Uncertain Soldier by Karen BassUncertain Soldier by Karen Bass

Uncertain Soldier

byKaren Bass

Paperback | April 1, 2015

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Seventeen-year-old Erich is a prisoner of war working at a northern Alberta logging camp. Twelve-year-old Max goes to school—reluctantly—in the nearby town. The two would be unlikely friends, except that neither has anyone else to turn to. At the height of World War II, nobody wants to befriend a German.It doesn’t matter that Erich was forced into the military by his father, or that Max was proudly born in Canada. They are both easy targets for the locals’ grief and anger against the Nazis. The other prisoners are no more welcoming, distrustful of Erich’s perfect English and his dislike for Nazism. Still, when a series of accidents shake the logging camp, they pressure Erich to question the Canadians and find the saboteur—even if his questions get him into trouble. Caught between angry prisoners and suspicious captors, Erich is afraid to take any action at all. It is only when Max’s schoolyard tormentors cross a dangerous line that Erich realizes that his real loyalties lie not with a regime or a country, but with his friend.
Karen Bass is a multi-award-winning author of novels for young adult readers. Graffiti Knight won the CLA Young Adult Book Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the R. Ross Annett Award for Children's Literature, and the CAA Exporting Alberta Award. Formerly the library manager in Hythe, Alberta, Kar...
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Title:Uncertain SoldierFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 8 × 5.5 × 0.75 inPublished:April 1, 2015Publisher:Pajama Press Inc.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:192748572X

