Mari’s Hope by Sandy Brehl

Mari’s Hope (Book 3 in the Odin’s Promise Trilogy)

Sandy Brehl, Author

Crispin Book, Historical Fiction, Sep. 5, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Norwegians, WW II, Underground resistance, German occupation, Dogs, Bravery, Courage

Synopsis: Mari’s Hope is set in a small village in occupied western Norway during the final years of World War II.  Thirteen-year-old Mari has been assisting Dr. Olson for over a year, studying by day, and making home visits to treat villagers in the afternoons and evenings. She wears her hair in a long girlish braid so that the German soldiers ignore her activities. She also plays a role in her family’s efforts in the local resistance, despite ever-present dangers, especially from the a soldier named Goatman and from Leif, her one-time school friend, now a German collaborator.

Mari’s Hope delivers the dramatic conclusion to the middle-grade historical fiction trilogy begun with Odin’s Promise, awarded the 2014 Midwest Book Award for Children’s Fiction, and Bjorn’s Gift, published in 2016.

Why I like this book:

Sandy Brehl writes a powerful and authentic story about the harsh realities of Mari’s life in her village of Ytre Arna, under the watchful eyes of Germans. Brehl’s writing is a richly detailed and visual story of danger, bravery courage and hope. A lot of research went into this series.

The setting is realistic and readers will feel the bone-chilling cold as Mari trudges through snow and dark Norwegian nights to care for patients in their homes, dodges patrolling soldiers, maintains her strength on a daily diet of clear broth soup with a few bits of carrots or turnips, and makes some harrowing and risky trips for the resistance.

Great characters make a good story and Brehl has succeeded with Mari, a mature, intelligent, independent and caring character from the start. Her credibility grows as she proves her trustworthiness and takes on many dangerous missions. Leif, a childhood friend who joined the Germans, is a nice balance in the story. Leif watches out for Mari, but she doesn’t trust him. But who can you trust during war?

Brehl focuses on the strong sense of community that emerges among the Norwegian villagers as they stand strong against the invading Nazi troops, who have come as “Viking Brothers” claiming to protect their neutral Norway from the Allies. The plot is tense and dangerous as Mari’s parents, brothers and sister along with neighbors launch a very strong underground resistance to thwart the German plans — with some humor at times. They also help local Jewish members escape. There is also an overriding theme of love of family, love of community and love of country in this story.

New readers to this series will enjoy Mari’s Hope based on its merits. It is not necessary to read the first two books to understand the story. I know I will be catching up with the first two volumes of this exciting  trilogy. Below is a synopsis of the first two books.

Resources: Check out the Author’s Note at the end to learn how she beautifully weaves together fiction with historical and real-life events. There is also a glossary at the end the helps readers with Norwegian expressions. Visit Sandy Brehl on her website for more information about her trilogy.

Odin’s Promise is a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway in World War II as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked under the wings of her parents, grandma, and older siblings. After Hitler’s troops invades Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. As the year progresses, Mari, her family, and her neighbors are drawn into the activities of the Norwegian underground resistance.

Bjorn’s Gift is the second book in the trilogy and continues the exciting adventures of Mari, who faces growing hardships and dangers in her small village in a western fjord. German occupation troops and local Nazi supporters move closer to her family’s daily life, and her classmate Leif becomes active in the Norwegian Nazi youth party. Mari struggles to live up to her brother Bjorn’s faith in her, as she becomes more involved in risky resistance activities, trusting only her family and a few close friends. Across Norway, oppressive laws are imposed in the months from late 1941 to early 1943, with dire local consequences. Still, difficult decisions force Mari to admit that many things in life are not easily sorted into good or bad, and she begins to wonder if Hitler will ever be defeated and whether the occupation of Norway will ever end.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

35 thoughts on “Mari’s Hope by Sandy Brehl

  1. Glad you liked this one so much and that it could be read without reading books 1 and 2. I don’t think there are many historical series like this and the time period in the story was so interesting.

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  2. I like reading stories about World War II and I think it is important for children to know what life was like in occupied countries such as Norway. This sounds like a great series.

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      • Thanks Darlene and Patricia. The original book was inspired by personal stories I heard directly from people who lived in Norway during the five years of occupation. When I set out to “finish the war” due to reader requests, the continuing research was intriguing. My critique partners worked hard to keep me from slipping into “teacher voice” and two let information work itself into the natural storyline… our land on the cutting room floor!

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  3. Great stories begin with great characters and this one sounds like it hits the mark with perfection. I love the time period. Having it set in Norway makes it even better. I will be sure to add this to my list of books to read. Thanks for sharing

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    • I only mentioned a few characters, but there are many well-developed characters. So much of the story is based on history and it really opens your eyes to the risks the Norwegians took to resist and trick the Nazis. Great story. Hope you read it.

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      • Thanks, Greg and Patricia. My dad was an American soldier fighting in Germany in WWII and from little on I read everything about that era that I could get my hands on. Even so, when I had a chance to visit in family homes in Norway and their stories kept returning to the hardships and resistance of the occupation years I was stunned! I was sure that Norway had been able to remain neutral, as Sweden did. Boy, was I wrong!

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    • It is an engaging story about children involved in the resistance movement in Norway. Mari is such a strong character and it’s interesting to the story through her eyes. This story reminds me of a favorite childhood book “Snow Treasures.”

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      • Patricia, SNOW TREASURES as a comparable is the highest praise, to me. Throughout many years of teaching that book was consistently my students’ favorite read aloud. I struggled to find a “young” voice to relate the history and personal anecdotes I was trying to share. Then my research turned up journal entries that had been written by preteens and teens during those years- at great risk to their lives! That’s when I could feel Mari sit down beside me, elbow me in the ribs, and tell me to get out of the way so she could get this book written!

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      • It has been a long time since I read Snow Treasures, but there are certain stories that remain with you. You did an excellent job of capturing the “young” voice of Mari. Thank you for sharing so much insight into how you wrote the story.

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    • Hi, Rosi. I’ll admit that I was worried (when the first book released) that it might be seen as a “girl” book. (I don’t believe there is such a thing!). From the time I had pilot groups of kids reading before the initial release it was so exciting to see boys every bit as enthused and engaged as the girls. During school visits the same is true. The topic of war and resistance connects with young readers regardless of other interests. My hope is that stories like these can open discussions that will allow future generations to empathize and prevent such developments in the world they will create.

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  4. Wow, this is sounds like a terrific historical fiction trilogy. I think less is often known of what happened in some of the Scandinavian countries during WWII.

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    • A lot of research went into this series. I think you are right. Some were neutral territories, like Switzerland. And many were focal points for a lot of resistance activities. Remember reading “Snow Treasures” as a child about Norwegian children hiding blocks of gold in snowmen so it could be smuggled out of the country. It was one of my favorite books.

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  5. Thank you for pointing to these books and sharing your post with #diversekidlit – and to Sandy for adding extra information in the comments – I will seek these out…

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    • You are welcome! I couldn’t put the book down. Reminded me of a book I read as a child called “Snow Treasures.” Beautiful story about family, community and doing what you know is right. One girl can make a difference.

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