CM February 9, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 17

image A Time to Choose.

Martha Attema.
Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 1995. 166pp, paper, $7.95.
ISBN 1-55143-045-2.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Michele F. Kallio.


At that time it hadn't bothered Johannes that his father was a member of the National Socialist Movement, the only political party allowed under German occupation. Modelled after the German Nazi party, the organization was run by Dutch ministers, but was completely under German control. At first many believed that a better economy would solve the country's problems. As a result, most farmers became members of the National Socialist Movement. There were real benefits. The Germans paid good money for dairy and grain products. Uncle Jan, father's oldest brother always said, "Hitler pays more for our products than the Queen ever did." Uncle Jan was a faithful party member.
But as time passed and the war showed no signs of ending, people began to realize that the Germans were not always that reliable. For one thing, they paid with money that was worthless. Now, the benefits were not so clear. Many farmers terminated their membership in the movement.
Johannes wished his father had given up his membership and joined the resistance. At first he hadn't seen his father as a traitor. But in the last two years Johannes had begun to worry. More and more people were working in the resistance. Now he often wondered if his father was an informer.

Attema's first novel for young people -- the story of sixteen-year-old Johannes van der Meer's coming of age in the last years of World War II -- is an excellent read. Attema evokes the Netherlands of her childhood with vivid descriptions of farm life in Friesland province.

Readers are drawn into Johannes's uncertainty over how to prove himself to friends and neighbours. When his best friend joins the Dutch resistance, Johannes has a chance to prove his loyalty. Torn between love of country and love for his father, 1944 is indeed a "time to choose" for Johannes.

The story's mood and flow are consistent throughout. A glossary is included to explain special terms and aid in pronouncing names. The attractive lay-out and the well-designed cover illustration (of Johannes overhearing his father talking with a German officer) are appealing, and may pique the interest of some who might not ordinarily read a book on this subject.

A Time to Choose will be an excellent resource for studies concerning Canadian participation in the liberation of the Netherlands in 1944-45.

While the book is intended for ages eleven to fourteen, it will appeal to older readers as well.


Michele F. Kallio is a former teacher/librarian living in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick.

For more information about A Time To Chooseor other fine books by Orca Publishers contact Christine Toller.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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