Monday, February 18, 2013

MMGM: Stolen Child, by Marsha Skrypuch

In an inspired trip to the library I came up with not one but two books that got me all excited about blogging again. And they're both Middle Grade, so I can do a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! And one of them's Canadian, so I can add one more to my Canadian book challenge! I am on a roll here!

Many thanks to Andrea Mack, a regular MMGMer who blogged last week about Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Skrypuch. I went to the library with Skrypuch on a little piece of paper and came back with Stolen Child, the book she wrote before Making Bombs for Hitler. (The two books are connected but can be read independently.)

Stolen Child is about Nadia, a young girl who immigrates to Canada after WWII with two people she has to remember to call mother and father. They are poor, but they are building a safe life for Nadia in a small Ontario town. Nadia has terrible nightmares, however, and strange memories she can't make sense of. She doesn't know how she ended up in a Displaced Persons camp in the care of Marusia and Ivan, and some of the things she remembers make her afraid she might actually be one of the hated Nazis. Gradually she pieces together what happened to her, at the same time as she is learning English, making friends, and struggling to make a new life in Canada.

I won't explain what Hitler's Lebensborn program is, because it's the mystery at the heart of Stolen Child and you might want to discover it as Nadia does, piece by piece. (I confess, I cheated and read the historical note at the back of the book when I was only halfway through.) It's hard to believe anything could shock me about Hitler, but I found this one of his atrocities particularly unfathomable.

Stolen Child isn't a history lesson, however. It's a compelling story about a lost girl in the strange land of Canada. Skrypuch gets all the details right, from Nadia's incomprehension of Wonder Bread to her fears about what to tell a new friend about her life, to her delight at discovering that books in the library are free to take home. I was right there with her from the moment she landed in Halifax. The taste of ice cream, the sound of a lullaby, the scent of Hitler's hair creme: Skrypuch knows how to draw us in and keep us riveted to Nadia's story. Her emotional journey was entirely believable. I cried. Now I have to go get Making Bombs for Hitler so I can find out what happened to Nadia's sister.

Stolen Child is creamed salmon on toast, which you might think doesn't sound very good, but it's comfort food from my childhood--my mom made it lots because it was cheap and easy, and I have fond memories of it. (I'm sure it was better than the Velveeta on Wonder Bread that Nadia's neighbor makes her!)

I'm not a big lover of historical fiction, but books like this make me think I could stand to read more of it. It also makes me think of the story of my husband's German family, who had yet another kind of experience during WWII. I've often thought I could--should--write about it, but the thought of all the research involved quite daunts me. Marsha Skrypuch is an inspiration!

I'm going to save the second Middle Grade book for next week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, so stay tuned for Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead. In the meantime, go to Shannon Messenger's amazing blog to find out what all the other MMGMers recommended this week.

And check out John Mutford's Book Mine Set for more great Canadian books, both for adults and children.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Kim! You've got me intrigued about the first book and now I'm definitely going to look for it.

  2. Great choice this week, Kim! Thanks for bringing this one to my attention. I'm trying to read more Canadian authors as well.

    (creamed salmon on toast sounds good to me.)

  3. I just finishd Liar & Spy, too! Can't wait to hear what you think.

  4. This series sounds amazing. I must read this one and I love HF. It sounds like a great book for me to share with my 5th grade students. Awesome review!