The Edel­weiss Pirates

Jen­nifer Elv­gren; Daniela Sta­ma­tia­di, illus.

  • Review
By – June 11, 2018

Kurt’s old­er broth­er, Albert, is a mem­ber of the Edel­weiss Pirates, a group of young peo­ple who are ded­i­cat­ed to resist­ing Hitler’s edicts. Hitler has out­lawed jazz music, so the Edel­weiss Pirates play it every chance they get. Kurt, who plays the trum­pet, asks if he can join the group; Albert refus­es but gives him a Louis Arm­strong record, which Kurt and his Jew­ish class­mate, Fritz, lis­ten to so much, they can even­tu­al­ly play by ear. At school, Kurt wit­ness­es Fritz’s grow­ing degra­da­tions. Final­ly, at the band con­cert, Kurt is instruct­ed to play a piece by Wag­n­er, Hitler’s favorite com­pos­er. Instead, he breaks out with a riff on Armstrong’s Saint Louis Blues.” After the con­cert, he receives a note from Albert with his new code name: Blues.” Kurt is final­ly a mem­ber of the Edel­weiss Pirates.

Like Elvgren’s The Whis­per­ing Town (2014), this Jew­ish sto­ry is told from the per­spec­tive of non-Jews. The author uses music to demon­strate the increas­ing loss of free­dom suf­fered dur­ing the Holo­caust. Her book also weaves a tight­ly craft­ed nar­ra­tive, using first-per­son point of view and present tense, based on the pow­er­ful pic­ture-book for­mu­la of threes: Kurt asks to join the Pirates three times, and is shown learn­ing three dif­fer­ent sub­jects at school.

The col­or palette and style of Stamatiadi’s illus­tra­tions effec­tive­ly evoke the 1930s. Back mat­ter explains the real Edel­weiss Pirates, a brave corps of some 5,000 teenagers who defied Nazi Ger­many and the Hitler Youth.

Bar­bara Kras­ner is the author of many books across gen­res, includ­ing fic­tion, poet­ry, cre­ative non­fic­tion, and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civil­ian Casu­al­ties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Gol­da Meir’s First Cru­sade was a recip­i­ent of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies from Gratz Col­lege, teach­es in the Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies pro­gram at the Col­lege of New Jer­sey, and serves as direc­tor of the Mer­cer Coun­ty Holo­caust, Geno­cide, and Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She also holds an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts.

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