Don L. Wulffson is the author of more than forty books, including Point Blank, The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle, Future Fright, and The Upside-Down Ship. He lives in Northridge, California.
Gr 8 Up-In this gritty novel of World War II, 16-year-old Erik Brandt is forced to fight for the emaciated German army, and because of his knowledge of the Russian language, he is sent to the Russian front. The train trip that Erik and the other young men take is symbolic of their transition from child to man. These boys are sent to the front with only a few weeks of basic training and the directions to kill or be killed. After the first battle, Erik makes the life-altering decision to take the uniform of a dead Russian soldier and pretends to be Russian for most of his remaining time as a soldier, surviving serious wounds and finding the love of his life while he recuperates in a war hospital. There he pretends to have amnesia and takes the moniker "Soldier X." When the hospital is attacked, Erik and his girlfriend escape. After a harrowing journey filled with enemy encounters, they find a safe house in Czechoslovakia and eventually make their way to Berlin. The story is framed with a prologue and epilogue from Erik's perspective as an old man, and is full of his angst over killing others and having survived the war. This novel, which is based on a true story, will find an audience among readers who are not put off by the horrors of war and who would like to read about World War II from a different perspective.-Cheri Estes, Detroit Country Day School Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Wulffson (Point Blank; The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle) poses haunting questions of allegiance, not only for his characters but for readers, with this behind-enemy-lines look at WWII. Veteran and teacher Erik Brandt's students deem him a hero, but he confides to readers that in WWII he fought for the GermansDnot the Americans. He then flashes back to March 21, 1944, when at age 16, Erik, the son of a (deceased) German father and Russian mother, and a member of the Hitler Youth, boards a train bound for battle in Russia. Erik's idealism quickly fades as he witnesses firsthand the Third Reich's brutal treatment of Jews, the casualties of war (a nurse carrying a severed human leg) and the everyday compromises necessary to survive (the soldiers eat rats for sustenance). One of the most chilling quotes in the novel comes from a seasoned soldier when the teenaged reinforcements arrive at their post: "All the men are dead.... Now they are sending us boys." Wulffson effectively lays the groundwork for Erik's one chance for survival after a bloody German defeat in battle: Erik dresses in a dead enemy's clothes and, thanks to his fluency in Russian, passes as a Russian with amnesia, known as "X," in a Russian hospital. There he meets a beautiful nurse, Tamara, and although their love affair is not always convincing, the questions their relationship raises about loyalty (when she discovers Erik's true identity) are just as compelling as those found elsewhere in this riveting novel. With well-researched and meticulously recorded details of life under fire, Wulffson urges readers to look past the outer trappings of the enemy to discover the human being inside the uniform. Ages 10-14. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"With well-researched and meticulously recorded details of life under fire, Wulffson urges readers to look past the outer trappings of the enemy to discover the human being inside the uniform."-Publishers Weekly