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Summer of My German Soldier

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Author: Bette Greene

Published: December 1st 1993 by Dell Publishing (first published 1973)

Format: Mass Market Paperback , 203 pages

Isbn: 9780440900566

Language: English


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Minutes before the train pulled into the station in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. But she never could have imagined that her summer would be so memorable. German prisoners of war have arrived to make their new home in the prison camp in Jenkinsville. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are only Nazis. But to Patty, a Minutes before the train pulled into the station in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. But she never could have imagined that her summer would be so memorable. German prisoners of war have arrived to make their new home in the prison camp in Jenkinsville. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are only Nazis. But to Patty, a young Jewish girl with a turbulent home life, one boy in particular becomes an unlikely friend. Anton relates to Patty in ways that her mother and father never can. But when their forbidden relationship is discovered, will Patty risk her family and town for the understanding and love of one boy?

30 review for Summer of My German Soldier

  1. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    I wonder if I can ever do this story justice. It's about a young Jewish girl during WWII who befriends a German POW held in a camp near her small Arkansas town. That's the plot, but really it's about so much more: about learning to like and love yourself even when significant others don't; about salvific power of love and kindness; about true agape love. Some might be tempted to reduce Summer to a modern day Romeo and Juliette story minus the romance, violence and suicides. It is about doomed lo I wonder if I can ever do this story justice. It's about a young Jewish girl during WWII who befriends a German POW held in a camp near her small Arkansas town. That's the plot, but really it's about so much more: about learning to like and love yourself even when significant others don't; about salvific power of love and kindness; about true agape love. Some might be tempted to reduce Summer to a modern day Romeo and Juliette story minus the romance, violence and suicides. It is about doomed love across cultural, religious and national barriers unfathomable for the timeperiod. But it really isn't about eros love. It isn't that kind of love story--which is probably why I like it. I have many favorite quotes from this book, including: '...the only questions I like to raise are those that are unanswerable.' (Anton, the German soldier speaking in reference to Hitler) '...a man who is incapable of humor is capable of cruelty.' 'I believe that love is better than hate. And that there is more nobility in building a chicken coop than in destroying a cathedral.' '...but maybe, just maybe, we all have an enormous capacity for believing in anything that will provide us with a bit of comfort.' (Anton again speaking about Hitler) 'Cruelty is after all cruelty, and the difference between the two men may have more to do with the degrees of power than their degrees of cruelty.' 'When I read a book, I want to understand precisely what it is the writer is saying, not just almost but precisely. And it's the same when people are talking to you.' (Anton to Patty) 'Then I want you to learn this, our last, lesson. Even if you forget everything else I want you to always remember that you are a person of value, and you have a friend who loved you enough to give you his most valued possession.' Highly recommended!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Clare Cannon

    This book is still a beautiful ache in my heart long after I finished it. I don't know why it never came up in lists of recommended modern classics. It is not a feel good romance, but a beautiful story of courage, friendship and love, and of a young girl learning to filter out the unkindness and prejudice directed towards her to discover the truth and goodness of love. Adolescents who are used to a diet of feel-good will need to be prepared for some heart stretching, but in the long-run, and This book is still a beautiful ache in my heart long after I finished it. I don't know why it never came up in lists of recommended modern classics. It is not a feel good romance, but a beautiful story of courage, friendship and love, and of a young girl learning to filter out the unkindness and prejudice directed towards her to discover the truth and goodness of love. Adolescents who are used to a diet of feel-good will need to be prepared for some heart stretching, but in the long-run, and with a little talking through, reading this book will help them to be better prepared to face the joys and challenges of life with courage and love. www.GoodReadingGuide.com

