With this latest novel, author Jennifer Nielsen has added to her impressive collection of spellbinding, fast-paced historical fiction. Her other books include Lines of Courage, Resistance, and Iceberg.

In an author note, Nielsen explains her approach to bringing history alive for children: “When I speak to young readers, I often remind them that history is not just names, dates, and places. It is real people who lived and breathed and laughed and loved, and sometimes they won and sometimes they lost.” Nielsen masterfully accomplishes this goal in Uprising as she introduces readers to a fictionalized narrative based on the life of Lidia Durr, who was born in Poland on June 12, 1924.

When the fictional Lidia is 12 years old in September 1939, Germany invades Poland. Lidia’s life irrevocably changes when her father, whom she dearly loves, prepares to join the Polish army to fight the Nazis.

Wise and compassionate, Papa now tries to help Lidia understand what she will face: “Things have changed, Lidia, and you must change too. … You must be careful at all times, because a single mistake will carry a high price. Be compassionate and full of honor, and in that, you will find your strength. … Be sure that you don’t become hard and bitter in this war, although others will. … When you change, change only for the better.”

With Papa away from home and his whereabouts and condition unknown, Lidia is filled with a burning desire to help her country. When her older brother joins the resistance, Lidia insists that she will join, too, but she is too young.

When the Nazis construct the Warsaw Ghetto right outside Lidia’s apartment building, she watches in horror from her window as countless Jews are incarcerated and treated inhumanely. With the help of her friend, she takes small steps to help the Jews, and gains courage and the conviction that she must do more.

When an uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto eventually fails, the resistance fighters refuse to give in to the Nazi oppressors. A year later, as plans for the Warsaw City Uprising take shape and are implemented, Lidia plays a significant role as a messenger for the resistance, gaining recognition for her courage, compassion, and fortitude.

Nielsen’s portrayal of Lidia captures the fear, hope, and pain of a gifted, tenacious girl growing up during a harsh and difficult time, but avoids casting her in an unrealistic light. As the fictional Lidia says after the war, “We weren’t heroes. We had simply done the best we could during an impossible situation.”

Though recommended for children ages 8-12, the book is better suited to ages 11 and older due to depictions of wartime scenes and violence.

(Scholastic Press)

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