- Virginia Johnson
Margi Preus’ Shadow on the Mountain is a gripping adventure story of teenagers risking death to defy the Nazis who have invaded their country. It is also almost entirely true.
When the Germans occupied Norway, they planned to make friends of them—all of them except the Jews. But the tall, blonde Norwegians looked exactly like the so-called superior Aryan race, so the Germans were somewhat patient in trying to win them over. After all, in times of scarcity, people who cooperated fully could expect plenty of food and good jobs while those who actively resisted them—even just by owning a radio—could be shot. So to show them the good German way, the Nazis took over or abolished and replaced all of the organizations that seemed likely to resist, including the Boy Scouts. Teachers who would not cooperate were sent away to prisoner of war camps.
At first, Espen and his friends try to keep going as normally as possible, but when even their soccer league is broken up because it might turn into an underground resistance group there seems to be nothing to do except become an underground resistance group.
There are hundreds of ways that many Norwegians defied the Nazis. Some just disrespected them openly while others, like Espen and his friends, became involved in a very dangerous game. Whatever the mission was, Espen willingly undertook it, biking or skiing to pass messages and more dangerous things to other members of the resistance movement.
But Espen is being watched. For not every Norwegian is unhappy to see the Germans at his door. Some see it as an opportunity to do better for themselves and their own families, especially if they are poor already. Espen’s best friend Kjell has a lot to gain from doing whatever the Nazis ask of him.
While Espen secretly skis through the night to help the resistance, his little sister Ingrid is also watching him carefully--and keeping a diary.
Shadow on the Mountain is based on the wartime experiences of a teenage boy who did almost everything that Espen does in the story. While a few of the narrative elements have been changed, the dangers he and his friends and family faced were very real. This is an excellent book in its own right, but it would also be a great choice for classroom discussion as it draws readers into the personal side of history. It is available in print and also to download on audio.