Interview with Deborah Hopkinson, author of Courage & Defiance

We are deli7ED02283-C80F-4E3C-AFE1-7205369CEB78ghted to be hosting an interview with author Deborah Hopkinson as part of a blog tour for her latest book Courage & Defiance, the story of Danish resistance to the Nazis during World War II. Our ARC Club reader who reviewed this book said:

 “ I really liked this book because it shows how one person can make a big difference and one match can change the tide of a war. Kids who like learning about World War II would really like this book, and anyone who likes reading about history.” —Madi, age 12

Hooray for Books:  You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction about a wide range of historical topics and time periods. How did you come to choose Denmark during WWII as a topic?

Deborah Hopkinson: Courage & Defiance is the first of three nonfiction books I’m writing on World War II. At author visits, I tell students that my favorite part about writing about history is the research: whenever we write about something we always learn something new.

While I’d heard a little about the rescue of the Danish Jews, I wanted to know more, and that is initially what drew me to the subject. Yet until I began my research I didn’t fully appreciate the scope of the resistance efforts in Denmark, and the ways in which ordinary people came together to oppose the German occupation. It was an inspiring story to learn about and tell.

My next two nonfiction titles on World War II will focus on submarines in the Pacific war, and the last will cover D-Day. Many of my other titles, including my forthcoming middle grade historical fiction, A Bandit’s Tale, the Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket, take place in the 19th century, so writing about  World War II has definitely been an extraordinary learning experience.

HFB: What did you discover in the course of your research that surprised you the most?

DH: I think one of the most surprising things I discovered was the grassroots, ad hoc nature of the entire resistance, and especially the rescue of more than seven thousand Danish Jews. My mom was fond of telling us to “rise to the occasion,” and that is exactly what happened in Denmark the fall of 1943, when warnings filtered through about a planned round-up of Jewish families.

You might imagine that something as significant as getting seven thousand people out of the country would require a coordinated, large organizational effort. But that wasn’t the case. Individuals stepped up: whether it was knocking on doors to warn people, hiding families and making sure their apartments would be watched over until their return from Sweden, or helping to arrange transportation on fishing boats. I think readers who love Lois Lowry’s award-winning Number the Stars will enjoy reading more about some of the real people who inspired her fiction.

HFB:  Is there any fact or story that you had to leave out that you can share with us?

DH: In many ways, the Danish resistance is personified by the actions of Niels Skov. Niels began to commit acts of sabotage as a young college student, roaming the streets of Copenhagen at night searching for German vehicles to set on fire, armed with nothing more than matches and an old screwdriver. I had the immense privilege of meeting Niels in October 2014, several months before his death at the age of ninety-five.

Niels had come to the U.S. after the war, written a book about his war experiences, and become a professor at Evergreen State College in Washington State. When I shared how amazed I was that he’d had the courage to act on his own this way, his lovely wife Diane happened to remember that Niels had kept that screwdriver he used in 1940, a tool his grandfather had made. Holding that small item held so much meaning, and I was able to photograph it for the book to share with readers.

HFB: How would you describe the role of young people in the Danish resistance and what do you think teens today can learn from them?

DH: Young people like Niels Skov were pivotal in the Danish resistance, especially in the early years when their government was urging citizens to accommodate the German occupation. College students like the four Kieler siblings, whose stories I also follow in my book, went from becoming involved in the underground press to performing dangerous acts of sabotage. Some young activists paid with their lives.

While teens in America don’t have to deal with an occupying force and soldiers appearing suddenly on our streets, young people nevertheless face difficult personal decisions every day. It’s not always easy to follow your conscience.

When I asked Niels what his advice would be for young people, he said, “Swim against the stream. Don’t do what everyone else does.”

HFB: Do you have any writing advice for young readers, especially those who want to write non-fiction?

DH: When I visit schools, I usually speak to students from Pre-K to eighth grade; I’ve also taught writing workshops to adults. But I always seem to give the same fundamental advice to anyone who wants to write (regardless of age): read a lot, write a lot, and revise a lot.

I often use a sports analogy when talking to students: we know athletes at all levels put in hours and hours of practice, and learn everything they can about their sport. Writing is much the same. Readers really do make writers.

Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for appearing! For other stops on the Courage and Defiance blog tour please check

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347 There isn’t much I can say about We Were Liars without giving it away.  I can tell you that it takes place on the private island of a rich Boston family.  I can tell you that it’s about a group of four friends who call themselves “the Liars”, and that there are indeed a lot of lies in the story.  I can tell you that the writing is fearless, razor-sharp and beautiful, and that I read it in the space of about three hours.  But as for what it’s actually about?  No, I can’t tell you that.  The heavy, portentous suspense in We Were Liars is the book’s best feature.  The phrase “unputdownable” gets thrown around a lot with new, hyped books, but I’m gonna say it anyway: you will genuinely not put this book down until you get to the end.  As it says on the back of the book: Read it.  And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; Random House; 17.99; 13+ years old

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

17756559Kestrel, the aristocratic daughter of a warmongering nation, buys a man named Arin at a slave auction.  Her purchase sets off a unstoppable chain of events, both in the delicate politics between their people and in her own heart.

The world of The Winner’s Curse is inspired by the Roman Empire, which lends weight to its star-crossed love story. The world-building is great, with Kestrel’s imperialistic society layered over the ruins of Arin’s peaceful one.  I found Kestrel’s political awareness to be the most interesting part of the book – it’s rare to find a teenage heroine these days whose strength isn’t some kind of literal skill with weapons. It was awesome watching her strategize and stay two steps ahead.  The Winner’s Curse ends on a killer cliffhanger, so be warned – Marie Rutkoski is just getting started!

– Emily

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski; Macmillan; $17.99; 12+ years old

Book Review: Camp Rex by Molly Idle

51PPTDnsRiL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Calling all outdoorsmen and women! Camp Rex is the perfect camping book for you and your dinosaur friends. You’ll get good advice on where to set up camp, how to make a fire, and fun games you can play in the wilderness. Just make sure you don’t run afoul of the animals already living in the forest! Molly Idle returns with an adorable sequel to the tea party hit Tea Rex. Just like its predecessor, Camp Rex features absolutely beautiful art composition and gorgeous pastel colors. Almost every page in this book could be a painting on your wall!

Camp Rex by Molly Idle; Walker & Company; 16.99; 3-6 years old

Book Review: Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams

9781423635284_p0_v1_s260x420“Edgar, finish your vegetables!”

“Nevermore!” quoth the tiniest little raven you’ll ever see.  The literature-themed board book series BabyLit gets an even more adorable addition with this Edgar Allen Poe-inspired picture book.  Edgar struggles through dinner, clean-up time, bath time, and bedtime stories, until his mama finally assures him that no matter what, she will love him “evermore”.  Will you ever find a cuter introduction to important American literature? I think you know the answer to that…

Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams; Gibbs Smith Publishers; 16.99; 3-6 years old.

Book Review: The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell

The Mermaid and the ShoeAll of Triton’s mermaid daughters have special skills and interests, except for Minnow, who just seems to get in the way.  Minnow asks too many questions, like “Why don’t crabs have fins?” and “Where do bubbles go?” But when Minnow finds a mysterious object, that tireless curiosity leads her on a journey to discover what it’s for, and maybe even to discover what it is that makes Minnow unique.

I love that where most mermaid books are aimed at pre-teens or teenagers, this sweet, beautifully illustrated story is for the younger set.  It’s also nicely reminiscent of The Little Mermaid, without any of more “grown-up” aspects of the original story.  Its simplicity, innocence, and fairy-tale feel make The Mermaid and the Shoe really stand out from the mermaid crowd.

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell; Kids Can Press; 16.95; 3-6 years old

Book Review: Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with Your Food! by Bob Shea

dont-play-with-your-food-by_bob_sheaRARR!!  Buddy the monster has his eye on some bunnies!  But how can he eat them when they’re about to make delicious cupcakes?  Or go swimming?  Or go to the fair?  Every day Buddy promises to eat them tomorrow.  But Buddy may have forgotten the rule… you don’t play with your food!  Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with Your Food! is fun and colorful and hilarious in the way only Bob Shea can be.  The headline implies that there will be more of these books, and I for one can’t wait!

– Emily

Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play With Your Food! by Bob Shea; Hyperion Books; 16.99; 3-6 years old

Music, Drawing, and Anthropology!

