cover image Enemies in the Orchard

Enemies in the Orchard

Dana Vanderlugt. Zonderkidz, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-310-15577-5

An aura of tender sorrow pervades Vanderlugt’s 1944-set debut, a free-verse novel about two youths who meet due to a WWII labor camp program in the U.S. The paths of 13-year-old American Claire DeBoer and young German soldier Karl Hartmann cross when Karl is one of 250 German prisoners of war brought to a Michigan labor camp under terms with the Federal Emergency Farm Labor Agency. Assigned to the apple harvest on Claire’s family’s orchard, kindhearted, English-speaking Karl is stunned to learn of German government lies and to find that “now,/ as a captive,/ ... I’m more at peace/ than I ever was/ fighting at home.” Claire, whose 18-year-old brother is fighting abroad, is desperate to attend high school and become a nurse rather than give in to expectations to leave school and help on the farm until marrying. In spite of Claire’s initial distrust, which is amplified within the community, Claire and Karl slowly befriend each other as their perspectives of each other’s situations change. Via contemplative first-person narratives and occasional adapted news articles, Vanderlugt intimately limns each character’s experiences alongside those of a sympathetically drawn secondary cast. While eliding context around U.S. internment-camp practices in WWII, this bittersweet telling, per an author’s note based on little-known true events, is nevertheless rich in atmospheric and emotional detail. All characters cue as white. Ages 9–up. Agent: Amy Thrall Flynn, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (Sept.)