BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro

Whispering TownSometimes, whispers can speak more loudly than any shouts and screams … and even have the power to save lives – some 1700 men, women, and children’s lives!

In 1943 Denmark, the Nazis are rounding up Jews to send to concentration camps. But in the small fishing village of Gilleleje, families like young Anett’s know how not to cooperate. Their secret rooms provide temporary safety, warm food, and even library books to “help the time pass.” When enough whispers between neighbors and friends and collaborators have been shared outside in daylight, they direct their whispers at nighttime to the hidden Jews, guiding them through the dark with “This way,” and “This way,” from house to house, to reach the waiting boats that will ferry the Jews to safety in neutral Sweden. Children like Anett are perhaps the most remarkable heroes. Even as she bears witness to the Nazi soldiers’ hostility and violence just outside her own door, she does what she must to make sure the whispering safety chain does not break.

Author Jennifer Elvgren reveals in her back flap bio that she “finds her story ideas in real life.” Her Italian illustrator, Fabio Santomauro, faithfully gives shape to Elvgren’s true story with just the right mix of an uncomplicated, simple drawing style that embodies youthful innocence, with realistic reminders of looming danger (those soldiers are clearly not nice, the citizens are brave but they’re understandably frightened). Santomauro’s initial depiction of the hidden in black-and-white is especially moving, as they emerge from the dark to literally become color-full people who have stories, hopes, and dreams. Together, Elvgren and Santomauro offer quite the audacious history lesson for all.

Readers: Children

Published: 2014


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