The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club Book Poster Image
Thrilling true story of teenagers who stood up to the Nazis.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is a rare account of life under German occupation told through the eyes of young people. The lively narrative brings to life what could otherwise be "dry" historical facts, and the short informational sidebars offer readers background on everything from why the boy's hometown of Aalborg was important to the Germans to the rescue of Danish Jews.

Positive Messages

The most unexpected people can be heroes. Even the quiet bookish boy or girl at school can be capable of brave deeds that will inspire others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Knut and the rest of the Churchill Club boys show extraordinary bravery (and creativity) in taking action against the German military stationed in their town, but their actions sometimes involve a bit of bravado that's likely reflective of their age and inexperience.


The Club’s acts of sabotage are against machinery and buildings, never individuals. The boys steal weapons -- knives, grenades, bayonets, rifles -- and even set up a lab to create explosives. Though they discuss possibly killing German soldiers, they never act on it. One young resistance fighter commits suicide to avoid capture, but it's not described. Always in the background is the threat of the boys being captured and possibly executed.


Knut has a few very G-rated fantasies about a girl in his class.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It's occasionally mentioned that the boys smoke pipes (appropriate for the historical period), and one younger boy gains admittance to the club in large part because he can bring supplies of tobacco from his father's store.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Phillip Hoose's The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club is the remarkable true story of a small group of courageous Danish teens whose acts of sabotage against the German military inspired their country to rise up against the Nazi occupation. The book interweaves Hoose's narrative with the memories of Knud Pedersen, who was the young leader of the Churchill Club, and includes many black-and-white photos. Although set in a violent and terrifying time, the violence is never described in any detail. This is a story so compelling it's sure to captivate even readers who "hate" history. Hoose is the author of the Newberry Honor Book and National Book Award-winning Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJenikey February 13, 2020

GREAT true adventure book

This book is a great example of research done well and also portrays the story of the relationship the author had with the main character. So inspiring to see... Continue reading
Adult Written bymatheal September 27, 2018

My son loved this book

2-years ago when my son was 12 years old he bought this book the scholastic book fair at his school thinking that it looked cool and he's really glad he bo... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 10, 2020

Why it is bad

It wasn't that scary and the violence even though it was set during world war 2. It was really boring. I had to read it for school and I really wish I hadn... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byryubeta April 16, 2020

What's the story?

After Germany invades Denmark in April 1940, its citizens do not resist -- something that 15-year-old Knud Pedersen can't understand. So with his brother and a small group of friends, Pedersen forms the Churchill Club, named after Great Britain's feisty prime minister. If the adults won't stand up to the Germans, the Churchill Club members will do it for them. THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER: KNUD PEDERSEN AND THE CHURCHILL CLUB recounts how, between December 1941 and May 1942, the teens commit numerous acts of sabotage and steal an arsenal of weapons from unsuspecting German soldiers. Finally caught by the German authorities, the boys are tried and imprisoned, but their heroic exploits inspire the Danish nation to rise up against the Nazi occupation.

Is it any good?

This true story of courage and resolve is history that reads like a thriller, as a group of unlikely teen heroes are pitted against a formidable and ruthless enemy. Pedersen's first-person accounts give a real sense of immediacy to the story, as do the many black-and-white photographs. There's even a Danish police photo of an army truck vandalized by the club and several photos of the boys in the club. The writing is accessible enough for younger readers and the story fast-paced enough to keep older readers engaged.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about keeping secrets. Was is right for the boys to undertake actions that could have meant arrest (or worse) for their families without telling their parents?

  • Members of the Churchill Club communicated with one another and did all their planning without any of the modern technology we take for granted. How difficult do you think it was to take on the German army without cell phones or computers?

  • Are there challenges faced by your community in which teenagers can take the lead in finding solutions?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and World War II

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