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- author Jackie French

Monday 28 December 2020

Review: We Are Wolves

It is the heart of winter, 1945. Fighting for Hitler, Eric Wolf is now missing in action. The remaining Wolf family – two grandparents, Mama, Liesl, Otto and baby Mia, join the thousands leaving East Prussia to escape the invading Russian army. 

They go forth, wagons loaded with belongings and hope, to reach ships that are moving people across the Baltic Sea.

The grandparents collapse as a result of freezing temperatures. They join the trail of lifeless shadows and scattered possessions, the price paid for the long journey to freedom.

When a bomb is dropped onto the stream of travellers towards the end of their quest, the frozen lagoon swallows the Wolf’s horse and wagon. Mama’s cry to run is all the children take with them as they escape into the forest to become part of the German Wolfskinder, the wolf children, victims of war.

They undertake a seemingly impossible trek across country in search of a home without their mother, surviving on whatever edible the forest contains and stealing or begging from farms – abandoned and occupied. Danger lies everywhere. Liesl does her best to protect the younger children. But hunger and the elements leave their mark on them all, including others fleeing, whom they encounter along the way.

There is a short respite from deprivation when two Russian soldiers show compassion and offer the children temporary protection from the savagery that reigns within the Red Army against all Germans, children included.

Alone again, they learn that in the bordering Lithuania, food is plentiful. When they find shelter there with a childless couple, to survive, they must change their names and replace their mother tongue to become Lithuanian in all aspects.

Fictionalised, the novel is based on true stories about what become of the German children who were left orphaned and homeless after the invasion of Germany by Russia.

We Are Wolves is a poignant, at times disturbing novel that tears at the heart. It addresses the hardships many children experienced during war time. The absolute determination and resourcefulness in order to survive is strongly portrayed, along with the compassion and kindness of strangers offered to the Wolfskinder simply because they were children.

Title: We Are Wolves
Author: Katrina Nannestad
Publisher: Harper Collins, $ 19.99
Publication Date: 29 October 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780733340888
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction