Hide and Seek is a thrilling historical adventure from acclaimed children’s author and former BBC sports journalist Robin Scott-Elliot whose debut, The Tzar’s Curious Runaways was a Telegraph and an Observer children’s Book of the Year.
Summer, 1942. Paris is boiling hot and thirteen-year-old Amélie Dreyfus is hiding in the dark cool of her mother’s wardrobe. The sound of heavy boots signals the arrival of German soldiers and when Amélie comes out of the wardrobe it’s a matter of life or death. With her family swept away by the Nazis, Amelie decides to fight back and joins the Resistance.
Hide & Seek by Robin Scott-Elliot publishes in paperback for 9–12-year-old readers on 12 August from Everything With Words.
Hide and Seek is a powerful story of courage in the face of danger that the majority of our young people will (hopefully) never experience. As Amelie copes with the loss of her family and learns to survive on her own, she finds herself involved with the French Resistance. She learns to trust no one. Her teenage years become defined by fading memories, living in the shadows and learning to be someone else. When it’s all over, will she be able to remember the Amelie she once was?
This is a story that needs to be told. It’s another side to the war – quite different from what children typically learn at school. With a story spanning five years, there is so much to digest in this gripping book. It would be a strong addition to a Year 7 or 8 study of the Second World War and the impact of the German invasion of France.
I’m very pleased to welcome Robin Scott-Elliot to my blog with a powerful guest post about the background to Hide and Seek.
Life in occupied Paris – the background to Hide and Seek
In the winter of 1943 British bombers dropped shreds of foil in an attempt to disrupt German radar defences in France. Come December, many French Christmas trees twinkled with silver foil; by the fourth Christmas under occupation on the surface it had become a time of make-do and mend. Beneath the surface it was a time of increasing desperation.
Rationing hit hard and even then there was not enough to go round. For those trying to feed families it was a daily struggle to survive on not very much at all. By Christmas 1943 meat, eggs, butter and cheese were rare finds in any city. As Amelie discovers in Hide and Seek when she returns to Paris, macaroni and swede is the daily diet, washed down with coffee made from chestnuts or chickpeas, sweetened with sugar made from boiled pumpkin. So desperate were some that the Mayor of Paris issued a warning against eating stewed cat. In the countryside children ate hedgehogs, grass snakes, foxes, squirrels. In the city people queued and queued and queued. For some it became a job, seven francs an hour to queue for someone, fingers crossed for a handful of sprouts, a slice of black pudding. Paris became a barter society; an hour of violin lessons for a pound of butter.
‘Paris is a German town’ proclaimed Nazi posters and for the occupiers food was power; German soldiers could be seen walking down the street licking lumps of butter on a stick like they were enjoying an ice-cream. Parisians were expected to step off the pavement for them. One girl was given a month in prison for sticking her tongue out at a soldier.
Life for the capital’s Jewish population worsened much more quickly. Restrictions included only being allowed to shop between three and four, only allowed on the last carriage in the Metro, banned from cinemas, theatres and parks, and having to wear the star, paid for by one clothing ration coupon. Businesses and property were confiscated, and then the transports began.
The first round-up of Jews was in 1941, a year later they grew larger. The night before Operation Spring Wind – carried out largely by French policemen – Jewish resisters knocked on people’s doors and urged them to hide their children. Few did, many could not believe what was going to happen to them, not in Paris, not in France.
50,000 Jewish people taken from Paris never came back. The transports went on until 1944, the last one leaving just a week before the Allies arrived to liberate a capital on its knees.
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