Sometimes I really wish I'd known Josh when he was a kid. Because, BAM. I'd have had the perfect Christmas present for his eleven-year-old self.
Right, right, Shadow on the Mountain.
Shortly after the Nazis invade his country, fourteen-year-old Espen gets involved with the Norwegian Resistance movement. At first, he's simply delivering illegal newspapers—I say 'simply', but even reading information that the Nazis had deemed illegal would get you arrested, let alone distributing it—but he gets older and more experienced, he takes on more and more dangerous assignments.
The major characters in the book are fictional—there are some appearances and mentions of historical figures, though—but the events are based in reality, and Espen's Resistance-related activities and adventures are based on the real-life exploits of a man named Erling Storrusten. At the end of the book, Preus includes information about how she did her research, as well as an extensive bibliography, a timeline of events, and a selection of related photos and pictures.
In addition to including loads of cool details about small-town Norwegian life in the 1940s, she does a great job of conveying the gallows humor of the time (and the culture):
"Did you see the latest poster?" Leif said. "It says, 'Every civilian caught with weapon in hand will be SHOT . . . Anyone destroying constructions serving the traffic and military blah-blah-blah will be SHOT . . . Anyone using weapons contrary to international law will be SHOT.'"
"Ja, I saw that," Espen said. "On the bottom of the poster someone had written, 'Anyone who has not already been shot will be SHOT.'"
...but also makes it clear that these people are laughing despite fear and uncertainty and pain:
They laughed, and Espen did, too, sort of, but it made him feel sick. All these soldiers everywhere, always with guns, their metal helmets, the tramping of their boots—walking in and out of the stores, up and down the streets. . .
There's a wonderful balance between Espen's Resistance activities (along with the knowledge that if he's caught, his family will be punished for his actions); his younger sister's interest in his activities, which ultimately leads to her own direct involvement with the Resistance; the split that occurs within his peers between those who join the Resistance and those who join the Nazis; and his own coming of age and burgeoning romance.
Good stuff—and an effective reminder that "regular" people are capable of changing the course of world events.
Book source: ILLed through my library. This book was read for the 2012 Cybils season.