Rob Currie’s debut middle grade novel, Hunger Winter, tells a suspenseful tale of brave kids in World-War-II Holland.

After a neighbor bangs on their door late at night, Dirk must grab his six-year-old sister and flee from the Nazi secret police into the Dutch countryside.

Their father and older sister fight for the Resistance against the Nazi. Now the older sister, Els, is captured, and Dirk and Anna are targeted. Dad’s been in hiding for months, since well before Mom died of illness.

Dirk and Anna’s journey toward safety involves lots of suspense. Will they make it to their aunt’s hosue on foot? Spoiler: because Dirk remembers a hiding place under a tree, they do make it. But when she sends them to buy food, Dirk and Anna are kidnapped, and things get very bad very quickly. Things are also very bad for Els, who is under interrogation.

Through it all, Anna doesn’t lose hope. She teaches her big brother to pray for help.

This is a page-turner that’s not too suspenseful for middle graders, I think. It showcases a plucky boy who consistently cares for his little sister, even when she puts them in deeper danger. As he learns to pray for help, there’s a faith lesson, one that’s not too preachy for nonChristians, I would guess. It has a satisfying ending, too.

I think it’s important for all of us to learn history, lest we be doomed to repeat it. Here’s a very painless way for young readers to learn some. Not only painless, but uplifting and entertaining.

Disclosure: I am a friend of the author. I bought myself a copy and decided whether to review it.