When the Soldiers Were Gone

Vera W. Propp, Author Putnam Publishing Group $14.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-399-23325-8
A dramatic true event turns pallid in this unconvincing first novel set at the close of WWII. Living on a Dutch farm with Mama and Papa, Henk has rejoiced with them at the defeat of the ""bad soldiers""--but his whole world turns upside-down when ""Mama and Papa"" tell him that they are not in fact his parents. Henk's real name, which he has forgotten, is Benjamin, and his real father and mother are David and Elsbet, Jews who have survived the war in hiding. The boy's reunion with his parents and his transformation from Henk to Benjamin should be exciting subjects, but the characterizations are so pat as to flatten the material. In attempting to narrate from Henk/Benjamin's perspective, Propp relies on artificial-sounding interior monologues with lots of wide-eyed questions: ""It wouldn't be proper to call [David and Elsbet] by their first names. What should I call them, he asked himself. How do I know they are really my parents as they say they are?"" The dangers of the war, revealed in flashbacks and through Elsbet's conversations with her son, never take on immediacy. Middle-graders interested in a more authentic treatment of problems Dutch Jewish children faced in coming out of hiding after the war should see Ida Vos's novels Hide and Seek and Anna Is Still Here. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 112 pages - 978-0-698-11881-2
Prebound-Sewn - 101 pages - 978-0-7569-0748-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-20989-2
Prebound-Glued - 112 pages - 978-0-613-36028-9
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