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    OK, I lied. THIS is the worst book I've ever been FORCED to read. Note to teachers, if you make your students read this, THEN YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM! Have you ever wondered why kids don't like reading? It's because of books like these. And, if you continue to say that this book ties in with whatever WWII lesson your teaching, then I truly feel sorry. Not for the teachers, but for the students. Plain and simple, this book sucks. To the teachers who make their kids read this, I advise you to OK, I lied. THIS is the worst book I've ever been FORCED to read. Note to teachers, if you make your students read this, THEN YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM! Have you ever wondered why kids don't like reading? It's because of books like these. And, if you continue to say that this book ties in with whatever WWII lesson your teaching, then I truly feel sorry. Not for the teachers, but for the students. Plain and simple, this book sucks. To the teachers who make their kids read this, I advise you to turn yourselves into the police, because your torturing your students.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    We never read Summer of My German Soldier in class (honestly, what did we read?), nor have I seen the movie, so this Open Road edition from Netgalley was brand new to me. I hadn't realized the main character and narrator of the story, Patty, was so young (12); my first assumption was that she was old enough for this to be a more common sort of love story. It's not what I was anticipating, but despite her youth, it is a love story, of a sort, or of several sorts. It involves Patty's love for her s We never read Summer of My German Soldier in class (honestly, what did we read?), nor have I seen the movie, so this Open Road edition from Netgalley was brand new to me. I hadn't realized the main character and narrator of the story, Patty, was so young (12); my first assumption was that she was old enough for this to be a more common sort of love story. It's not what I was anticipating, but despite her youth, it is a love story, of a sort, or of several sorts. It involves Patty's love for her sister, against all odds: it would have been less surprising to me if she had loathed Sharon for being the apple of their parents' eyes by simply existing. (What were the first five years of Patty's life, pre-Sharon, like, I wonder?) Patty's love for - or desire to love - her parents, against even greater odds. The housekeeper/nanny Ruth's genuine affection for Patty, and her staunch position on Patty's side no matter what. Anton Reiker, the German Soldier, is part of that facet; his point of view is not only as a grateful recipient of her help but as someone who sees what the rest of her life is doing to her. His and Ruth's interaction with Patty reminded me of Aibilene from The Help, constantly telling the browbeaten little girl "You is kind, you is smart, you is good..." - trying desperately to counteract the inevitable result of the horrible combination of intentional and unintentional abuse by the parents. Trying to provide a life raft in a sea of self-hatred. There is, to be honest, a lot not to like about Patty, at first glance - which is what makes her a compelling character. She - a Jewish girl - decides to aid an escaped German POW purely based on the fact that he was friendly to her, was attractive, and spoke excellent English, and that she was instantly infatuated with him (without really knowing how to express that, even to herself); for all she knew, actually knew, he could have been the deepest-dyed Nazi there ever was. A sheltered and affection-starved twelve-year old isn't exactly the judge of character I'd want to rely on in this situation. In fact, from the little bit I know about Nazi espionage techniques, Reiker is the sort of man most prized by the SS: able to speak unaccented English, plausible and friendly-seeming... My hair stood on end a bit thinking about it. She could have caused unspeakable damage with one thoughtless act. Also, of course, her constant lies are off-putting, and a little alarming, but in the context of her pitiable desperation to do something, anything to finally reach her parents' hearts they make sense. It seems to be an almost instinctual response to almost any situation – one which, hopefully, she can outgrow. The introduction - exclusive to the Open Road edition, I think - talks about Bette Greene's parents' reaction to the book. "Couldn't you at least have waited till we were dead?" She apparently either evaded the question or denied outright that she and Patty were one and the same; however, her parents evidently recognized enough of themselves in the narrative to be defensive and outraged. They weren't brought to shame about their behavior, but were instead - as always - put out with their daughter that she had not had more consideration for them. I've encountered Eeeevil Parents in a couple of books lately, and sighed over them, wanting more depth to make them realistic … in Patty's parents the lack of depth is partly down to the story being told by a twelve-year-old. She had no way of knowing any kind of motivation for how they treated her, no way to fathom the psychology. She doesn't look for excuses for them - she simply shoulders the responsibility for it (she's not a good person) and tries to make amends. It's horrifying. Looking over what I've written I see variations on the word "desperate" popping up. And for a brief book written in a fairly light tone, centered around the suburban life of a twelve-year-old merchant's daughter in 20th century Alabama, there is a wrenching amount of desperation running all through it. Reiker does not escape because he wants to meet up with saboteurs (we hope), but because the confinement was pressing upon him, and he needed freedom. Ruth is, on surface, what the Scots call sonsy; she is the mammy archetype of the middle-aged black servant who actually looks after the white folks' children - but at least one of these white folks' children is in a bad way, and she has a son of her own who is at hazard. Hers is, too, the constant worry of her race and position in her time and place. Patty sees her mother as the consummate salesperson, able to sell ice to an Eskimo, but the little scene we are shown (of a poor farmer's wife being cozened into buying not only the dress she was looking at but an ugly hat as well) is almost heartbreaking in its sordidness: the mother's eagerness to wring another dollar out of someone who can't afford it but who is almost as thirsty for praise as Patty; the false praise being heaped on this stranger when Patty would, literally, do anything for a kind word. Love and desperation. It packs a punch that surprised me, this little book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    Another book I was forced to read for school and consequently now despise to the depths of my soul. But really, it's crap on its own. A twelve year old girl, complete with an abusive father and lacking the three c's of an interesting protagonist (Confidence, Common sense, and Character), gets the brilliant idea of hiding an escaped German POW in her garage. And for an added dramatic twist, SHE'S JEWISH! How's THAT for exciting conflict? Yeah, not so much. Simply put, this book made me want to vo Another book I was forced to read for school and consequently now despise to the depths of my soul. But really, it's crap on its own. A twelve year old girl, complete with an abusive father and lacking the three c's of an interesting protagonist (Confidence, Common sense, and Character), gets the brilliant idea of hiding an escaped German POW in her garage. And for an added dramatic twist, SHE'S JEWISH! How's THAT for exciting conflict? Yeah, not so much. Simply put, this book made me want to vomit. Read for: 9th grade English

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hello Goodbye

    PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IF U HAVE ANY SENSE IN YOU DONT READ THIS BOOK now that thats over I tell you the truth......the screaming is what you are going to be doing on every single page of this book there are so many things I would rather do than this, like get punched by everyone in my school or watch teletubies and dora for 1 week striat (never doing anything else) seriously if you see thsi book burn it and dance around the fire laughing like a maniac

