Newbury Award-Winning Author Phillip Hoose Speaks to Students about “The Boys Who Challenged Hitler”
On May 16, Newbery Honor author Phillip Hoose visited Lincoln Academy, where he spoke to about 100 students from Lincoln Academy and AOS 93 middle schools, shared a themed lunch, and signed books for all students who participated.
Hoose, who mainly writes nonfiction books for a teen audience, won a Newbery Honor and a National Book Award for his book Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. His most recent book is entitled The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Peterson and the Churchill Gang. The book tells the story of a group of boys in Denmark who carried on a campaign of vandalism and resistance to Hitler’s during WWII. They called themselves the Churchill Gang in honor of Winston Churchill, the fiery Prime Minister of England.
“The adults were doing nothing,” Hoose quotes his source, Knud Petersen, the leader of the Churchill gang as saying before Petersen died in 2014, “so we had to act.” The boys started with petty vandalism like graffiti and moving road signs, but soon they progressed to stealing weapons and using small explosives to disrupt the German occupation. Eventually the seven boys, who were young teenagers at the time, were all captured and imprisoned in 1940 for their actions.
One of the World War II’s greatest acts of resistance took place in Denmark in 1943, when ordinary Danes conspired to smuggle more than 7,000 Jews out of Denmark across the sea to Sweden, which was neutral in the war. This and other events in Danish history show that by 1944 when the boys were released from prison, the resistance was widespread throughout Denmark, which was ultimately liberated from German rule in 1945.
After the war the boys became famous as the subjects of comic books and stories for an entire generation. They were invited to meet the namesake of their club, Winston Churchill, in 1950.
After Hoose’s author talk, the group shared a Danish lunch of meatballs, cabbage, potatoes, and cake in the Lincoln Academy library. “We are grateful to Anne Jendsdatter, a Lincoln Academy sophomore from Denmark, who advised us about a typical Danish meal,” said Lincoln Academy Librarian Cathi Howell, who organized the event. “Everyone loved the food, including Mr. Hoose!”
After sharing lunch with students, Hoose signed books for every participant.
“I was so pleased with the students’ response to Mr. Hoose and the thoughtful questions they asked him,” said Howell. “He was very impressed with Lincoln Academy as a school, commenting on how nice the students and people are here! He was also impressed that students had all read his book prior to the event.”
Hoose’s visit was sponsored by the Lincoln Academy Library as part of Books and Brunch, a program where students read a book and discuss it over lunch in the LA library. Books and Brunch will continue in September, when the featured book will be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of its publication. The discussion will take place on October 2.