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This short tale highlights the resilience and determination of the Dutch people to live free from oppression during Nazi occupation. Young Johanna (raised in America but with a Dutch father) has spent the last five years with her grandparents in a small village in Holland. She has come cherish the the simple but dignified lifestyle in northern Holland, the last part of the country to be liberated. While some were collaborating with the enemy, she made a private vow never to look a Nazi soldier in the face. The village treasure consists of a set of 12 Little Riders of metal (modeled centuries ago to represent Crusaders); they ride out and salute each other when the church clock tolls the hours. Johanna's favorite viewing spot is her attic room--just where her father used to sit and admire them as a boy. But when the Nazis invade the village, her family is forced to house a young officer (who plays the flute on summer nights). She has to vacate her little room with its view of the Riders (and a secret hiding place at the back of her closet). The villagers' worst fears are realized when the commanding officer orders his men to seize the Little Riders and melt them down for ammunition--to be used against the very people who love them. How can 11-year-old Johanna help her grandfather prevent this desecration? Even children can exhibit heroism for a noble cause, for these Little Riders represent more than just medieval art. They now symbolize the spirit of joy and yearning for liberty of the Dutch people. Who will suffer Nazi retaliation when the Riders are discovered missing? A thoughtful tale which will charm adult readers and inspire youthful ones.
Johanna, a young Dutch-American girl, is visiting her grandparents in Holland when World War II breaks out and Holland is invaded by the Germans. To her dismay, the Nazis appropriate her bedroom to be the living quarters of one of their officers. This not only produces inconvenience for the girl, but also endangers her grandparents who are leaders in the resistance movement. She takes consolation in watching the village's treasured Little Riders, iron figures of noblemen commemorating the Crusades, which make their circuit in the church steeple as the great clock strikes the hours. When the Nazis announce their intention to melt the Little Riders down for ammunition, Johanna joins the movement to keep the statues out of the Nazis' hands. When plans to smuggle them out of town go wrong, Johanna is left alone with them and she heroically implements a desperate solution. The story ends with a surprise which underscores the humanity of all people who participated in this war.
This riveting story gently introduces the pain and evil involved in World War II, without going into graphic detail about the horrors of the war. Johanna's courage and loyalty are very admirable, and they seem to grow naturally in the context of her family's values of love and courtesy. The book is written at a transitional reader's level and (unlike most war stories) is appropriate for precocious pre-readers.
The Little Riders is a believable tale of the experience of one ten-year-old American girl caught up in World War II when blitzkrieg comes to the Netherlands while she is visiting her Dutch grandparents. The novella offers drama and excitement for young readers. As the reader follows the story of the small acts of resistance against the Nazi occupiers, the imagining of the trials and despair of the war become possible, yet the brutality is kept at a level that allows even a ten-year-old to read the book and emotionally cope. This is an excellent book for introducing World War II studies and for cultivating the understanding that courage is often shown by ordinary people in times of adversity, that creativity and standing together can defeat an enemy. I recommend this book for initial studies of World War II as well as for personal adventure reading.
Johanna is visiting Holland at the point World War II starts. Her father and mother are away overseas on a trip, and Johanna stays with her grandparents. Johanna's job is to hide the "Little Ridders' - metal statues that represented young riders who left to the Holy Land and never returned. They symbolized bravery to the people of the town. Finally the liberators land France and come into Holland from the north and the south. After five years of Johanna's stay in Holland, her father who was in the Canadian army, surprised her. I liked the book because it is about history. I also like that Johanna was brave.
Young American Joanne Hunter is stranded in the German-occupied Holland with her Dutch grandparents. The German CO, Captain Kessel begins to wage war on the village's morale, and Joanne's house must quarter another German officer, Lt. Braun, who finds himself torn between his duty and distaste of Kessel's methods. When Kessel threatens the lead statues of 16th-century freedom fighters in the town clock, Joanne and her grandparents rally the villagers to save Kirkendam's "little riders".