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Banned Book Review: Summer of My German Soldier

September 13, 2006

89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Reason: Challenged for racism, offensive language and being sexually explicit.

All Patty Bergen ever wanted was the approval of her family.  She endures beatings, emotional abuse, and derision for being plain.  Her family, Jewish Americans living in a small town in Arkansas, are desperate to be seen as upstanding citizens and Patty’s efforts to earn their respect are looking down upon.  All Anton ever wanted was to stay in school.  Instead, he was drafted into the Nazi army and sent to fight a war he didn’t believe in.  Now he is a prisoner of the American government, being held in Patty’s hometown.  When Anton escapes, and Patty gives him shelter in her family’s home, they find the sort of love that crosses boundaries of nationality, religion, and age.  Anton’s eventual departure and Patty’s subsequent trials make this a moving and beautiful book.

Years after reading this book, the scene where Anton rushes to Patty’s rescue during a particularly brutal beating still stayed with me.  His futility and frustration and inability to save Patty from her father’s wrath was so movingly written that it stayed with me, long after I had forgotten which book I had read it in.  Some of the characters in this book are racist.  Some are anti-Semitic.  But sexually explicit?  I can’t quite figure out if the scene where Patty listens to her parent’s bed squeaking is supposed to be the sexually explicit one, or if the barrage of insults heaped upon her by her father after he finds out she helped Anton escape fills the bill.  Either way, it’s an excellent story and highly recommended, though I would be more inclined to give it to a 7th grader than the recommended 5th grade reader.

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