  7. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    While I have actually not really found Bette Greene's 1973 novel Summer of my German Soldier quite as readable and as enjoyable as I had fondly been hoping for (and especially with regard to Greene's writing style, which I do think has the unfortunate tendency to sometimes if not even rather often be a trifle rambling and dragging), I have in fact and with no feelings of either contrition or any guilt whatsoever decided to still rank Summer of my German Soldier with a full five stars. And yes, m While I have actually not really found Bette Greene's 1973 novel Summer of my German Soldier quite as readable and as enjoyable as I had fondly been hoping for (and especially with regard to Greene's writing style, which I do think has the unfortunate tendency to sometimes if not even rather often be a trifle rambling and dragging), I have in fact and with no feelings of either contrition or any guilt whatsoever decided to still rank Summer of my German Soldier with a full five stars. And yes, my main and primary reason for doing so (for still rating Summer of my German Soldier with five stars instead of the high three stars I was originally considering with regard to my actual enjoyment and reading pleasure) is that I am indeed rather massively infuriated and personally offended by the fact that there sadly and frustratingly are (at least in my opinion) far far too many rantingly negative tirades of ignorant bigotry with regard to Summer of my German Soldier to be found online, vitriol spewing reviews (if one should even consider labelling them as bona fide reviews) claiming that of course ALL Germans are somehow to be seen as Nazis and that Anton is by the mere fact of him being a soldier and a POW not only an automatic Nazi by mere association and by his ethnicity but therefore also totally deserving of his fate, absolutely deserving being killed (not to mention that I have even found a number of online reviews that have dared to categorically state that Summer of my German Soldier should never even have been allowed to be published and that Bette Greene should also and actively have been censored and punished for penning a novel set in WWII which presents a generally very much positive and likeable German character). Now I can of course and more than readily and fully understand those more negative reviews of Summer of my German Soldier where the main point of criticism and contention has been about how Bette Greene's stylistics, about how her modes of literary expression often seem to feel a bit tediously dragging (for as mentioned above, this is in fact also my own main issues with Summer of my German Soldier, namely that even with me being very much interested in Patty and Anton's story and feeling both uplifted and devastated by it, how Betty Greene has her plot move along, this has certainly at times felt both distancing and not all that interestingly and engagingly rendered). But no indeed, as person of German background (and having experienced a lot of very deliberate ethnic and cultural based bullying and bigotry because of the latter when my family immigrated to Canada when I was ten years of age), I will simply NOT consider those negative reviews of Summer of my German Soldier where the "reviewer" basically states that ALL Germans are somehow at best problematic and at worst tainted and guilty of Naziism by the mere fact of our birth and our ethnic and genetic backgrounds as anything but offensive propagandistic hatred. And in fact (and also knowing rather full well that this assessment might indeed be possibly offensive to some and perhaps even to many), when I was reading the most vehemently angry and furiously vile online reviews of Summer of my German Soldier, I was most definitely left with the very distinct and uncomfortable impression of having encountered political propaganda rather totally akin and alike to what the Nazis themselves had used, for the rhetoric I have encountered with the most angry and furious tirades against Summer of my German Soldier was certainly very much the exact same type as had been used by Hitler, Goebbels, Goering etc.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    From the book jacket: From the minutes before the train pulled in to the station, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. German prisoners of war have arrived to make the prison camp in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, their new home. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are Nazis. But to Patty, a young Jewish girl with a turbulent home life, one boy in particular becomes a friend. Anton relates to Patty in ways that her family never can. My reactions I didn’t include all the informa From the book jacket: From the minutes before the train pulled in to the station, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. German prisoners of war have arrived to make the prison camp in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, their new home. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are Nazis. But to Patty, a young Jewish girl with a turbulent home life, one boy in particular becomes a friend. Anton relates to Patty in ways that her family never can. My reactions I didn’t include all the information from the back cover, which makes this sound like a teen romance; that is very misleading. What it is is a novel about compassion, loyalty, self-realization, courage, faith and self-preservation. Twelve-year-old Patty is obviously not the child her parents hoped to have. She is at best an average student, making mostly C’s in school. Her mother is constantly berating her for her unruly hair, and her lack of interest in fashion. Her father insists on strict obedience and cannot tolerate her constant questioning. In contrast her little sister is the apple of her parents’ eyes – blonde, cute, always ready with a song or dance. It seems that the only person who shows any love to Patty is their African-American housekeeper, Ruth. Summers are particularly lonely for Patty because the few friends she has from school go away to Bible camp which she cannot attend as a Jew. Her grandparents in Memphis would love to have her visit, but her father won’t allow it. So when a handful of prisoners are brought to her parents’ store to buy hats Patty is intrigued by one polite young man who wants only pencils and a pencil sharpener. Anton treats her with respect and she begins to fantasize about a relationship with him. The way he treats Patty makes her feel, for the first time, that she is a worthwhile person, a person who deserves to be loved. This book just about broke my heart. Patty is such a wonderful character – intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and courageous. But she is also a child and her immaturity shows in her impetuous actions and telling of tales. Still, the way she is treated by her parents (and many of the other adults in the novel) made me want to just throttle them. Even at the end she is still feeling misunderstood and alone, yet also strong enough to possibly make it on her own one day. Patty imagines herself treading water, still far out to sea, but in sight of land, and deciding that she’ll try to swim for it. I know there is a sequel to this book … set some six years after the end of this one. But I’m not sure I’ll read it. I kind of like the ending image of this novel.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Will.i.am Schwartz

    This was one of the best books that I read. It had a lot of things going on in it. Patty is the main character in this story. She has a normal life, however, it becomes much more interesting as it goes. The setting of this story takes place during WWII. It's about the POW's (Prisoner's of War) and how one of them escaped. His name was Frederick Anton Riecker. Patty see's him at the local drug store that her family owns. He buys some items from her but there was something that felt special to Pa This was one of the best books that I read. It had a lot of things going on in it. Patty is the main character in this story. She has a normal life, however, it becomes much more interesting as it goes. The setting of this story takes place during WWII. It's about the POW's (Prisoner's of War) and how one of them escaped. His name was Frederick Anton Riecker. Patty see's him at the local drug store that her family owns. He buys some items from her but there was something that felt special to Patty. He was really nice to her and he cared about her. You could tell the mood because he was trying to be nice to her because he was the only one that could speak English. The main characters in this story are Patty, Anton, Ruth (maid), Patty's mother and Patty's father. Anton is described through direct charaterization because he gets described by the author. Patty, the main character is definitely a dynamic character because she changes a lot from the beginning. Ruth is a great advice giver. She helps out Patty with all of her problems. She had a big problem now because Patty had taken in the escaped prisoner and cared for him and they became great friends. Along the way Patty faces very much adversity. This is because later in the book, people find out that she is helping him. She is also trying to hide him from her father who hates the German's for what they are doing to the Jewish people. The rest you will have to find out in the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I loved this one. She hides the German soldier - it has Southern US setting, mother and father are absent working, only the maid finds out, but helps her. Of course she falls in love with him - for me very dramatic and romantic.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julianna

