Pennies for Hitler challenges perceptions and prejudice looking at the events of WW2 from the perspective of Georg, part Jewish with English heritage, living in Germany and being swept up by the impact of the Fuhrer.
It is 1939 and Georg is living in Germany. He is proud when his teacher measures his head and pronounces him to have the most perfect ‘Ayran’ shaped head of the entire class. From the first page hints are dropped … all is not good, a horror lurks around the corner.
French swiftly brings her readers to the shocking fate of Georg’s dad, and it is from this point that we follow Georg on a most incredible journey. Every effort is made to transport Georg out of Germany where he arrives in England to stay with his Aunt. Suddenly Georg must grow up, he must try to forget his past – suspicions are too costly during this period.
His stay with Aunt Miriam allows him to watch the unfolding war and its effect on the people who surround him. The stoic Aunt contrasts greatly with the loving Australian Peaslake’s who take him, care for him and love him … but how would they react if they knew who he truly was? If they discovered where he really comes from?
French portrays Georg with his insecurities and his worries in a tender manner. Georg is caught up with notions of identity and who he really is, bubbling behind this is the burning need to know what happened to his mother who was left behind in Germany.
French chases the impact of the war across three countries beginning with Germany in 1939, England then ultimately Australia with Japanese ‘spotter’ planes flying across as the intensity rapidly increases.
A stand out feature of French’s fictional novels is her inclusion of comprehensive notes after the story has concluded. Through these she is able to route the story in to its true historical context, providing a myriad of information for young readers to learn from. Here she covers everything from the incidents in the novel that are based on real events to evacuation and war time recipes.
Pennies for Hitler is a sensitive and evocative portrayal of a young boy caught up in the complexities of WW2.
Read My Book Corner’s interview with Jackie French.