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:
“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!