    Reviewed for THC Reviews Summer of My German Soldier is a poignant coming-of-age story about a young Jewish girl from a small town in Arkansas who helps an escaped German POW, an act which changes her life forever. This short young adult novel is packed with philosophical lessons on human nature that make it very difficult for me to describe, but suffice it to say that it is an amazing little book. I almost wish it had been longer, to give me more time to ponder its depths, but at the same time, Reviewed for THC Reviews Summer of My German Soldier is a poignant coming-of-age story about a young Jewish girl from a small town in Arkansas who helps an escaped German POW, an act which changes her life forever. This short young adult novel is packed with philosophical lessons on human nature that make it very difficult for me to describe, but suffice it to say that it is an amazing little book. I almost wish it had been longer, to give me more time to ponder its depths, but at the same time, it was nearly perfect at its current length. The ending, while not happy, did contain a grain of hope for Patty's future, and I couldn't help but think that it was ripe for a sequel. Imagine my delight, when I discovered that there is indeed one, Morning Is a Long Time Coming, which continues Patty's search for love and meaning in her life. In fact, I probably wouldn't have been able to give this book quite as high of a rating if it had simply ended where it did. That would have been almost cruel. Patty is very sympathetic as the heroine and first-person narrator of the story. Simply being part of the only Jewish family in town makes her unusual, but she is also a girl with an adventurous spirit and a wild imagination for making up stories. Sometimes I didn't like the way she lied or embellished the truth, but as the story progresses, it becomes quite clear that she is absolutely starving for love and attention from parents who not only criticize and ignore her, but her father is also physically abusive. Sometimes her imagination takes her to admirable places such as dreaming about what it would be like to have her father say he loves and respects her and apologize for all the terrible things he's done to her which was heartbreaking. I thoroughly enjoyed Patty's love of books and words and how she teaches herself a new word from the dictionary every day. At first I thought it rather naïve of Patty to be helping an escaped POW whom she had only met once, but I think that she simply had an open-mindedness and an intuitive sense about the character of the people around her. In this and other ways, she often seemed much older than her mere twelve years, but some occasional careless mistakes and comments (usually brought about by that insatiable need for affection) belied her callow youth. Overall, I thought Patty was very brave to risk literally everything, possibly even her own life, to help a fellow human being in need, and most of all, she was an incredibly strong girl to survive all the hardships that were placed upon her young shoulders. The two characters who care the most about Patty and have the most influence on her life are Anton, the POW she helps, and her family's housekeeper, Ruth. Anton is a very polite, gentle young man with a very reflective, perhaps even philosophical bent. He truly seems to care about others and had planned on becoming a doctor before the war started. No details on how he ended up in the SS army are given, and I found myself wondering if he was perhaps coerced as he definitely was not a true Nazi. Anton showed his kindness and understanding of Patty when he gave her the most precious gift of all, that of self-worth. In some ways, I wish that the reader was able to get to know Anton more, but it probably would have made later events in the story all the more harder to take. The only other person who truly understands Patty is her African-American housekeeper. Ruth is such a sweet, gentle lady who is nothing but kind and good to Patty. She is a healthy role model and a beacon of light in what would otherwise be a pretty dark world for her. More than 35 years after its initial publication, Summer of My German Soldier can still be found in the top 100 titles on the American Library Association's list of most banned/challenged books of the past decade. The book does contain a number of mature themes: profanities are used, both a handful of mild ones as well as Patty's father taking the Lord's name in vain several times, but it does fit with his character being an extremely unhappy, violent man; Patty's father brutally abuses her on more than one occasion, but it isn't rendered in a particularly graphic way; on two occasions, Patty's father makes the incorrect assumption that she had sexual contact with a man, but again it is presented in a subtle rather than overt way; there are a number of racial slurs against blacks and Asians which would have been consistent with the time period and setting; Patty briefly wonders when her body will mature and prays to get her “womanly curves”; there are a couple of characters who smoke and the family enjoys some wine with a special dinner, which includes Patty receiving one glass of her own. While I can see how these things might be of concern to some people, I didn't feel that anything was over the top or would be wholly inappropriate for teenagers. I might have some concerns about children younger than middle-school age reading it, although not so much because of the content, but more so because there are many complex elements that might be difficult for them to comprehend. However, with a parent or educator guiding them through the reading they may be OK depending on their maturity level. In general though, I think it is a wonderful book, and it would be a shame to take it out of our youth's hands. No matter the age of the reader, there are many positive things to be gleaned from this book's pages. There are some solid lessons in tolerance, open-mindedness, and showing care and concern for others who may be in need either physically or emotionally. There was also a wonderful message about how our differences truly don't matter when it comes to love and friendship. Summer of My German Soldier has a strong historical element. In doing some research on the author, I discovered that the story is partially autobiographical as Bette Green's life in many ways mirrored Patty's. I even learned a couple of things I didn't know about POWs being housed on U.S. soil and German U-Boats actually reaching our shores during the war. It was interesting as well how the attitudes of some people were not that much different than those of today, a sure sign that while some things may change others stay the same. Summer of My German Soldier started off a little slow, but it didn't take long for me to be hooked and wondering what would happen next. Overall, I thought it was a great little story. It's not the type that will leave the reader with warm fuzzy feelings, but it is one that can impart some deep food for thought to readers of all ages. I know I'm going to be thinking about it for a while to come. It's a definite keeper for me, and I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel to see if Patty finally finds all that she's been searching for.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katie R. Herring

