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Flames of the Tiger

by John Wilson

Flames of the Tiger, by Vancouver Island writer John Wilson, is the Second World War story of a German teen who was initially a Nazi sympathizer. Dieter is a 17-year-old who, in the last days of the war, tries to surrender to a wounded Canadian soldier. To keep the injured man alive, Dieter tells his life history, chronicling a childhood spent in the Hitler Youth and a stint at the front with a unit of boy soldiers. When his parents were killed as the Russians entered Berlin, Dieter set out with his sister to pursue his father’s dream of escaping to Canada. By this point, Dieter has finally accepted what his country has done, and comprehends his father’s statement that even those like him who “did nothing” must “take some of the blame” for Nazi atrocities.

Though Dieter has doubts about the Nazi agenda, he toes the party line; consequently his character challenges readers to sympathize, even identify, with a protagonist who aligns himself with an abhorrent ideology. As Wilson points out in his author’s note, making such a character likable is not a way to apologize for the Nazis but a means to foster understanding, dialogue, and critical thinking; fortunately, this “lesson” never overrides the book’s storytelling. Equal parts philosophical debate and historical fiction, this book, like Wilson’s And in the Morning, presents a compelling and thoughtful story of war that should appeal to a wide range of readers from ages 10 to 14.