SO much more than a biography!


By age 18, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was studying to become a theologian. By all measures, he was a devoted Christian and a loyal German. While studying in New York, Bonhoeffer befriended two other seminarians, who opened his eyes to other ways of thinking. It wasn't long after returning to Germany that he realized Adolph Hitler's Nazism was moving beyond rhetoric into a dangerous reality. 

After much soulsearching, Dietrich agreed to become a spy against Hitler. Ultimately he was arrested and killed for his role in the plots against Hitler. One month after his death, the Nazis surrendered. 

BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
Through vivid illustrations, author John Hendrix builds a story that is both a historical and literary adventure. Not many true stories are as suspenseful and world-altering as this one.

As a lover of history, I thoroughly enjoyed how Hendrix’s intricate sketches gave Dietrich’s story another dimension. The color and detail made what could have been a colorless history book into a vibrant adventure. Hendrix intentionally built his dialogue in the story around direct quotations, so his creative illustrations follow an authentic story. This is not only a book for history lovers, but for anyone seeking an inspiring, vivid story.

As a point of note, the story does revolve primarily around World War II, so blood, death, and war are all elements of both the visuals and the story. Also, Dietrich’s occupation as a theologian leads to a few deeper discussions of the Christian faith, which some audiences may not find appropriate. Fortunately, these discussions are authentically from Dietrich’s letters, writings, and diaries and are not from the speculation or opinion of the author.

Given the book’s heavier subject matter, I would recommend this book for teens. For anyone seeking to learn how Germany fell into Nazi rule, and the little-known struggles of Germans against the Nazi regime, this book is a fascinating read.

Parent Perspective:
There were several times where I wished I had 3-D glasses. Something tells me that some of those blue/red illustrations would be amazing!

This is an amazing book. Very appealing and eye-catching for teens because of the way it mixes up the presentation style. It is also JAM packed with information (which you would expect of a nonfiction title). My request is that you don't dismiss it as *just* a biography or a history of Hitler's Germany. The author provides context material that is timeless: personal economic factors that influence perspective; communication styles that can impact governing and societal norms; and relationships and how information can affect personal ethics. Bonhoeffer was a theologian, and yet he actively participated in a murder plot. The author shows readers how personal experiences can influence decisions and how our beliefs evolve over time. There is plenty to discuss!

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Mixed content forms (narrative, inset, comics) complement each other in this thought-provoking biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The book, jam-packed with detail about his life, is a very readable narrative that sets context not just for Boenhoeffer but the world stage in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Content Awareness Factors:

The drawings and color combinations can, at times, be hard on the eyes. Additionally, some of the print is very small. 

Type of Book:
In addition to being a biography and history, it is a study of how events influence our perspective, choices, and values.
Educational Themes:

The obvious areas of learning focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hitler's Germany during World War II.  Yet there is SO much more to the book: the economic impact of war and the impetus for Hitler's rise to power, the role of religion in society, and politics (within Germany and across the globe with alliances).

On a more "personal" level, the book offers readers much to think about. How was Hitler able to gain popularity and usurp the existing government? Is this a style of leadership that still exists? The author also does a superb job pushing readers to look at life as Dietrich saw it - as a Christian murder was a sin. Did he commit a sin or rationalize it?

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
12 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
15 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 16
Purchase Recommendation:
This is a must-read to borrow from the library.

Title The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
Author John Hendrix
Publisher Amulet Books, Imprint Abrams Books © 2018
Illustrators Kyle T. Webster
ISBN 9781419728389
Material Hard Cover
Cost $24.99
Genres Biography, 1940s & 1950s, War
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