Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.
Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.
Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.
Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.
I received this book for review as part of Litfuse Blog Tours. I would like to say thank you to Amy Lathrop for the opportunity to read this book.
This book paints a very believable and real picture of what life was like for people living in France and Europe when Hitler was in power in Germany. The picture comes through the eyes of teenagers, who are dealing with all of the regular teen issues like fitting in, going to school and making friend and then also finding their world changing in larger ways. Julien and his family have relocated from Paris to his grandfathers farm in a small town in France. The other boys at his school consider him an outsider and make no effort to accept him. His family is also hosting a boarder. Benjamin goes to school with Julien. He is treated as an outsider as well and along with being from Paris he is also Jewish.
Nina and her brother Gustavo are from Austria and are left alone when their father dies. Before he died, their father made them promise to burn the papers saying they are Jewish and to escape from Austria through a network of help he has set up for them. Unfortunately the rabbi who is supposed to help them escape from Austria to Italy is already in jail and they have to do it on their own. Nina dresses as a boy and goes by the name Niko. She is on crutches because of an attack by a boy she had a crush on in school because of her religion.
Each chapter is titled in a way that adds meaning to what follows. Some chapters follow Julien while others feature Nina. Each of them is dealing with consequences of where they are and who they are. Nina and Gustavo hide in abandoned building, beg for food, receive help from Gypsies and deal with constant hunger and fear. Julien and his family are also dealing with hunger and fear. Julien has trouble fitting in with his new schoolmates and gaining acceptance, especially from the most popular boy, Henri.
Throughout it all both children, but especially Julien, pray to God and wonder if He is listening. While he doesn't receive an answer every time he prays, he comes to believe that God is listening and giving him answers, if he takes the time to look for them and understand.
While it takes awhile, eventually Nina and Julien end up in the same city. Julien learns more about himself as he starts to see what is really important and what hunger and pain look like for other people.
I like how this book feels real, especially since it is based on a real city in France and how it gives the people and especially the teens who lived at this time a face. It takes history and specific historical events and shapes them into a story that will resonate with readers and put a face on the refugees and citizens of the time. It doesn't show anyone to be all good or bad, but shows how perspective changed how people saw things. It shows how the little bits of filtered news gave an uneven or even inaccurate picture of what was happening and it shows how things can get so bad so fast. But it also shows that there can always be hope, that people can be willing to reach out even when they do not have enough themselves and most importantly that people are able to change and adapt and have their eyes opened to truths.
Pub. Date: March 2011
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Format: Paperback , 304pp
Age Range: Young Adult
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FACEBOOK THIS: How Huge the Night by Heather & Lydia Munn is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens and adults alike turning the pages late into the night! http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13181161
Link to buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/How-Huge-Night-Heather-Munn/dp/082543310X/ref=sprightly-20
About the Munn's:
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in southern France where her parents were missionaries like their parents before them. She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and now lives in a Christian intentional community in rural Illinois, where she and her husband, Paul, host free spiritual retreats for the poor, especially those transitioning out of homelessness or addiction. When not writing or hosting, she works on the communal farm.
Lydia Munn, daughter of missionary parents, grew up in Brazil. She received a BA in literature from Wheaton College, and an MA in Bible from Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions. With her husband, Jim, she has worked in church planting and Bible teaching since 1983, notably in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France which forms the background of How Huge the Night. The Munns now live in Grenoble, France.
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