Monday, December 8, 2008

Hitler and Mars Bars by Dianne Ascroft

Hitler and Mars Bars by Dianne Ascroft tells the story of Erich Schnell, who is just four years old when the book begins in March 1945. Erich and his brother, Hans, live in Goldschmidthaus Children's Home in Bredenscheid, Germany, and though they are starving due to food shortages, the home offers them a better life than their mother could on her salary from the train station. Erich is very close to his mother, who visits as often as she can, but when the rail yard is heavily bombed, she no longer comes to see him.

After World War II ends, Germany is in ruins, many children are orphaned, and food remains scarce. The Irish Red Cross launches Operation Shamrock (a real program, though Ascroft's story is fiction), which ships many German children to Ireland to live with foster families until their families back home are ready to care for them again. In Germany, Erich lived on watery porridge and bits of rancid meat, and once in Ireland, he receives full meals for the first time in his young life. At first, his stomach cannot handle all the food or the movement of the boat taking him to his new life, but he becomes stronger. His first foster family doesn't work out, and he moves to a farm and grows attached to Daddy Davy and Aunt Elsie. When he is reunited with Hans, at first he does not want to share his foster family, but they eventually become a strong family unit--the first real family either of the boys has ever known. Unfortunately, Erich and Hans cannot stay with Daddy Davy and Aunt Elsie, and their journey to belong continues, with many ups and downs.

Though Hitler and Mars Bars seemed long in some parts, I thought it was a great book. Ascroft brings attention to Operation Shamrock, a program I knew nothing about prior to the story, and instead of simply providing details about the program, she brings it to life through the story of Erich and Hans. The book is told from Erich's point of view, giving readers a glimpse of how hard it was for children to come to terms with the horrors of war. Though relatively safe at Goldschmidthaus Children's Home, Erich saw bombs in the distance and came in close contact with German soldiers. Ascroft does a wonderful job making Erich seem real; she shows him as a rambunctious boy who often acts before thinking about the consequences. While not everyone who crosses paths with Erich has his best interests at heart, Hitler and Mars Bars shows that in the aftermath of war, there is still reason to hope.

Hitler and Mars Bars also was reviewed by:

Fyrefly's Book Blog
Wendi's Book Corner


Tomorrow, Diary of an Eccentric will welcome guest blogger, Dianne Ascroft, author of Hitler and Mars Bars. In the meantime, read an excerpt of Hitler and Mars Bars here.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Hitler and Mars Bars from the author for review purposes.


Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of Operation Shamrock until I started reading reviews of this book either.

Dawn said...

I'm going to work harder to keep up with you Anna! LOL! You're so incredibly busy these days, I'm just amazed! I love your new banner!! She did a fantastic job! :)

Happy Reading & Knitting! I couldn't believe it when you said you'd been fitting some in lately! That's just awesome!
Hope the family is doing great too! (((Hugs!))

Ana S. said...

I also hadn't heard of Operation Shamrock. This does sound like a great book. Thanks for reviewing it, Anna.

Serena said...

Too bad this review doesn't count for the sounds like a great one...maybe I'll add it to my 2009 list.

Operations Shamrock sounds like a great program with a lot of promise.

Marie Cloutier said...

sounds like an interesting book! i have never heard of Operation Shamrock before. :-)

Anna said...

Bermudaonion: I certainly learned a lot from reading this book.

Dawn: Thanks! Isn't Monica great? I actually knit a lot this weekend, believe it or not! Glad to see you out and about! ((HUGS)) back to you!

Nymeth: It was a great book. I hope you get a chance to read it!

Serena: You should add it to your list. You can always borrow my copy!

Marie: I wonder why not much has been said about Operation Shamrock... I wonder if there are other books on the subject.

Shana said...

I'm looking forward to this one, Anna. You know, in Guernica, part of the story line was that children from the village and surrounding area were temporarily sent to England. Sounds kind of similar, although I'm not sure if it was a formal program in that case.


Anonymous said...

It will be a good WWII challenge book :)
I will get it for the challenge if I can :)

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I haven't heard of Operation Shamrock--sounds like an itneresting premise for this book--definitely something I'd love to learn more about!

Anonymous said...

As far as I've found there haven't been any other fiction works written about Operation Shamrock. And, when I was writing the novel, I only found one chapter in Cathy Molohan's 'Germany and Ireland 1945-1955 Two Nations Friendship' that talked about the project. I have no idea why there's been so little said about such a wonderful endeavour.

That would be great if some of you add Hitler and Mars Bars to your list for the WW2 challenge next year. I thought it would be good for it as soon as I heard of the challenge. Guess I can't add it to my reading list though...

Jo-Jo said...

Operation Shamrock...very interesting. I love it when you read these books and find out a new piece of history! Nice review.

Anonymous said...

Great review, Anna. My curiosity about *Hitler and Mars Bars* is increasing! A book doesn't have to have a happy ending for me, as long as there is *hope*

Anna said...

Shana: Sounds like I'll definitely enjoy Guernica! I had no idea about these programs to help children after the war. It's every interesting.

Veens: You should be able to get the book from Amazon. It would be great for the WWII Challenge!

Trish: From what Dianne said there's not a lot of information about Operation Shamrock. That's a shame because the program sounds so interesting!

Dianne: Thanks for this information! And we'd be glad to have you in the challenge!

Jo-Jo: I tend to find that historical fiction makes me do more research!

Dawn: I'm not against dark books with dark endings, but hope is always a good thing!

Wendi said...

Great review Anna! I've added a link to yours on mine (that just seems like a silly comment to me!). I've also added an author interview today! Dianne is thinking about a sequel! Maybe we'll get to see what happens to Erich!!

:) Wendi

Anna said...

Wendi: Thanks! I can't wait for the sequel!