ISBN - 13:9781927485729

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Well-written and Exciting Page-turner! “Uncertain Soldier” a gripping story of intolerance, prejudice and friendship set against the historical background of WW11 revolves around seventeen-year-old Erich Hofmeyer a German POW working as a lumberjack in a northern Alberta logging camp and twelve-year-old Max Schmidt born in Canada to a German immigrant and his wife who’s despised at school because of his ethnic heritage. Both taunted, abused and struggling to survive in a town filled with the grief, anger, and the bitterness of wartime loses, the two find solace in an unlikely friendship. The story heats up when accidents begin plaguing the German POWs, causing injuries and rousing the prisoners’ anger. Pressed by his bunk mates into finding the culprit but stymied by the suspicions of his Canadian boss and the other loggers only Max’s courage when bullied and tormented at school gives Erich the courage to search for the saboteur. In an innovative plot that looks at the bias and hatred towards German POWs as the war heats up and the list of Canadian deaths increases, Karen Bass skillfully weaves in the specter of intolerance towards the aboriginal people with the introduction of "Christmas" who finds a kindred spirit in Erich. Well-developed and emotionally-charged as the author builds the plot's intensity with the tempest of scorn, impatience and anger swirling not only around Erich but with Max’s bruising and battering at school, events escalate that have both facing danger and death. Beautifully descriptive Karen Bass brings to life the wilderness and cold of the wintry Canadian landscape of the Peace River Country as well as contrasting the attitudes of the multiple personalities that envelope the lives of Erich and Max. Fair and just boss Henry Lane owner of the logging enterprise is very different from Frank Janowski the mean, hostile and bullying logger who despises Eric and his fellow Germans because of the war. Unlike Henry’s compassionate wife who feeds the men and sees to their injuries, her assistant Canadian born seventeen-year-old Cora although intrigued by Erich like most of those in town shows him nothing but disdain. In the same vein, lonely and friendless Max who’s taunted and beaten up by Richard Anderson and his friends at school and badgered by his German father to man-up and fight back gravitates towards Erich’s words of kindness, encouragement, and unspoken offer of friendship. Masterfully the author blends these ingredients into a story that’s riveting from beginning to end. I thoroughly enjoyed “Uncertain Soldier”, highly recommend it and will look for other books by Karen Bass in future.
Date published: 2018-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Winner of the 2016 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction Uncertain Soldier tells the story of Erich Hofmeyer, a German prisoner of war held in Alberta in the winter of 1943-44. The story begins in the voice of young Max Schmidt, a Canadian lad born of German parents, who is persecuted for his heritage and understandably struggles with his identity as a result. His father is almost violently insistent that Max remain proud of and stand up for himself and his German heritage. What Max is subjected to is impossible to stand against, though: a systematic, targetted bullying that readers will recognize as being a pervasive response to otherness, not just the product of war-time Canadian prejudice. When the bullying becomes life threatening, Max runs away. Max’s flight is the impetus for an act of bravery by Erich on both a physical and an emotional level, a distillation of the uncertainty that has been tearing at Erich throughout the novel. Erich’s uncertainty regarding his conflicted national and cultural identities gives rise to the novel’s title. While Max’s struggle is the weft of the fabric of Bass’s narrative, Erich’s is the warp. Max is persecuted by his classmates; Erich’s very life is threatened by his complex position as a German national with British relatives, who speaks English perfectly and who silently rejects Hitler’s insistence on the superiority of the Aryan “race.” In the prison camp outside of Lethbridge where Erich is initially held, the Nazi party members rule as strongly as within the German army. Beaten close to death by those in power, Erich is granted a transfer to a work camp for prisoners deemed to be less of an ideological threat. Here, too, though, the dynamics among the prisoners is infused with mistrust of each other and of the Canadians the men work with. Some of the Canadians are generous and kind; others are resentful; and at least one person is filled with a hatred that leads to murderous intent. As both linguistic and cultural interpreter between the German prisoners and their English-speaking boss and fellow lumberjacks, Erich sees both honour and mistrust on both sides, and his honest, empathetic perspective makes him an ideal negotiator but also puts him in an almost untenable situation. Uncertain Soldier is a solid, intelligent interpretation of the politics of the time and the effect of opinion on morale. Through the richness of its characters, the novel gives voice to a gamut of attitudes, revealing the complexity of life during the 1940s far more thoroughly and effectively than what is taught in history classes. In contrast to the Canadian Sam’s violent insistence that “a few firing squads last war would’ve fixed it,” Erich’s British grandfather astutely notes that “more mercy by the Great War’s victors might have prevented the fight that loomed” (103). The parallel with history is made more powerful by its subtlety; most readers will not hear Sam’s vehemence as an echo of French military politician Ferdinand Foch, who noted at the time that the Treaty of Versailles was “not peace [but] an Armistice for twenty years,” asking for harsher restrictions to be place on the defeated Germany. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Erich’s grandfather’s position is reminiscent of John Maynard Keynes’s insistence that the conditions were too harsh, that the Treaty was a “Carthaginian peace,” a peace ensured by the complete annihilation of the vanquished, such as Rome’s conquering of Carthage. Historians still debate the political “what ifs” of the first half of the twentieth century, and this uncertainty, manifested at all levels of society, is brilliantly woven into the fabric of Bass’s text.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Winner of the 2016 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction When I was young, I saw the 1978 movie version of Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier (1973). Until then, I hadn’t thought about what “our side” did with prisoners of war. It was more obvious with Allied prisoners in the European or Asian theatre: the prisoners were held there, where the battles were being waged. (Hogan’s Heroes, the comic TV series that ran from 1965 to 1971, was also a popular entertainment of my youth.) Less traumatic than the American Summer of My German Soldier, Uncertain Soldier tells the story of Erich Hofmeyer, a German prisoner of war held in Alberta in the winter of 1943-44. The story begins, though, in the voice of young Max Schmidt, a Canadian lad born of German parents, who is persecuted for his heritage and understandably struggles with his identity as a result. His father is almost violently insistent that Max remain proud of and stand up for himself and his German heritage. What Max is subjected to is impossible to stand against, though: a systematic, targetted bullying that readers will recognize as being a pervasive response to otherness, not just the product of war-time Canadian prejudice. When the bullying becomes life threatening, Max runs away. Max’s flight is the impetus for an act of bravery by Erich on both a physical and an emotional level, a distillation of the uncertainty that has been tearing at Erich throughout the novel. Erich’s uncertainty regarding his conflicted national and cultural identities gives rise to the novel’s title. While Max’s struggle is the weft of the fabric of Bass’s narrative, Erich’s is the warp. Max is persecuted by his classmates; Erich’s very life is threatened by his complex position as a German national with British relatives, who speaks English perfectly and who silently rejects Hitler’s insistence on the superiority of the Aryan “race.” In the prison camp outside of Lethbridge where Erich is initially held, the Nazi party members rule as strongly as within the German army. Beaten close to death by those in power, Erich is granted a transfer to a work camp for prisoners deemed to be less of an ideological threat. Here, too, though, the dynamics among the prisoners is infused with mistrust of each other and of the Canadians the men work with. Some of the Canadians are generous and kind; others are resentful; and at least one person is filled with a hatred that leads to murderous intent. As both linguistic and cultural interpreter between the German prisoners and their English-speaking boss and fellow lumberjacks, Erich sees both honour and mistrust on both sides, and his honest, empathetic perspective makes him an ideal negotiator but also puts him in an almost untenable situation. Uncertain Soldier is a solid, intelligent interpretation of the politics of the time and the effect of opinion on morale. Through the richness of its characters, the novel gives voice to a gamut of attitudes, revealing the complexity of life during the 1940s far more thoroughly and effectively than what is taught in history classes. In contrast to the Canadian Sam’s violent insistence that “a few firing squads last war would’ve fixed it,” Erich’s British grandfather astutely notes that “more mercy by the Great War’s victors might have prevented the fight that loomed” (103). The parallel with history is made more powerful by its subtlety; most readers will not hear Sam’s vehemence as an echo of French military politician Ferdinand Foch, who noted at the time that the Treaty of Versailles was “not peace [but] an Armistice for twenty years,” asking for harsher restrictions to be place on the defeated Germany. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Erich’s grandfather’s position is reminiscent of John Maynard Keynes’s insistence that the conditions were too harsh, that the Treaty was a “Carthaginian peace,” a peace ensured by the complete annihilation of the vanquished, such as Rome’s conquering of Carthage. Historians still debate the political “what ifs” of the first half of the twentieth century, and this uncertainty, manifested at all levels of society, is brilliantly woven into the fabric of Bass’s text.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved it!! I read this book not expecting how great it would be! Uncertain Soldier was an intriguing and extremely detailed book which a highly recommend. This book is an historic fiction book based on World War 2 in Northern Alberta. Really Enjoyed it
Date published: 2017-04-02

