Published in the 1970s, this Scholastic book looked extremely out-of-date when I saw it lying in a stash of used children’s books. But I’ve experienced often enough what exceptional stories can lie behind dull covers, so I purchased it. And I’m glad I did.
It isn’t the sort of story that’s exceptional because of its magnificent plot or hilarious three-dimensional characters. But it is exceptional in that it’s one of the few books (along with Day of the Blizzard) that I’ve found that has a good story and no problematic elements.
Arne’s father is a wanted man. He is a man that is wanted by the Gestapo for his courageous defiance of their corrupt policies. The Underground just barely managed to slip him out of Norway to Spitsbergen, a Norwegian island, but his safety is still threatened. No one knows when the Nazis may decide to invade the island.
To conceal his identity, Arne’s father travels with a team of scientists who study the glaciers on Spitsbergen. It is while he is away on one of those trips that British warships arrive at Spitsbergen to evacuate the inhabitants to England. It is imperative that the ships leave again before the Nazis become aware of the operation, but all of the radios have been shut down. Arne has no way to contact his father. So should he flee to safety with his friends, or stay behind to wait for his father? He elects to stay.
Arne hopes that his father will return before the Nazis arrive, but this hope is disappointed. Arne must instead travel to find his father. Will he survive the intense cold, treacherous mountainsides and sparse supplies? Should he trust the eccentric trapper he meets along the trail? And will he find his father before the Nazis do?
The entire story is centered around a young boy’s love for his father and his willingness to face death rather than desert his father. During his trek, Arne demonstrates a remarkable amount of good judgment and experience as he rations his supplies and provides shelter for himself. When he is faced with the difficult decision of trusting Hans Braun, he arrives at a mature and ethically astute decision.
Arne isn’t perfect; he makes several decisions which he regrets, but which he seeks to rectify. I would consider him to be worthy of emulation by young minds.
Conclusion. North of Danger is an adventurous story of perseverance and devotion and one which will profit the children who read it. And besides, it has a giant husky in it…… what’s not to like? =)
Review © 2012 Laura Verret