Bjorn’s Gift, by Sandy Brehl, for MMGM

Several years ago I had the privilege of reading an ARC of Odin’s Promise, and am not ashamed to say that I gave the book one of my more gushing spotlights–which you can read here. At the time, Sandy had no concrete plans to write a sequel, but thankfully she’s done just that and has a third book in the works, as well! Each of the books continues the story of Mari, as she navigates her early teen years during Norway’s time of German occupation, during WWII.

As I waited for the second book–Bjorn’s Gift–to come out I was hopeful and a little nervous. I’d already told Sandy I’d love to have an ARC, but when authors become friends, waiting to spotlight their book can be nerve-racking. No one wants to believe it can happen…but the Sophomore slump is a real challenge. However, Sandy Brehl is a pro so I had faith in her ability to deliver.

And that she has! In Bjorn’s Gift we have a slightly older Mari, who is more confident in herself, but struggling with the challenges that arise when her deep-seated loyalty to the resistance movement is pitted against her friendship with a classmate, who has joined the Norwegian Nazi party. She’s also got bigger secrets to keep, many of them of a highly dangerous nature. The war has taken a toll, hunger has spread, and their German oppressors are turning up the heat on loyal Norwegians.

But despite all that, Mari’s family and closest friends manage to celebrate together during joyful times, and laugh together even when things are rough. I was continually amazed by the close comfort and deep love that permeates the story and brings a warmth and lightness to a very dark time in Norwegian history. There’s even an adorable Spitz pup, which we met at the end of the first book. He needs help from Mari in this one if he’s to safely grow up. And who wouldn’t love an adorable Spitz?


I know there’s a tendency on my part to gush over these books, but believe it or not, I’m holding back! On finishing them, I feel the urge to go out and shove them into the hands of random strangers and scream ‘Read this! You have to read this!’ in their faces. The only thing holding me back? I’m not willing to give up my copy.

Oh, fine, okay…that and I suspect I’d be hauled off to jail! However, the books really are that good. They maintain an amazing balance between the historic details needed to accurately portray the times and culture, including the darkness and fear of the day, against the inherent hope of a young, happy, and strong-willed girl growing up surrounded by her loving parents and sweet Bestemor (Grandma). I believe these books would make an excellent addition to any home, school, or library, and that they are uniquely able to appeal to both the shy, quiet readers who may struggle with more painful accounts of this time period, as well as the rowdier readers who want to sink their teeth into danger and adrenaline.

Now…let’s see what Apricot-kitty has to say:

Apricot kitty shadow and light“I liked the clever way Mari and her sister used the medicines they had available. Very cat-like, that. I also liked the secret place Mari finds, and the one her father creates, as well. Bolt holes are always good, and doubly so in a time of war. A very savvy family!”





I could explain those cryptic remarks, but I’m not big on spoilers, so we’ll let her comments stand as they are. Trust Apricot to see the shadow and light of each situation, and bring that out in true cat form! The book is on pre-release right now, but I’ve seen some goodreads giveaways so if you add it to your shelf, you could be notified and have a chance to win. I hope you do, as it’s a lovely read!

Stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog for further Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, spotlights, interviews and giveaways, and happy reading!




17 comments to Bjorn’s Gift, by Sandy Brehl, for MMGM

  • Glad you liked this second book. Sometimes we love a first book, but the second one just isn’t as good.

  • Oh, my, oh, my, Suzanne. I read this while on the treadmill this morning and nearly flew off the end! I would have replied right away but I had to wait and read it again now to be sure I wasn’t deluding myself. Thank you so much for your glowing and enthusiastic praise. If you find yourself compelled to run into the streets and collar folks to make them read it, let me know and I’ll launch a go-fund-me to raise your bail!
    I’m so relieved that you aren’t disappointed, which was my primary goal when I dove into writing a sequel/trilogy. You’re correct, it was never my intent to write a sequel/trilogy. When readers, especially young ones, insisted that they needed to know what happened to Mari and her family, I had to at least give it a try. I was terrified that the very readers who wanted to know more would read it and feel it wasn’t worth the wait.
    Of course I hoped they/you would find many things about it that struck a chord, in the characters and in the history, but that was just gravy on the basic hope- that Mari would still be someone readers recognized and cared about.
    And Apricot-kitty, I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the secret spaces. As you well know, those can be hard to get just right- not every hidden space is a good fit, and my initial attempts gave me fits!
    Thank you for the reading, the reception, and your friendship and support.
    Truly tusen takk, Suzanne- a thousand thanks and more!
    P. S. If any of your readers want to try for another giveaway, Oscar and Olivia at KidBookReviewers have a giveaway of the two book set that runs until September 30. Check it out here:

    • I laughed out loud at the image of a go-fund-me to raise my bail! That sounds like such an adventure…too bad I’m not quite daring enough to go for it. 😉 Thanks for the heads up on the giveaway! I was hoping there might be a chance somewhere for readers to win a copy. 😀

      Many your welcomes, and thank you for the chance to read and enjoy my ARC!

  • Love your enthusiasm, Suzanne! I often feel that way about a book (wanting to run out and shove it into the hands of strangers, I mean). I think that’s why I became a bookseller in the first place. Nice to know the second book is just as good as the first.

  • Thanks for bringing these books to my attention. Sometimes I tire of WWII novels, but I’m looking forward to finding this one. Thanks again.

  • I still have Odin’s promise on my list of books to read. I best hop over to kidbookreviewer for the 2-book contest. The setting and characters sound amazing.

  • I love really well-done stories about WWII. This sounds like my kind of story! Your review was excellent but I wanted to know more. I haven’t read any of Sandy Brehl’s novels. Thanks for introducing me to Odin’s Promise and Bjorn’s Gift. Your enthusiasm for her books is always a very good sign!

  • I’m so excited you featured this! I will be singing its praises in a few weeks–with a interview with the lovely Sandy as well. I know what you mean about wanting to put this into everyone’s hands. These are the type of books I loved as a child. I was that shy, sensitive girl. Now, I have a lot of friends with kids who also like these types of books, so I’ll be definitely passing the word. I believe it was you who introduced me to Sandy’s first book–so thank you!

  • […] Suzanne Warr, honest and upright woman that she is, did admit it, in this review.(Here) Even so, she and others have been truly gracious in their reactions and reviews so far, which has […]

  • Ingrid

    I can’t wait to read it!

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