“It’s not that simple,” he said.
“Bestefar, you didn’t even hear me.” She’d never spoken so disrespectfully to her elders before. But how could she respect him when he had less backbone than a jellyfish? He made her want to spit on the floor of his deck. “What will they want next? That all the fish you catch raise their little fins and say ‘Heil Hitler?'”
He didn’t laugh.
And she wasn’t joking.
(from The Klipfish Code, page 57)
The Klipfish Code is a middle grade novel set in Norway during the Nazi Occupation of World War II. Marit Gundersen is only 10 when the Germans bomb her family’s home on the mainland. When her engineer father and translator mother decide to work for the Resistance, they send Marit and her younger brother, Lars, to live with Bestefar (grandfather), a fisherman, and Aunt Ingeborg, a schoolteacher, on Godøy Island.
Marit doesn’t understand why she can’t stay with her parents. She feels old enough to help, and there’s no way she’s going to let the Nazis take away everything she’s ever known without a fight. But she ends up on the island anyway, missing her parents and resenting her cold, hard-to-please Bestefar, who Marit perceives as giving in to the Nazis’ every demand. Marit can’t stand to see him give away most of the food cultivated on their small farm or relinquish their blankets and radios without protest. Life becomes more unbearable when children can’t even go to school, and the Nazis begin rounding up teachers who refuse to teach Nazi propaganda to their pupils.
Two years after Marit makes her home on the island, she has a chance to help someone and maybe even help the Norwegians win the fight against the Nazis. But her naïveté puts the people she loves most in danger, and she realizes that standing up to the Nazis isn’t a task for the faint of heart.
I thought The Klipfish Code was fantastic! There’s plenty about this book for both children and adults to like, from the fast pace to the well-developed characters to the strong sense of time and place. Casanova does a wonderful job describing the harsh yet beautiful landscape and how the Nazi rules, the cold, and the lack of food took their toll on the residents over the five years of occupation. I found the book fascinating because I knew so little about the occupation of Norway, especially not how one out of every 10 teachers was sent to a concentration camp for refusing to teach Nazi propaganda or all the different ways the Norwegian people fought against the Nazis.
The Klipfish Code exemplifies how being a hero has little to do with someone’s age. Through Marit’s eyes, Casanova shows how one girl struggles to overcome the injustices that go hand-in-hand with war. Her strained relationship with her grandfather, her worry for her parents, the lack of a single blanket to keep them warm at night, and her anger at the Nazis for taking people away and taking whatever they want from people’s homes all build up to the point that she knows she has to do something to make a difference. Casanova not only makes an important period in history come to life in The Klipfish Code, but she also encourages readers to think about what they would do in a similar situation. It’s certainly one of the best middle grade WWII novels I’ve read thus far.
Disclosure: The Klipfish Code is from my personal library.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.