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The faithful spy : Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot to kill Hitler
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2018
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  New York Times Review

FOR A MAN ACCURSED BY HISTORY, Adolf Hitler led a grimly charmed life. He survived several well-planned assassination attempts through sheer luck. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a double agent claiming to spy for Hitler's Reich, was actually involved in the resistance movement that planned a few of these plots. John Hendrix's graphic biography, the faithful spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler (Amulet, 176 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up), intertwines two stories: the insidious rise of Hitler with his creed of hatred and Bonhoeffer's development as an ethical thinker who believed that radical action was necessary, but that killing was a sin. Hendrix writes, "the conspirators needed to find a place where God would forgive them for plotting an assassination." For young readers, one could easily play the near-miss attempts to kill Hitler as a straightforward thriller. The plots involve deception, gut-wrenching timing and concealed explosives: a bomb in a gift package, a rigged docent conducting a tour of captured Russian weaponry and an explosive briefcase spirited into the heart of Hitler's fortress, the Wolfsschanze. But Hendrix makes the bold and surprising decision to tell it as a tale of faith. He records Bonhoeffer's powerful experiences, for example, at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where the preacher Adam Clayton Powell fulminates: "Obeying God means challenging injustice! You don't just think about God. ... You act!" Some readers will be irked by the focus on God in historical nonfiction; others will be soothed by it. Certainly, Hendrix's implication that at Bonhoeffer's execution, he met his God is more emotionally powerful than strictly verifiable. In an author's note, Hendrix offers a passionate defense of presenting the story through the lens of Bonhoeffer's Christianity: "If we look for a motivation for his decisions outside his furious belief in God's certainty, we will miss the very lesson he offers. " What will catch the reader's eye immediately is Hendrix's striking three-color art. The book is not a panel-by-panel graphic novel, but rather an inventive combination of text blocks and illustration. Each spread has its own ingenious design, shuttling between the literal and the allegorical: As the text talks about Hitler undermining the power of President Hindenburg and the Reichstag ("teetering like a German spruce"), the illustration shows the Führer literally hacking down the tree of state, a startled German imperial eagle taking flight. Hitler is often drawn as a ravening wolf. Bonhoeffer faces off against the Nazis like David against Goliath. As Bonhoeffer chides those who don't rouse themselves, "If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction," the illustration shows a Nazi train plunging off a crumbling bridge as a figure sprints along the roofs, trying to avoid destruction - an evocative image, given the dark significance trains would acquire in the Reich. Even in more reportorial illustrations, Hendrix makes the most of his three-color medium, adding a demonic red glint to Hitler's eyes or forcing text to strobe like an old 3-D color offset; as we wait to hear about a phone call that might announce Hitler's death, the caller (in cyan) and the phone and switchboard (in magenta) are both rendered translucent, an unsettling effect, soul and object nervously divorced. The graphic flexibility also gives Heñdrix the opportunity to use maps to explain Hitler's military strategy: the feint that toppled France, for example, or Hitler's plans to annex Austria and Czechoslovakia. A recurring "Conquest Map" marks Hitler's terrifying progress (though it is unfortunately somewhat inaccurate - eastern Poland was occupied by the Soviets, not the Germans, in 1939-41). Occasionally, episodes could have benefited from being dramatically staged in graphic novel panels, rather than being relegated to a text box - when the assassination attempts fail, for example, or Bonhoeffer is finally arrested at his home. But the moral battles here are more important than the physical ones: "Faith, without action, is no faith at all. Love, without sacrifice, is no love at all." ?. T. ANDERSON is the author of books for young readers including "Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad."

  Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Biographies of key figures from WWII are plentiful in kids books, but Hendrix's captivating account of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a standout. In engagingly written chapters on heavily illustrated pages with plentiful quotes from Bonhoeffer's writing, Hendrix covers the German theologian's childhood, early interest in religion and theology, illuminating travels in America, dismay over Hitler's rise to power, and brave dedication to resistance in a variety of ways, including direct action. Interspersed with paragraphs about Bonhoeffer's life and the circumstances in Germany that led to Hitler's regime are spot illustrations, splash-page artwork, comics panels, maps, and more, which help communicate not only the bare facts but also the emotional tenor of the story. Bonhoeffer's face is almost always filled with vivid expressions of wonder or worry, while shadowy, jagged images of Nazis goose-stepping, Hitler shouting, and huge wolves with slavering jaws illustrate the looming violence promised by the Third Reich. The combination of Hendrix's sharp, concise words and evocative artwork gives readers a strong sense of historical context, the enormity of the perilous actions undertaken by Bonhoeffer and other resistance fighters, and the revolutionary nature of his theology of action and civil disobedience. A poignant, compellingly presented, and timely account of a brave individual who lived his life with true conviction.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

In this audacious graphic biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hendrix crafts a portrait of a man of faith grappling with the question of what it means to be an ethical and moral person.Hendrix is clear that this account is not a complete biography, noting his goal is "underlining the essential themes found in Dietrich's life." Pivotal moments from his subject's childhood through his execution are chronicled. Bonhoeffer's worldview is transformed when he goes to New York City in 1930 as a young white seminarian and befriends two classmatesan African-American and a white Frenchmanwho help awaken him to systemic racial injustice, pacifism, and the necessity of keeping the church independent from the state. From his year in America, "Bonhoeffer's theology [is] transformed from thought into action, the creation of something he called civil courage.' " This prompts Bonhoeffer to speak out publicly against Hitler, found the breakaway Confessing Church, spy for the German Resistance, and join the plot to assassinate Hitler that ultimately costs him his life. Interwoven with Bonhoeffer's story is extensive historical information. Hendrix's striking artworkdone in a limited palette of black, turquoise, and redrelies heavily on typography and visual metaphor. Some of the most striking illustrations depict Nazism as a ferocious, demonic wolf. Another portrays Bonhoeffer as the biblical David with a sling facing a Goliath who holds a bloodied spear and swastika-emblazoned shield. Hendrix's challenging and complex content demonstrates the trust he has in the intelligence of his audience. (bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 10-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
A 2018 Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Winner! <br> <br> Adolf Hitler's Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party's evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!<br> <br> In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to free the German people from oppression during World War II.
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