    Sweet Jesus I was not expecting this bittersweet ache. After I finished reading I did nothing. And by nothing, I mean I wasted a good ten or so minutes of my life scrolling it away on Tumblr. But, I did see a post that really pertains to how I feel right now after finishing this book. "do you ever just finish a book and sit there for a while like what the fuck did this author just do to me" -galaxysdefender Yes indeed that is exactly how I feel. What just happened? What are all these feelings tha Sweet Jesus I was not expecting this bittersweet ache. After I finished reading I did nothing. And by nothing, I mean I wasted a good ten or so minutes of my life scrolling it away on Tumblr. But, I did see a post that really pertains to how I feel right now after finishing this book. "do you ever just finish a book and sit there for a while like what the fuck did this author just do to me" -galaxysdefender Yes indeed that is exactly how I feel. What just happened? What are all these feelings that I am feeling. While reading, I was reminded of The Help, quite different, obviously, but definitely some similar vibes. Definitely more juvenile than The Help, but as an almost 19 year old year, I was brought to tears (okay I cried while reading both). The reason why I even picked this up is because I've never read it, and when I saw it in the library some sorts of light bulbs went off in my head. I now know it's because I subconsciously remembered it was one of my mom's favorites!

  13. 5 out of 5

    The Dusty Jacket

    It was the most exciting thing to have ever happened to Jenkinsville, Arkansas. German POWs, maybe twenty in all, arrived by train and would be housed in a camp in the small southern town. Twelve-year-old Patty Bergen was among the many townspeople there to witness the event. Each hoping to do their patriotic part to make President Roosevelt proud during this summer of World War II. During a chance encounter in her family’s store, Patty meets young Anton Reicker, a handsome, educated young man w It was the most exciting thing to have ever happened to Jenkinsville, Arkansas. German POWs, maybe twenty in all, arrived by train and would be housed in a camp in the small southern town. Twelve-year-old Patty Bergen was among the many townspeople there to witness the event. Each hoping to do their patriotic part to make President Roosevelt proud during this summer of World War II. During a chance encounter in her family’s store, Patty meets young Anton Reicker, a handsome, educated young man who is one of the POWs. Although he is German and she is Jewish, they begin an unlikely friendship that will test Patty’s family bonds, as well as question her national loyalty. Written in 1973, Bette Greene’s "Summer of My German Soldier" was not only listed on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 1990-1999, it also made the ALA’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books for 2001. According to the ALA’s website (www.ala.org), “The American Library Association condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information.” To educate schools and libraries about censorship, they publish these lists which are compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). With that said, this book (recommended for ages 11 and up) is full of racial slurs, derogatory language, sexual innuendoes, and many instances of physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. It truly runs the gamut for a story written for fifth graders and up. These issues alone are enough to give a reader pause, but these aren’t the only reasons that I found myself disappointed with this book. First, Patty’s father and mother are inexplicably cruel and violent to her. They fawn over her little sister, Sharon, while Patty endures taunts, intolerance, dismissiveness, and even physical beatings at the hands of her father. I kept hoping for some enlightening backstory as to why these two people could possibly hate their own child so much, but Greene doesn’t even provide a hint to explain their savage and inhuman behavior. Their treatment of Patty is repugnant and demoralizing, which serves as the ideal foundation for many of Patty’s choices—which are often hasty and incredibly unwise. Here is a girl so desperate for acceptance and so eager for kindness that she would say or do anything in order to achieve some modicum of happiness. Second, Greene gives us a story that seems devoid of any moral lessons. The Bergen family’s black housekeeper, Ruth—who takes on the role of mother figure—is very religious and is often heard singing hymns while doing chores and encourages the children to pray at lunchtime. Despite this being a story about a Jewish family, we get a healthy dose of Christianity and the glory that comes with salvation. Even with this, there really isn’t a central theme tying the entire story together. We understand the courage of putting someone else’s wellbeing ahead of your own and the virtues of seeing beyond religion, ethnicity, or skin color, but these platitudes fall by the wayside with an ending that is absent any sort of clarity, closure, or inspiration. The reader is left feeling just as bewildered and discouraged as Patty whose only “real” friends are the housekeeper, a POW, and the town’s sheriff. I read Greene’s "Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe." (which I rated 4/5) and was so hoping to find that same feeling of hope and triumph in this book. Instead, Greene delivers a bleak look at family and life and gives us a girl so disillusioned and unsatisfied with her life, that the only thing she clings to is the day she turns eighteen. Unfortunately for Patty, that’s still six very long summers away.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I loved this book. It’s heartbreaking & sad in most ways, but lovely also. What would seem to be strange – a 12 year old American Jewish girl befriending a German solider during World War II, made perfect sense: 12 year old Patty feels unloved and unappreciated by her family and doesn’t even fit in with her community. With this (decent) young man, she finds the acceptance and affection she craves. I was able to identify with her. Beautiful story that I found thought provoking. I loved this book. It’s heartbreaking & sad in most ways, but lovely also. What would seem to be strange – a 12 year old American Jewish girl befriending a German solider during World War II, made perfect sense: 12 year old Patty feels unloved and unappreciated by her family and doesn’t even fit in with her community. With this (decent) young man, she finds the acceptance and affection she craves. I was able to identify with her. Beautiful story that I found thought provoking.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜

