Focus on the Family

The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth

A book review for parents

This historical fiction book by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is published by Scholastic Press, Inc. and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

A fictionalized version of a true story. Helmuth Hübener, a young man, boldly disagrees with the tactics of Hitler and the Nazis during their rise to power. At the book's start, Helmuth is on death row, awaiting the executioner. Then in flashback format, the events that led him there are revealed. During Helmuth's middle-school years, he joined the Hitler Youth after being stirred by the future führer's persuasive speeches, but he can not accept Hitler's actions against the Jews. Knowing that his freedom is at stake, Helmuth listens to BBC radio broadcasts from which he learns the implications of Hitler's war strategies, and he feels a moral obligation to inform his fellow German citizens. He and his friends write, print and secretively distribute leaflets that reveal the truth. When their work is discovered, they are charged and tried as traitors to the German cause. Though these events lead to Helmuth's death, he heroically takes all the blame and in doing so is able to spare his friends' lives.

Christian Beliefs


Authority Roles

When Helmuth's mother and grandparents back Hitler, believing that he will restore their national honor and strengthen the faltering economy, Helmuth continues to respect them despite his questioning of Hitler's motives. Herr Vinke, Helmuth's middle-school teacher, is outspoken in his support of Hitler. Helmuth first internalizes Herr Vinke's comments, hoping to be seen as loyal, but he later questions the teacher, and this leads to Helmuth being perceived as a troublemaker. When Helmuth's mother dates and eventually marries Hugo, a highly regarded SS officer, Helmuth thinks Hugo is morally corrupt, but he maintains a respectful attitude toward his stepfather. He eventually is adopted by Hugo and even takes his surname. When Helmuth and his friends are interrogated for their alleged distribution of propaganda, Helmuth willingly cooperates with the SS, although he tries his best to avoid implicating his friends.

Other Belief Systems

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Helmuth, his family and friends refer to their Mormon beliefs (nothing overt). Because the story is set during World War II and the years leading up to it, readers learn many details of German nationalism and the worldview of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In addition, references to Jews who were persecuted for their beliefs and exterminated by the Nazis are included.

Profanity/Graphic Violence

While there is no profanity, the descriptions of Nazi torture and imprisonment are graphic. Realistic details may be too intense for younger readers.





Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.