A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez | Review
Age Range: 10 and up
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 9, 2012)
What to expect: Disruption caused by war, dangerous secrets, spy work, reaching across cultures, coming of age in the face of hardships.
In 1937 Guernica, Spain, twelve-year-old Ani is used to being invisible while helping her mother earn a living from selling sardines. Schoolmates call her the “sardine girl.” Ani’s Basque father is off fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Ani has always been special to him. She carries in her pocket a silk pouch with the seed her father gave her from an oak tree they find reminiscent of the famous Guernica Tree. He has always encouraged Ani’s stories and her different outlook on things. But Ani’s mother, stressed by the times, can only appreciate practicalities. She has impressed upon Ani that she is simply a “whisper” in the scheme of things.
One day, at her special tree, Ani meets Mathias, a fourteen-year-old boy, new to Guernica, whose family has left Germany because of the country’s ominous portents for Jews. As it turns out, Mathias’s father is conducting a spy network, and soon Ani and Mathias are part of that network, carrying secret messages with sardine deliveries to special customers. During their important spy work, a fast friendship grows. Here is someone at last who can appreciate Ani for herself. And then the airplanes come, dropping bombs all over Guernica, turning the city to rubble. What follows is a poignant rendering of how valiant people cope with devastating loss.
Mathias and I didn’t move from that ditch for what felt like hours. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go. We waited while an eerie silence crept over the land. My heart pounded with the hope that it was over and the growing fear that it would never end.
The author’s writing is lean, but vibrant, making each scene memorable. Ani and Mathias are believable, both in their innocent teen-age enthusiasm for spy work in the early pages, and their sobering realization of their new roles in the aftermath of disaster.
This book will appeal to readers ages 10 up who are interested in history, spies, multi-culture, Spain, and life in the Basque region during the pre-Franco years as well as Germany just before WW II.
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A Thunderous Whisper was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.