Harlow, Joan Hiatt. The Watcher. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon), 2014. $16.99. 288 pages. Content: G.
Wendy Taylor appeared in another of Author Joan Hiatt Harlow’s books, Shadows on the Sea, and she disappears with her newly discovered mother, Adrie Dekker. The Watcher begins with Wendy arriving in Berlin. Her real mother, Adrie, was a Nazi spy that was discovered so they had to leave United States in a U-boat. Wendy grown up believing that Adrie was her beloved aunt and when she asked Wendy to come with her, she did. Life in Berlin was not quite what Wendy hoped for. She doesn’t speak any German and the other girls aren’t nice. She receives a German shepherd dog from an SS officer who is training dogs and her dog is too nice. Wendy names the dog “Watcher” and is grateful to finally have a friend. Her mother makes her volunteer at a Lebensborn facility where she helps with the children and babies. She grown attacked to Hunfrid, a small Polish boy, who was taken from his family because he was Aryan. She makes friends with a detainee, Johanna who is a Bibelforscher (a German citizen who is a Christian and will not participate in the war efforts or heil Hitler as a god). She also makes friends with a blind young man named Barret, whose grandfather tells Wendy a terrible secret about her true identity. Wendy must decide if she can stay with her mother or if she will risk her life to leave. The publisher’s recommended ages for the book is 8-12 years old; Wendy is just turned fifteen-years-old and is unbelievably naïve. Her actions and thoughts seem more on part with the younger age group recommended by the publisher. She hears and sees terrible things but doesn’t want to believe that they are really happening all around her. Her friend Barret tells her, “Don’t hide from the truth, Wendy.” When Wendy finally decides to accept what she sees and hears is true is perhaps the strongest part of her character development. I enjoyed the reading about Lebensborn and learning more about Bibelforscher’s. The Watcher is a gentle introduction to young readers about some of the horrors of the Nazi regime.
EL-ADVISABLE. Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.