Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), 2012. 309 pp. Includes “Author’s Note,” “Acknowledgements,” and “Glossary.”
In 1937 Guernica, Spain readers are introduced to twelve-year-old Ani and fourteen-year-old Mathias during the Spanish Civil War. Ani has always been ridiculed and called “Sardine Girl” because she helps her mother sell sardines and smells like fish. As a result, she has never had friends. Ever since her father went off to join the Basque forces fighting against Franco, she has spent time feeling belittled by her mother who seems to be resentful of her presence. Mathias is partly crippled due to a bout with polio as a young child. He has moved a lot, and has never had an opportunity to make a friend. His mother is German and his father is Jewish, so he has troubles of his own.
The two meet, and become inseparable when Mathias convinces her to join him in a plan to help his father’s spy ring gain information about the invading Franco and his forces. A few months later, their lives change forever when Hitler sends planes to deliberately bomb their city. Guernica is in ruins and their family members are dead, leaving Ani and Mathias to find a new path for their lives.
Diaz Gonzalez’s carefully researched book unearths a long buried part of history. Previous to reading this book, I had never heard of the bombing of Guernica. On its 75th anniversary, it is important that others learn about it. Readers ages 12-16 will also learn of the Basque and Spanish culture, while the “Glossary” at the end of the book helps explain many of the terms used in the book.