By Lucinda Dyer,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Intense, inspiring story of students who defied the Nazis.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Sophie's voice offers seldom-seen personal perspective (that of non-Jewish teen and young woman) on many pivotal events in Nazi Germany: Kristallnacht, the deportation of Jews, the Nuremberg Rally, the Battle of Stalingrad. A glossary adefines German words used throughout; Selected Sources section offers books, films, websites about Sophie and White Rose available in English, German. A dramatis personae gives very brief updates on what became of major characters (White Rose members, Sophie's family and friends, her Gestapo interrogator, the judge at her trial).
Even young voices can have a powerful impact when they speak out against injustice.
Positive Role Models
At a time when few people in Germany dared speak out against Hitler, a group of university students courageously stepped forward. Even knowing the Gestapo was aggressively hunting members of White Rose didn't stop them from continuing to print and distribute even more leaflets.
Violence & Scariness
No single incident is vividly described, but violence, death are a constant. A friend tells Sophie he saw "pits heaped high with layers of Jewish bodies." Sophie writes of a synagogue being burned, people being beaten during Kristallnacht, of the horror of the German defeat at Stalingrad, of learning that Nazis are killing disabled children. It's stated that a character was executed by guillotine.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A sexual relationship between Sophie and Fritz is alluded to.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sophie and her university friends sometimes drink wine; one friend smokes a pipe. One evening, members of White Rose take Pervitin, a drug given to soldiers at the front to keep them awake, so they can work through the night assembling thousands of leaflets. (It's not stated in the book, but Pervitin was methamphetamine.)
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Kip Wilson's White Rose is based on the true story of a student-led anti-Hitler resistance movement called White Rose, which printed and distributed thousands of leaflets that exposed and denounced Nazi atrocities and called for active resistance to the regime. Written in free verse in the voice of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old leader of White Rose, the novel begins in February 1943 as Sophie is being interrogated by the Gestapo. She's been arrested with her brother, Hans, after they were seen distributing leaflets at their university. The story moves back and forth in time between chapters titled "The End" (her interrogation, trial, and sentencing) and "Before" (her teen years in a family that were early opponents of Hitler; her romance with Fritz, a young German officer; time spent in a labor camp to earn admittance to university; and her secret and incredibly dangerous work with White Rose). Violence and death are a constant in the world of Sophie, her friends, and family, although no single incident is graphically described. A friend tells Sophie he saw "pits heaped high with layers of Jewish bodies." Sophie writes of a synagogue being burned and people being beaten during Kristallnacht, and of learning that the Nazis are killing disabled children. It's stated that a character was executed by guillotine.
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What's the Story?
WHITE ROSE begins almost at the story's end. Sophie Scholl, one of the leaders of White Rose, a student-led anti-Nazi resistance movement, and her brother, Hans, have been arrested for distributing leaflets calling on Germans to rise up against their government. As she's being interrogated by the Gestapo and pressured (but not tortured) to name other members of White Rose, Sophie looks back on her life before her arrest: meeting a young army officer named Fritz when she's just 17, and beginning a relationship with him; her rising anger as she watches evil spread throughout her country and her determination to do what she can to stop it; the months she was forced to spend at a government labor camp before she could be allowed to study at a university; constantly fearing that Fritz and other young men she knows will be killed in battle. In 1942, she begins studying at the University of Munich and meets the group of friends with whom she'll form White Rose. On February 18, 1943, while leaving leaflets around their university, she and Hans are seen by a janitor and reported to the Gestapo. At her trial, Sophie is unrepentant and defiant. On February 22, she and Hans are found guilty of treason.
Is It Any Good?
This intense, inspiring novel in verse traces coming of age during the Third Reich as seen through the eyes of a courageous young woman who became a hero of German resistance. However, it's sometimes unclear in White Rose what's fact and when the author is writing in a character's voice. In the author's note, Wilson writes that she studied a collection of letters to and from Sophie, Hans, and Fritz, the leaflets themselves, and paperwork from Sophie's interrogation and trial. It seems safe to assume that if the typeface changes whenever a letter is included in the text, that this is an actual letter. But when a character's words are in italics, were they actually said by Sophie, her interrogator, or the judge at her trial? Some words, particularly those from her trial, seem to be fact, while others seem to be in italics only for emphasis.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the choice Sophie made in White Rose to speak out against Hitler and the Nazis. At a time when almost everyone was too frightened to say or do anything against the government, what do you think gave Sophie and her friends the courage to actively resist the Nazi regime?
Do you think a student-led movement could right an injustice in today's world? If you and your friends could join a resistance movement, what would it be? Instead of leaflets, how would you spread the word and gain followers?
Would you betray your friends if it meant saving your own life?
- Author: Kip Wilson
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Versify
- Publication date: April 2, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 30, 2020
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