    I was forced to read this book in 8th grade along with George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'. Want to know the difference in the two? One possesses fantastic vocabulary, dark humor, and is an allegorical masterpiece of art. One is a chaotic mess of boring characters and is one of the most boring novels conceived in literature. I'm sure you can figure out which is which. This review is over with and this book is now gone from my memory....sort of. Goodbye.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    When I heard that this book was about a romance between a 12 yr. old and a 22 yr. old I didn't think that I would like it, but it's not a mushy-gushy romance, its more of a friendship really. My favorite character was Ruth. "Honey Babe",in my opinion this book would have been a complete wash if it hadn't been for Ruth. I liked this book because it made me think. After I read it I was wishing that I had a group of people to discuss it with. If I were to lead a group discussion about this book, t When I heard that this book was about a romance between a 12 yr. old and a 22 yr. old I didn't think that I would like it, but it's not a mushy-gushy romance, its more of a friendship really. My favorite character was Ruth. "Honey Babe",in my opinion this book would have been a complete wash if it hadn't been for Ruth. I liked this book because it made me think. After I read it I was wishing that I had a group of people to discuss it with. If I were to lead a group discussion about this book, these are some of the questions I would ask: Was Patty justified in telling all of those lies to her family and neighbors? Was Patty justified in helping Anton because he wasn't really a Nazi and he wasn't trying to escape so that he could run around and kill people, he just wanted to be free? Why do you think the author portrayed the German soldier as the "good guy" and Patty's father (the Jew) as the "bad guy"? Do you think that Patty's behavior was realistic for a 12 year old girl from a dysfunctional family? In the end, do you think that the punishment fit the crime? What I didn't like: It starts out really slow and takes a long time to pick up the pace. Things don't really start happening until the last half of the book. And I really didn't like the ending, not that I was expecting a Fairy-Tale-Happily-Ever-After ending - not at all! But couldn't she have given at least a glimmer of hope?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I remember nothing of this book, all I remember is the name stuck in my head and the fact that I hated this book more than almost any other book I was ever forced to read in an English class in middle or high school.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chanel Judkins

    I hated this book. It was depressing and awful. Also you couldn't even root for the love story because she was 12 and he was in his twenties. I would not recommend this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    While this book is well worded, I didn't feel anything for it. I really wanted to! I mean, talk about a forbidden romance! Jewish girl and German boy during the war? I expected excitement, passion, maybe danger... Nope. Mostly dull dialogue between the two characters. While I liked both characters and loved seeing Patty mature throughout the story, I was hoping for more. I liked the setting and conflicts at home, especially with her father. The ages of our characters is partly what put me off. Pa While this book is well worded, I didn't feel anything for it. I really wanted to! I mean, talk about a forbidden romance! Jewish girl and German boy during the war? I expected excitement, passion, maybe danger... Nope. Mostly dull dialogue between the two characters. While I liked both characters and loved seeing Patty mature throughout the story, I was hoping for more. I liked the setting and conflicts at home, especially with her father. The ages of our characters is partly what put me off. Patty is a young (12) girl and he is an adult (early 20's) soldier. I thought she would be at least a few years older! Although it does explain her maturityis some things it just made the 'relationship' awkward to me. Luckily it is still a very clean book so not too uncomfortable with it. For me, I felt this was more a coming-of-age novel than anything. It is a fast read that I was able to quickly gulp down. I see why it is popular for required reading with the historical and personal growth blend.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dominic

