The Dutch experience of the Second World War remains, for many children, synonymous with Anne Frank and her diary. In Brave Deeds, B.C. writer Ann Alma describes the experience of a couple who helped people like Anne hide from the Nazis. Alma chronicles the real-life story of her friends Frans and Mies Braal, who were members of the Dutch resistance and helped save the lives of hundreds of people, including a Canadian airman whose plane was shot down. Using their country house as a base, the Braals hid resistance fighters and Jews, housed several children in addition to their own family (at one point 26 people lived at Het Buitenhuis), and produced forged identity papers. Fully aware that they risked death for such activities, the Braals, in Alma’s hands, remain humble and pragmatic heroes. As Mies says, “The Nazis can only kill us once.”
In bringing this history to light, Alma employs a fictional child narrator who is staying with the Braals‚ after his or her parents – resistance members – have gone into hiding. As Alma explains in an afterword, this character remains deliberately abstract, even genderless, in order to represent all children who go through war. This device works well in Alma’s capable hands, tying a fairly anecdotal history into a loose plot and making the events accessible for middle readers.
The resulting narrative is an engaging and informative story that inspires without being saccharine or preachy. Including such resources as an epilogue, historical notes, and a glossary means that the book will be a useful educational source as well. Brave Deeds makes a fine contribution to Holocaust and Second World War literature for children.