Friday, May 3, 2019

A truly beautiful book

Beautifully written, urgent in style, important in message.

Those words come to mind about White Rose by Kip Wilson. I urge people to buy this book if you can or order it from your local library. This historical fiction written in verse is among the first books published by the new Versify imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, led by Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander.

White Rose was the name of a small group of German university students who attempted to wake up the populace to what Hitler was doing. They printed pamphlets and wrote street messages, urging people to resist the Nazi regime.

In the end, they were caught and did not make the impact they had hoped when they put their lives on the line. But their story stands today as an important lesson in recognizing and speaking out early against fascism.

Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and their friends have not been forgotten in history.

One of the things I like about the way Kip Wilson writes Sophie's story is she makes it clear that it took time for Sophie and Hans to stand up. At first, they joined the Hitler youth groups, which were framed more like scout troops, enjoying the camp atmosphere but not the propaganda. Their father was briefly imprisoned for being outspoken in opposition to Hitler, as was Hans later.

They were uncomfortable when they saw Jewish friends being harassed ("as if Jews aren't people like us at all"), but it took them time to put their necks on the chopping block (quite literally) and form the White Rose. Sophie's boyfriend Fritz was even a German soldier.

Here is one of the verses, stunning in its impact:

 Fritz tells me
 officers' mail

that I should
feel free
to say
what I like,

which is good
because I have
to say.