    I find I've been reading a lot of YA novels about males, so my wife suggested I read this one, a favorite from her adolescence. Turns out Patty Bergen is a fantastic young adult narrator, a girl who just may have the most wretched parents I've ever read about. Summer of My German Soldier is a unique sort of book, and it is beautifully written. It is a story about the Holocaust, but it's set in Arkansas. It was a new perspective on this horrible part of our human history. Patty Bergen is a Jewish A I find I've been reading a lot of YA novels about males, so my wife suggested I read this one, a favorite from her adolescence. Turns out Patty Bergen is a fantastic young adult narrator, a girl who just may have the most wretched parents I've ever read about. Summer of My German Soldier is a unique sort of book, and it is beautifully written. It is a story about the Holocaust, but it's set in Arkansas. It was a new perspective on this horrible part of our human history. Patty Bergen is a Jewish American who befriends and helps an escaped German POW. I was surprised by the sad paradox of Anti-Semitism and hatred for Hitler and Nazism, but the love and care of Anton and Ruth (the Bergen's black housekeeper) was heart-warming. The book is just as much as a celebration of the goodness in Patty (and in us all) as an indictment of the cruelty we spew at strangers and even our children. Published in 1973, this had to be one of the first YA books. It may be a little dated, but Patty is a wonderful narrator, and I will look forward to reading the sequel soon.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Just read this in a few hours this week. I did not care for it, and I wonder why it is so frequently taught in middle schools. The main character is engaging, but all the other characters except for Anton are just a bundle of stereotypes. Her parents are abusive monsters with no redeeming features, quite one-dimensional; her nanny is perfect in every way, really the Mammy stereotype, I felt. And then there's the ickiness factor: the main character is 12 and the German soldier is 20. Most of what Just read this in a few hours this week. I did not care for it, and I wonder why it is so frequently taught in middle schools. The main character is engaging, but all the other characters except for Anton are just a bundle of stereotypes. Her parents are abusive monsters with no redeeming features, quite one-dimensional; her nanny is perfect in every way, really the Mammy stereotype, I felt. And then there's the ickiness factor: the main character is 12 and the German soldier is 20. Most of what he has to teach her is valuable: you are a person of value, he tells her. You will get out of your horrible family and this awful town and have a life you will enjoy. All good. But the girl has a crush on him and he kisses her. Now, 12-year-old girls get crushes on young men who are too old for them all the time. But the mark of a 20-year-old of character, which this man is supposed to be, is that he does not take advantage. I'm sure this wouldn't have bothered me at all as a 12-year-old reader, but as the mother of a 13-year-old girl, it jumped right out at me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    This is the first time I have read this book. It's hard to know what I would have thought when I was younger. As it is I was surprised by it, and loved it. The story isn't quite what I expected. The writing itself is so good I couldn't put it down. First person is done very well. A lot of information is understood in the beginning without being spelled out for you. A nicely pulled off skill. To really be able to appreciate this book someone would need to be old enough to know back history about This is the first time I have read this book. It's hard to know what I would have thought when I was younger. As it is I was surprised by it, and loved it. The story isn't quite what I expected. The writing itself is so good I couldn't put it down. First person is done very well. A lot of information is understood in the beginning without being spelled out for you. A nicely pulled off skill. To really be able to appreciate this book someone would need to be old enough to know back history about WW2, prejudism in our country and the difference between a German soldier who has had to serve his country, and a Nazi. I read the entire thing last night. Couldn't put it down.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I wonder if Bette Greene knew, when Summer was published in 1973, that it would still be relevant in 2010? Summer of My German Soldier tells the story of Patty Bergen, a young Jewish girl growing up in rural Arkansas in World War II. Often the subject of her mother's criticism and her father's violent temper, Patty's only real friend is Ruth, the family's housekeeper. That all changes the summer Patty is twelve, and German POW's are relocated to Patty's hometown. Patty befriends on soldier, Anto I wonder if Bette Greene knew, when Summer was published in 1973, that it would still be relevant in 2010? Summer of My German Soldier tells the story of Patty Bergen, a young Jewish girl growing up in rural Arkansas in World War II. Often the subject of her mother's criticism and her father's violent temper, Patty's only real friend is Ruth, the family's housekeeper. That all changes the summer Patty is twelve, and German POW's are relocated to Patty's hometown. Patty befriends on soldier, Anton, and when he escapes, she helps hide him.... ...I loved the book this time as much as the first time I read it. I even found myself underlining and highlighting passages throughout the book, shocked by the relevance to what is currently going on in the world. Full Review WITH SPOILERS here: http://thebookfetish-mybookfetish.blo...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Lafferty

    As with many controversial classics, this is the kind of story that initially provokes outrage from prospective readers when they learn the basic plot line, and understandably so; but those who give the book a chance are greatly rewarded with an amazingly well-written, powerful and poignant coming of age tale which focuses as much on maintaining the innocence and ideals of youth as transitioning out of childhood. I think of it as a story about humanity, compassion, unconditional love and what ca As with many controversial classics, this is the kind of story that initially provokes outrage from prospective readers when they learn the basic plot line, and understandably so; but those who give the book a chance are greatly rewarded with an amazingly well-written, powerful and poignant coming of age tale which focuses as much on maintaining the innocence and ideals of youth as transitioning out of childhood. I think of it as a story about humanity, compassion, unconditional love and what can be gained when we are able to look beyond labels to see who a person truly is, instead of who we expect them to be. At its heart, the Summer of My German Soldier is really about two frightened, misunderstood souls, both more or less victims of circumstance, who find in one another a rare friendship that they each desperately need at that moment and time. These two people who should logically be the worst of enemies, are able to connect and to treasure each other in ways that no one else can during that particular time in their respective lives.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    "A person's got to think, otherwise that person's no better than a trained seal balancing a ball on his nose. If only that seal could think, he'd know he was making a thousand children laugh." —Patty Bergen, "Summer of My German Soldier", P. 160 "Like the Bible tells us, when a man will lay down his life for a friend, well, then there ain't no greater love in this here world than that." —Ruth, "Summer of My German Soldier", P. 130 I have heard quite a bit about this book before I began to read "A person's got to think, otherwise that person's no better than a trained seal balancing a ball on his nose. If only that seal could think, he'd know he was making a thousand children laugh." —Patty Bergen, "Summer of My German Soldier", P. 160 "Like the Bible tells us, when a man will lay down his life for a friend, well, then there ain't no greater love in this here world than that." —Ruth, "Summer of My German Soldier", P. 130 I have heard quite a bit about this book before I began to read it, but was looking forward to seeing the literary skills of Bette Greene for myself. I am so very glad that I did just that. "Summer of My German Soldier" is one of the most captivatingly brilliant stories that it has ever been my privilege to read. Few authors that I have read are capable of evoking such emotional response as what is brought forth in these pages. I felt as if Patty Bergen and I shared one set of feelings, one heart, one mind, one soul. The astonishingly perceptive ways in which Bette Greene unpacked these truths to allow the average reader to deeply feel and understand them is one of the most extraordinary things that I have ever experienced in literature, and I do not make that statement lightly. Get ready for an immensely moving, powerfully engaging experience when you prepare to read "Summer of My German Soldier". It is a one-of-a-kind novel that will leave you different than it found you. It is one of the most haunting and encompassing stories that you will ever read. "I wondered if a blessing is still a blessing if it lasts for only a little while". —Patty Bergen, P. 199

