Soldier X

Don L. Wulffson, Author
Don L. Wulffson, Author Viking Children's Books $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-88863-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 227 pages - 978-0-14-250073-6
Prebound-Glued - 240 pages - 978-0-613-67163-7
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-4245-8
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Wulffson (Point Blank; The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle) poses haunting questions of allegiance, not only for his characters but for readers, with this behind-enemy-lines look at WWII. Veteran and teacher Erik Brandt's students deem him a hero, but he confides to readers that in WWII he fought for the GermansDnot the Americans. He then flashes back to March 21, 1944, when at age 16, Erik, the son of a (deceased) German father and Russian mother, and a member of the Hitler Youth, boards a train bound for battle in Russia. Erik's idealism quickly fades as he witnesses firsthand the Third Reich's brutal treatment of Jews, the casualties of war (a nurse carrying a severed human leg) and the everyday compromises necessary to survive (the soldiers eat rats for sustenance). One of the most chilling quotes in the novel comes from a seasoned soldier when the teenaged reinforcements arrive at their post: ""All the men are dead.... Now they are sending us boys."" Wulffson effectively lays the groundwork for Erik's one chance for survival after a bloody German defeat in battle: Erik dresses in a dead enemy's clothes and, thanks to his fluency in Russian, passes as a Russian with amnesia, known as ""X,"" in a Russian hospital. There he meets a beautiful nurse, Tamara, and although their love affair is not always convincing, the questions their relationship raises about loyalty (when she discovers Erik's true identity) are just as compelling as those found elsewhere in this riveting novel. With well-researched and meticulously recorded details of life under fire, Wulffson urges readers to look past the outer trappings of the enemy to discover the human being inside the uniform. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)
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