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In this eye-opening, fast-paced novel for middle-grade readers, author Jennifer A. Nielsen suspensefully weaves together the narratives of five children between the ages of 11 and 14. Each from a different country, their lives intersect against the backdrop of the traumas, tragedies, and transitions experienced by millions of people during WW1.  

The children—Felix, from Austria-Hungary; Kara, of Britain; Juliette, from France; Elsa, of Germany; and Dimitri, from Russia—each experience in some way what Felix’s mother told him: “You must learn to be brave because the world will demand that of you now.”  

The children’s lives, linked together by a military medal called the Golden Cross of Merit and a bright red woolen cap, display commonalities. They learn “to grow into” their bravery as they encounter horrific circumstances and moral choices they feel unprepared to make. They also discover the truth of what Kara’s mother told her: “Nothing about war was exciting, or glamorous, nor could she ever be fully prepared for whatever was coming next.”   

A heartwarming surprise ending shines a light of hope on a dark period as “lines of courage” draw Felix, Elsa, Kara, Juliette, and Dimitri together. Though recommended for children ages 8-12, the book is better suited for children 11 and older due to depictions of the disturbing realities of war. (Scholastic Press)


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