were seeking to leave the war-torn country and find food and shelter elsewhere. Refugees from other countries also tried escaping Germany on the boats. That is the true story that sets the stage for the young adult historical fiction of Salt to the Sea.
The librarian at our local library recommended this book to me. It has struck her not just as a well-written story, but with the history it contained that she hadn’t know about beforehand. I read it soon after she recommended it and I could easily see why she enjoyed reading it.
No one is too young to be a hero. Young adults Joana, Emilia and Florian find themselves companions on the journey to try and get on the refugee boats. Florian is trying to complete a secret mission. He saves Emilia from being attacked by a Russian soldier. They stumble across a group Joana is helping as their nurse. Florian tries to leave Emilia with Joana, but they all end up traveling together. It takes all their skills and survival instincts to get onto a boat – and then the boats are attacked … can they save themselves and the baby who has joined their group?
I would highly recommend this to mature middle-schoolers and older children. There is talk of the war, violence and rape. Death comes and there is a German soldier’s point of view who is a little twisted in this thinking.
What is your favorite WWII historical fiction book? Comment below!