The Night War

Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s third WWII novel for middle grade readers—the others are The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won—is set in France in 1942.

Twelve-year-old Miriam—called Miri by her family and friends—lives in Paris. A few years earlier, her family had fled Germany when the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews drove them out. The family settled in the Pletzl, a Jewish enclave in Paris, but even there, danger followed.

Now an imminent roundup of the Jews has Miri’s family on edge. When Miri shares her fears with her father, he says, “We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act. Choose courage.”

When their worst nightmare is realized and the entire community is rounded up and brought to a stadium, Miri and 2-year-old Nora escape through the intervention of a Catholic nun. They are secretly brought to the village of Chenonceaux. Miri is separated from Nora and hidden in plain sight in a Catholic boarding school near the Chateau de Chenonceau, a magnificent castle spanning the River Cher along the border between Occupied France and Vichy (Free) France.

Miri is devastated because she must hide her identity to save her life, and she is tormented by oppressive guilt for what she perceives is her failure to save members of her community and family from the Nazis. She continually wonders what she can do to atone for her misdeeds.

When an accident in the boarding school incapacitates one of the nuns, Miri stumbles on an opportunity to embark on a task she would never have considered herself brave enough to do. Yet she does it, but not on her own. In a strange twist of events, Miri receives help from a mysterious woman who always seems to be present when Miri needs her most.

As Miri is drawn into “the night war” of eluding German soldiers and helping Jews and other endangered people escape through the castle to the Vichy side, she is filled with hope that someday she will be able to find Nora and escape to freedom with her.

The Night War—fast-paced and emotionally gripping—unflinchingly exposes the deadly consequences of religious persecution, the failures of some Christians to love their Jewish neighbors, and the consequences of wars spanning different historical periods. The novel also portrays the bravery of other Christians, Jews, and others who risked their lives to save oppressed people.

Though recommended for children ages 9-12, the book is more suitable for ages 11 and older. (Dial Books for Young Readers)

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