Jennifer A. Nielsen’s middle grade historical fiction novels are wonderful examples of books that teach kids about history while sandwiching that information in thrilling, emotional stories that will hook them. “Rescue,” her newest release, is no different. In this story we meet Meg, whose father is British and her mother French. Meg grew up speaking both languages and when the Germans, before WWII, became aggressive, they began to teach her German as well.
Although Meg and her family live near the border, when it becomes clear that the Germans are going to invade France, the family moves to the farm owned by Meg’s grandmother, which they hope will be farther from the fighting. Meg’s father has left for parts unknown and Meg suspects he is fighting for the Resistance. Her mother also disappears at times, and Meg is the one who takes some of the farm produce to sell on the Black Market.
But Meg has secrets of her own, and her mother doesn’t know that Meg sends messages in code to the local Resistance fighters. When Meg follows a trail of blood and finds an injured British spy hiding in their barn, it starts a series of events that will have Meg leading a trio of German refugees across France, across the mountains, and to safety, all with the purpose of getting her father rescued from inside Germany. The day that Meg finds the spy in their barn, Meg’s mother is injured trying to escape from the Nazis who are determined to find out who the rogue radio operator for the Resistance is. It’s Meg’s mom, but in her escape she hurt her leg. The spy was supposed to lead the trio out of France, but since he is badly injured, Meg must take his place.
As with all of Nielsen’s books, we are immediately drawn into Meg’s story, and we are rooting for Meg to make it through. We wince when we think she is making a poor decision, and bad luck seems to follow her and the German refugees. But Meg is resourceful and clever, and she also has the backpack that the spy entrusted her with. It has a book of spy secrets and Meg reads it and uses the tricks she learns—often those tips are what help her survive.
This is a great choice for any classroom or school library, and it’s a perfect choice for any readers interested in historical fiction and the Holocaust. The interest level and reading level make this a good book for advanced fourth graders through eighth grade. Even older readers will enjoy this as a quick and exciting read.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Scholastic, the publisher, for review purposes.