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lefulche

    Oh my goodness, this was possibly my favorite book in middle school! My mother gave me HER copy that she read as a teenager, so it was very special to me. I know I read it at least three times. I am currently a freshman in college and have read many love stories since Summer of My German Soldier, but this book still stands out in my memory. The power of the forbidden love, the danger of a German soldier in the WWII American homefront climate, the intensity of the moral choice Patty has to make in Oh my goodness, this was possibly my favorite book in middle school! My mother gave me HER copy that she read as a teenager, so it was very special to me. I know I read it at least three times. I am currently a freshman in college and have read many love stories since Summer of My German Soldier, but this book still stands out in my memory. The power of the forbidden love, the danger of a German soldier in the WWII American homefront climate, the intensity of the moral choice Patty has to make in hiding Anton...it all makes their time in the tree house more gripping...and the ending...so heartbreaking! The only issue I remember having was the story feeling a little slow at first and then picking up in the middle. I think this was to the advantage of the plot though, which revolves around an intriguing idea, but one that teeters slightly towards the improbable; it is not hard to believe though once the story begins, as it is populated by the voices of such honest characters that the very dramatic scenario becomes wholly true and heartbreaking (I was faintly reminded of this distinct element of the storytelling from Summer of My German Soldier when I read Twilight...very faintly though:). I never read the second book, but I might someday, if I need what I expect is a very good read to relieve a sudden attack of nostalgia :) And I will surely pass my copy along to my daughter one day :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gabs {My Full Bookshelf Reviews}

    (to the toon of Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne) He's twenty-two. She's only twelve. Could it be any more obvious? -- Yep, I read this whole book because I wanted to see how pulling off a romance between a Nazi (he ended up not *technically* being one because he didn't actually like the Nazis or Hitler, so at least one crisis was averted) and a Jewish girl would work out. Then, when I realized the age difference, I just read on desperately hoping that the word 'love' was used in the friendly sense, or th (to the toon of Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne) He's twenty-two. She's only twelve. Could it be any more obvious? -- Yep, I read this whole book because I wanted to see how pulling off a romance between a Nazi (he ended up not *technically* being one because he didn't actually like the Nazis or Hitler, so at least one crisis was averted) and a Jewish girl would work out. Then, when I realized the age difference, I just read on desperately hoping that the word 'love' was used in the friendly sense, or that the attraction was one sided, and the twenty-two year old wasn't romantically attached to a not-even-teenager. It wasn't. The story itself, apart from being creepy, was just bad. Why does her family hate her--surely not just because she has uncontrollable hair. Why does her father have so many issues? Patty was just so impulsive. Don't read. There's so much WWII literature out there that's not so creepy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    emma grace

    Summer of My German Soldier took some very surprising twists as the pages fluttered through my fingers. It did not take very long to read for a good reason: this is a really good book. It is the story of an American Jewish girl who befriends a German POW. She has very few people to love in her life; her father mistreats her, and her mother is self-centered and doesn't really care about her. The only one she has is Ruth, their colored hired girl, who is the only one who really loves her. But when Summer of My German Soldier took some very surprising twists as the pages fluttered through my fingers. It did not take very long to read for a good reason: this is a really good book. It is the story of an American Jewish girl who befriends a German POW. She has very few people to love in her life; her father mistreats her, and her mother is self-centered and doesn't really care about her. The only one she has is Ruth, their colored hired girl, who is the only one who really loves her. But when Anton comes into her life, everything changes; for better and for worse. The book was written in a very strong voice; it was very honest, with a wonderful emotional quality. It was a very tragic book; but the writing made it wonderful. I almost cried when reading some scenes, and I am not usually a person who cries over books. I can't wait to read the sequel!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura Harrison

    One of my favorite childhood books. I am pretty sure I discovered this one on my own at the library when I was around 12 or 13. I finished all the usual classics-the Wilder and anything prairie books, the Montgomery and orphan themed books, the Farley and Henry horse books, Alcott etc. I covered it all. Can't quite remember why this stood out for me; I am just grateful it did. This was my very first book with any kind of true thoughts of romance in it. It was exciting, sad (but not endlessly sad One of my favorite childhood books. I am pretty sure I discovered this one on my own at the library when I was around 12 or 13. I finished all the usual classics-the Wilder and anything prairie books, the Montgomery and orphan themed books, the Farley and Henry horse books, Alcott etc. I covered it all. Can't quite remember why this stood out for me; I am just grateful it did. This was my very first book with any kind of true thoughts of romance in it. It was exciting, sad (but not endlessly sad like so many Newbery's) and beautiful. This isn't on many summer reading lists any more which is a tragedy. Summer of My German Soldier is an absolute masterpiece that child or adult should read at least once. A hooray to any teacher who introduces a young person to this brilliant accomplishment.

  30. 4 out of 5

    H.orses

    Oh this book was awesome! It is an amazing love story between a Jewish girl and an escaped German Soldier, it shows what they both with risk and how life during the war was for families. The main character Patty, lives with a dysfunctional family and an abusive father. Wanted by the police Anton will risk his cover and Patty with house the enemy. And in the end it all comes down to one memory that could make or break them both. With a surprising twisting end I loved this book and I wanted to kee Oh this book was awesome! It is an amazing love story between a Jewish girl and an escaped German Soldier, it shows what they both with risk and how life during the war was for families. The main character Patty, lives with a dysfunctional family and an abusive father. Wanted by the police Anton will risk his cover and Patty with house the enemy. And in the end it all comes down to one memory that could make or break them both. With a surprising twisting end I loved this book and I wanted to keep reading.

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