Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

Phillip Hoose

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation's leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys' exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phillip Hoose's inspiring story of these young war heroes.

This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.

ALSC Notable Children's Books, Robert F. Sibert Award - Honor, Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year, Boston Globe - Horn Book Award, CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI)

EXCERPT

Just before Christmas 1941, a single conversation changed everything. We were in Jens's room at the monastery. It was Jens, me, four of my fourth-form Middle A classmates-Eigil, Helge, Mogens Thomsen-son of Aalborg's City Manager-and Mogens Fjellerup, a pale, pointy-faced classmate who rarely spoke but who was known as the outstanding physics student in our class. Two of Jens's classmates were there too: a boy named Sigurd-ranked number one academically in their class-and Preben Ollendorff, a bit of a loudmouth whose dad owned a tobacco factory.

We had just gone out shopping for Christmas presents for our teachers. We were in a great holiday mood . . . laughing about girls, having fun. But as always the conversation snapped back to the German occupation of our country. You couldn't go five minutes back then without returning to the topic on everyone's mind.

The talk turned dead serious. We leaned forward and our voices lowered. We angrily discussed the newspaper articles about the execution of Norwegian citizens and slaughter of Norwegian soldiers who resisted the Nazis. Norwegians were our brothers, we reminded each other, our good neighbors who had the courage to stand up. By contrast our leaders traded with Germany and sought to placate the Nazis.

Here was the discussion I had longed for! I was thrilled to be with Cathedral students who felt as my brother and I did. These were guys who stayed up like us for the nightly radio broadcasts from England. The more we talked the angrier we became. It was absurd: if you accidentally bumped into a German on the street, you were expected to strip the hat from your head, lower your eyes, and apologize profusely for disturbing a soldier of the master race. All of us had listened to them braying their idiotic folk songs in the streets.
All this was outrageous, but would anyone do anything about it? The average Danes hated their occupation and occupiers, but ask them to resist and they would say, "No, it cannot be done . . . We will have to wait . . . We are not strong enough yet . . . It would be useless bloodshed!"

The air was thick with our tobacco smoke by the time we laid the proposition on the table. It was the same vow Jens and I and the others in the RAF Club had made back in Odense: We will act. We will behave as Norwegians. We will clean the mud off the Danish flag. Jens and I opened up and told our classmates of our sabotage activities with the RAF Club in Odense. We left with a bounty on our heads, we told them.

The discussion grew heated. The older boys, Sigurd and Preben, wanted nothing of it. "You're crazy," they said. "The Germans will wipe you out in a day! There'll be nothing left of you!" But we younger boys were determined to give ourselves a country we can be proud of.

Together on that snowy afternoon we Middle A classmates, along with Jens, resolved to form a club to fight the Germans as fiercely as the Norwegians were fighting. We would take the resistance to Aalborg. We would call ourselves the Churchill Club, after the great British leader Winston Churchill. Jens volunteered to research the organization of a resistance cell and give us his recommendations, same time, same place tomorrow. Preben and Sigurd vowed not to leak word of our meeting to anyone. Already transformed from the cheerful holiday shoppers we had been an hour before, the Churchill Club stood adjourned.

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The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose book trailer

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pederson and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation's leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys' exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phillip Hoose's inspiring story of these young war heroes.

Reviews

Praise for The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

A Booklist Editors’ Choice • A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year and Best Teen Book of the Year • A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year • A New York Public Library Notable


“These teenagers risked all-and lost much . . . This energetic work of nonfiction . . . will cheer the hearts of readers whatever their age.” —The Wall Street Journal

“An outstanding addition to the WWII canon . . . Hoose brilliantly weaves Pedersen's own words into the larger narrative of Denmark's stormy social and political wartime climate.” —The Horn Book, starred review

“Often reading like a thriller, this title puts a human face on the often-overlooked Danish Resistance . . . Captivating.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Their story is one of bravery in the face of constant danger and of increasingly meaningful acts of sabotage . . . An important and unforgettable book that adds a significant chapter to the history of WWII.” —Booklist, starred review

“[An] inspiring account.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Hoose tells this largely unknown story with passion and clarity . . . A superbly told, remarkable true story.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“What an edge-of-your-seat narrative it is-and even more compelling for teen readers, who are the same age as the real-life protagonists.” —The Bulletin, starred review

“A rousing real-life adventure tale.” —Christian Science Monitor

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Phillip Hoose

Phillip Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, songs and articles. Although he first wrote for adults, he turned his attention to children and young adults in part to keep up with his own daughters. His book Claudette Colvin won a National Book Award and was dubbed a Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 2009. He is also the author of Hey, Little Ant, co-authored by his daughter, Hannah, It’s Our World, Too!, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, and We Were There, Too!, a National Book Award finalist. He has received a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, a Christopher Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, among numerous honors. He was born in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up in the towns of South Bend, Angola, and Speedway, Indiana. He was educated at Indiana University and the Yale School of Forestry. He lives in Portland, Maine.

Phillip Hoose

Copyright Shashana Hoose

Read an interview with Phillip Hoose

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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