Not your typical war story, Ashika Hira
20 April, 2021
Brian Falkner’s Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg is a riveting tale, inspired by true events.
Published in 2020 by Scholastic, Blitzkrieg follows 12-year-old Joseph St George – Joe for short – who lives in a time where Germany is at war with the rest of the world. This novel is set during the Second World War and we watch as Joe grows from a small boy into a young man in the span of a few years. He is forced to adapt when his whole world is turned upside down; when suddenly everything that he once thought he knew turned out to be a lie. He thought he was safe, but then again, don’t we all?
Joe grows up in Berlin with his parents who were both German diplomats. We first meet him at the age of 12, in 1938, a year before the war starts, but already we can see signs that it is on the horizon. The Germans have started putting Jewish people in concentration camps.
Although Joe has grown up in Germany, he isn’t a German, as his mother is a Kiwi and his father an Englishman. Still, he is like any other German boy, apart from in blood. He aspires to be part of the Deutsches Jungvolk (the junior Hilter Youth division), and eventually the Hitlerjugend (the Hitler Youth) like his friends, however, his parents forbid him from joining. Joe loves playing football and making mischief with his friends but he never finds the delight that most of his friends do making the lives of the local Jews difficult. He finds himself going along with their schemes, not out of joy or glee, but to fit in. On the night of November 9th, known as Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass, Joe’s father is taken by the Gestapo. “We weren’t Jewish, and my parents were diplomats, so I thought we would be safe, immune from the Nazi disease. But we weren’t, and even now I can remember everything vividly, like looking at a photograph.” – From the memoirs of Joseph (Katipo) St George.
From that day on, Joe’s life will never be the same.
Blitzkrieg weaves an enticing tale of mystery, adventure and lots of secrets. Joe travels through Germany, Paris and Britain, getting to see the tragedies of war and experience the effects and consequences of it first hand, making friends and enemies along the way.
Falkner does a great job of capturing the fear and devastation of the war, allowing readers to understand what it was like to be alive during that time. It destroyed the lives of many. No one escaped. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents, kids and parents: many were left without home or family, some grievously injured and with no one to live for.
I would recommend this book to people who like adventurous and secretive tales, as well as those who enjoy a good war story. However this is not the typical war story that we usually hear about – between soldiers on the battlefield – but that of a more secretive and deadlier war. A war of espionage, infiltration and assassination.
- Ashika Hira is 15 years old and lives in Hastings.