Two picture books in the past couple of years have explored the possible ways that humans first discovered music and drawing. These titles would make a great starting point for students studying early humans and their world or just a fun read aloud for families.

First DrawingThe First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein; Little, Brown; 17.00; Ages 3-7

Mordecai Gerstein sends the reader back in time with his first images and sentences in The First Drawing, about a boy living “…thirty thousand years ago.”  In present tense sentences that give a sense of immediacy, Gerstein sketches the reader’s life back then: “You live in a cave with your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers…and your wolf Shadow.” “You love to watch animals.” Illustrations with bright color and scratchy line quality show how the protagonist (you) looks at clouds and stones and sees animals there, that no one else in the family can see. After an encounter with a woolly mammoth, while sitting by the fire, the young artist finally finds a way to show the rest of the family these visions–in drawings on the cave wall. After initial panic (the father throws a spear at the wall, expecting the drawing of the mammoth to charge) everyone agrees that “It’s MAGIC!” which, of course it was. And still is. In his author’s note, Gerstein points out that children are much more likely to draw than adults…so it makes sense that the first person to invent drawing was probably a child. Read this book and then do some drawing, of woolly mammoths or whatever you like!

Kalis SongKali’s Song by Jeanette Winter; Random House; 16.99; Ages 3-7

Jeanette Winter imagines a somewhat similar tale about discovering music in Kali’s Song (complete with another woolly mammoth on the cover.) Kali is familiar with drawing, as his mother paints animals on their cave wall and tells him “soon you’ll hunt and kill animals like those.” Kali’s father gives him a bow so that he can practice shooting, but Kali soon discovers another use for the weapon: plucking the string to make music. As in Gerstein’s book, family members are astonished by this new idea and honor Kali for his talents. This book would be fun read aloud for young musicians, kids interested in history or anyone interested in wondering a little about the past.




We’re having a giveaway!  Jenny Han is releasing her new YA book, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, on April 15th.  To celebrate, we’re giving away a special prize.  The first person to preorder To All the Boys will receive the pink notebook you see on the right.  Call or email us to preorder the book!

About To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before:

When Lara Jean needs to get over a boy, she writes them letters she’ll never send, full of cathartic ranting and soul-baring emotional dumps. But when the letters are mysteriously mailed to their unintended recipients, all the boys she’s loved before are back in her life, demanding explanations or opening long-closed doors.  This is Jenny Han at her best. A fun, fast-paced YA romance, with a quirky and loveable protagonist.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han; 17.99; Ages 12+

List Books to Love

It is a truth universally acknowledged that kids in elementary school like to look at lists. Lists of animals and plants, dinosaurs, and famous people….I could go on and on. For reluctant readers, list books provide structure and have a more manageable word count than other books. The visuals are engaging and fit with the sense of competition that lots of young readers have at that age. Which mountain is the highest? Which animal is the most dangerous? Do you know? If you have a reader who loves lists, here are some titles to look for this holiday season:
Top 5 of Everything by Time for Kids; 11.99; Ages 7+
From Time magazine comes this book with the top five in every category imaginable: ice cream flavors, fastest animals, backyard birds, peppermint producers. Kids can quiz their parents and friends, learn cool facts about animals and geography and prepare for future trivia contests.
100 Most series by Scholastic; 7.99; Ages 8+
These are the books for a kid who picks up worms, spiders or other creepy crawlies. From feared creatures, to disgusting things, these books have lists of creatures, their stats and photographs to look at. The perfect way to gross out your friends!
Weird But True series by National Geographic; 7.95; Ages 6+
Did you know that in Ancient Egypt only royalty was allowed to eat mushrooms? Or that baby eels are called elvers? All these weird facts and more can be found in the Weird but True books. Printed with eye-catching graphics on each page, these are great books to page through and see what catches your eye. For All Ages.
The Top 10 of Everything in Sports by Sports Illustrated Books; 19.95; Ages 7+
It doesn’t matter if you love football, soccer, gymnastics or hockey. There’s something cool for everyone to find in this book of sports lists. Prodigies, Rivalries, Unbelievable Moments, and Coaches—all get face time in this big format book with great photographs. This book will make any young sports fan happy this holiday.