Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club
by Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374300227
Grades 6 and up
On shelves May 12, 2015

The reviewer received an advanced digital copy of the book from the publisher.

I enjoy reading about people and events from history that I had never heard of before, especially when it's from a time period that has been written about extensively. There are several nonfiction titles that fall into this category: The Port Chicago 50 by Steven Sheinkin,  Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin, Searching for Sarah Rector by Tanya Bolden and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Hoose has a new nonfiction book for young adults that introduces readers to a little-known group of teens who made a difference. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler follows the work of brave boys from Denmark who created a club to sabotage the Nazis during World War II.

Hoose explains in the introduction that he got he idea for the book while on a bicycle tour of Denmark where he visited the Museum of Danish Resistance and viewed an exhibit about The Churchill Club.  The author researched the book by extensively interviewing Knud Pedersen in person and via email. The result is a gripping, edge-of-your seat, nonfiction book about how young saboteurs attempted to thwart the Nazis.

Hoose's narrative style includes interesting details that help readers picture the story in their minds. The Churchill Club met at Pedersen's home after school where they planned their missions. They named their club after Winston Churchill, whom they greatly admired. The most compelling aspect of the story comes from Pedersen's first person account of how the boys set fire to railway cars, stole weapons from German soldiers, and vandalized Nazi vehicles and buildings. Pedersen explains that the group decided to fight back despite the risks involved because they felt the Danish government had given up; they wanted to stand up to the Nazis like the Norwegians.

Black and white photographs and primary documents placed throughout the book provide more information about the events and time period. One memorable photo shows members of the Churchill Club posing with their prison numbers in the yard at the King Hans Gades Jail. Readers will enjoy reading about how the boys continued to wreak havoc with Nazi operations even as they served time in jail.  This is the perfect book for teens looking for an exciting, true adventure story. Pair The Boys Who Challenged Hitler with His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden or The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson.

Click here to access discussion questions for The Boys Who Challenged Hitler.


  1. Thanks so much for the recommendation--it sounds like a great read, and I'm a huge fan of Hoose's work!

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