Saturday, November 5, 2016

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

It's 1943 and 13-year-old Michael O'Shaunessey, the son of the Irish ambassador to Berlin, has been living in Germany since before 1938.  Back then, after witnessing the killing of a man on Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, the systematic destruction of Jewish property and the arrest or killing of Jews throughout Germany, Michael, then 8, was stunned when his parents did nothing to help the man and made him walk away with their heads down. The reason - Michael's parents had an important secret - they are spies for Britain and must stay undercover, though most of the espionage work is done by his mother.

Now, five years later, Michael speaks fluent German, attends a German school and has joined the Jungvolk, the branch of the Hitler Youth for younger boys.  But knowing his parents are spies only makes Michael want to be part of the action, and he finally gets his chance. When a British RAF plane is shot down doing reconnaissance over Berlin, Michael and the rest of the Jungvolk are ordered to search the area for the pilot.  As luck would have it, Michael is the person who discovers the pilot hiding, but seriously hurt.  He convinces the pilot, Simon Cohen, that he will come back for him later, and successfully throws the Nazi boys off his trail.

It turns out that Simon was photographing a site where it is believed the Germans are attempting to build a jet fighter plane, known as Projekt 1065, that would surely give them a real advantage in the war because of its speed. But Michael has befriended one of the weaker boys of the Jungvolk, Fritz. When he learns that Fritz's father has the design plans for the jet fighter, Michael goes out of his way to help Fritz build up his strength and stamina for their upcoming Hitler Youth physical tests that they must pass. It also gives Michael entry into Fritz's house and the plans, and as luck would have it, Michael has a photographic memory.

Soon, the plans are recreated, and it is up to Simon to deliver them to England, providing Michael's mother can find a way to get him out of Germany.  Meantime, in helping Fritz pass his exams, Michael has inadvertently created a super-Nazi youth in him rather than an ally. Fritz now poses a real problem, especially because he has been picked for a special Nazi science project. When Michael finally discovers that that science project is, he and his parents know they must stop it at any cost.  But can a 13-year-old go up against Fritz and the other super-Nazi gung-ho youth alone?

I have to admit I had two trains of thought about Projekt 1065. On the one hand, it is totally improbable.  On the other, it is a fast, action-packed, tense, exciting novel that will keep you reading and turning pages, especially if you are a middle grade boy.

What really stood out in my mind, however, were the moral and ethical dilemmas Michael comes up against as well as his own sometimes questionable decisions and actions. From the first killing he witnessed on Kristallnacht to watching how the Hitler Youth handles their elderly teacher even after learning his son had been killed in the Battle of Stalingrad, to the sacrifice of a person he was particularly fond of, Michael is completely caught up with the idea of playing spy.  His father does question the wisdom of letting his son become involved with ideological zealots who are willing to do anything for their F├╝hrer, Adolf Hitler, and considers sending him back to the neutral Republic of Ireland, but his mother overrides his concerns.

I loved Gratz's book, Prisoner B-3087, and although I felt he may have included a few too many coincidences in Projekt 1065, I felt that he is really spot on about the enthusiasm of the Hitler Youth, the disregard for life in the Third Reich and the mindless devotion to Hitler, even to the point to dying for him and his ideology.  So, in the end, I do recommend this book for young readers, though with the warning that there is violence in it.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Scholastic Press

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