Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

Bruno and Frida by Tony Bradman & illustrated by Tania Rex

The story of 11 year-old Bruno Beck and his dog, Frida, stopped me in my tracks. Honest and powerful, it is an emotional portrayal of life in East Germany in 1945. Russian troops are moving in and people are being forced from their homes. Essentially, millions of people become refugees in an instant.

Bruno and his mother are just two of these people. As they try to escape the fighting and make their way west to Bruno’s grandparents home near the Danish border, Bruno’s mother is killed. Heartbroken, he has no choice but to leave her and try to save himself. All alone with nothing and no one, Bruno is very close to giving up – until he meets Frida.

Frida is no ordinary dog. When Bruno meets her, she has bombs strapped to her body – it’s a suicide vest intended to kill the German troops. Carefully, Bruno frees her from certain death and they become the best of friends.

On their long journey west, Bruno and Frida meet Oma, a kind old woman who seems to live in an enchanted clearing in the forest. The Russian army don’t know she’s there and her home is safe for the time being. There Bruno can rest, regain his strength and begin to make sense of his mother’s death. He starts to heal and prepare for the journey he must make to a new life.

This is a story of compassion and kindness. Told from the point of view of a German boy, it is also a reminder that the majority of the Germans in World War Two were just ordinary people caught in the cross fire. Oma and Bruno’s sense of guilt for what their country had done hits hard. Although they were not personally responsible for the horrendous acts of Hitler and his followers, Oma discusses the responsibility of the people who voted for him and allowed him to impose his values on the country. It’s a lesson for everyone who lives in a democratic society and a reminder that we absolutely must learn from the past so it doesn’t repeat itself.

The refugee crisis is not a new issue. The story of Bruno shows readers that it has always happened and people who find themselves in this situation need empathy and as much help as we can give them.

Bruno and Frida is another triumph for Barrington Stoke. This is a valuable story for Year Upper Key Stage Two and Key Stage Three classrooms. With their super-readable, accessible style, all readers have the chance to get lost in this powerful story of war, life, loyalty and survival.

Thank you to Barrington Stoke for this memorable book!

Also by Tony Bradman & Tania Rex: Daisy and the Unknown Warrior

Click on the book covers below to find out more or to order from bookshop.org or Amazon.

Books by Kate Heap:

Contemporary Children’s Literature: Years 3/4

Nonfiction: Years 5/6

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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