Editorial Reviews

About Uncertain Soldier2016 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People Winner2016 OLA Red Maple Award shortlist2016 IODE Violet Downey Book Award shortlist2015 Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens Fall selection"The author's research is evident yet deftly woven into the fabric of the narrative. Historical fiction from a seldom seen perspective, suspenseful and nuanced, a smart addition to most young adult collections."—School Library Journal"[R]eaders will likely find the two main characters' journeys to safety and justice in a cruel world compelling."—Publishers Weekly"Bass does a fantastic job building and releasing tension throughout the novel...[The characters'] feelings of helplessness and struggles with conflicted loyalties should be easy for any young reader to identify with."—Quill & Quire"This novel shows solid research into the conditions of the 38,000 German POW's in Canada, and life in rural Alberta in the 1940s...the visceral details and important themes make the journey compelling."—Resource Links"...Uncertain Soldier is an excellent novel, fascinating for its detail about Canadian rural life in the 1940s, rich in male characters with whom boys can identify, and important in theme - that one should not be too quick to judge others. Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine"Bass writes with a visceral power...Wrestling with complex issues of friendship, loyalty, politics and violence, Uncertain Soldier would be an excellent choice for a teen boys' book club."—Canadian Children's Book News"Bass does an excellent job of uncovering the layers of many complex emotions...Mature junior high readers, and senior high students will identify with Bass's strong male characters whose loyalties are tested and with the complex friendships that develop as the plot unfolds."—ASLC Litpicks"Karen Bass again, as she did in Graffiti Knight, examines an ill-fated part of our history (her author's note is an especially enlightening and valuable read) and textures it with humanity that makes it a touching story of distressing times."—CanLit for LittleCanadians"Uncertain Soldier is a solid, intelligent interpretation of the politics of the time and the effect of opinion on morale. Through the richness of its characters, the novel gives voice to a gamut of attitudes, revealing the complexity of life during the 1940s far more thoroughly and effectively than what is taught in history classes....Historians still debate the political 'what ifs' of the first half of the twentieth century, and this uncertainty, manifested at all levels of society, is brilliantly woven into the fabric of Bass's text."—There Will Be Books