Title: Bruno and Frida
Author: Tony Bradman
Illustrator: Tania Rex
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Genre: Older children’s/middle grade fiction, Historical fiction
Book format: Paperback
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Description:  East Prussia, Germany, 1945. War is raging across Europe, and as Russian soldiers close in across eastern Germany, Bruno and his mother must flee if they hope to survive.
In the chaos of the attack, Bruno finds himself face to face with a huge black dog. He knows what she is: a weapon, strapped with explosives by the Russian army and sent into battle as a suicide bomber. But as Bruno’s world begins to crumble around him, he soon realises that she is just as scared and alone as he is.
Faced with a perilous journey across war-torn Germany, will their bond be enough to keep them alive?

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is such a moving story and a great book for showing a side of World War II that not a lot of people learn.  It’s 1945 and Bruno and his mother live in a small village in east Germany.  After years of the country being at war, the Russian army is moving westward.  Bruno and his mother join many other Germans fleeing their homes from the invading Russians, but when planes fire bombs onto the villagers, Bruno’s mum is killed.  Bruno runs away into the forest to hide and is soon joined by a terrified Russian dog with bombs strapped to its body.  The pair soon become inseparable and begin a dangerous journey west.  But will Bruno and the dog manage to flee the area in time and what happens when Russian soldiers invade the local villages?

Bruno and Frida book page image one
Image from digital copy ©Tania Rex

This is quite a dark story for older children to read and one which teaches a lot about what happened to many German people towards the end of World War II.  As Bruno and his mother make their way towards a train station, we learn a little about what has happened in the war and the way in which many German people supported and believed in Hitler.  I like the way this story shows some of the history through the eyes of Bruno, a child, and how he doesn’t know about the bad side of Hitler, except from rumours he’s heard.  As the story moves on and his mother is unfortunately killed, Bruno runs away into the forest.  Once this happens his jouney continues with Frida the dog.  I have to say this really made the story so much more lovely and easier to read.  I love the bond Bruno develops with Frida and how the two of them help each other on the trek west.

I don’t want to give away what happens in the story, but I do like where Bruno and Frida end up and how they learn the others’ side of the war.  The book does focus on a darker side of the end of World War II and I like how this story didn’t shy away from showing the horrible and sad truth of how many German people were treated as the war was ending.  It’s a side that’s never really taught in this country, at least it’s not something I ever learned when studying the Second World War at school, but unpleasant things happened to many regular German people as the war was coming to an end, and I like how this book shows the sadness, but ultimately shows a happy ending for Bruno and Frida.

Bruno and Frida book page image two
Image from digital copy ©Tania Rex

The illustrations really make this book so much more interesting and emotional to read.  I adore the images of Frida and Bruno together, especially when they are huddled in the woods when they first meet.  Each picture is in black, white and grey and has a lot of detail in it but also has a nice feel to it, not too realistic so it doesn’t make the story feel too dark, but also shows the true emotions of the people and Bruno and Frida during some emotional moments.

The book has a good ending although I’m not sure about the last chapter.  I understand how the author wants to link the last chapter to a particular similar crisis of today, and it does a good job of that, but I couldn’t help but want to have focused more on what happened to Bruno not long after the ending of the book, it just took me out of the story, though it was nice to have some information on what happened to him and all the other characters mentioned.  The ending of the book has some author’s notes about what happened and I like how this explains what happened to the German people and how Germany has changed since that time.   I’ve only read a digital version of this book so I can’t comment on the quality of the paper used, but being a Barrington Stoke book for children, this physical copy will likely have yellowed pages that are very thick.  The text is a good larger size with paragraphs separated and a special font which makes it easier for dyslexics to read.  The book is also just short of 90 pages long which means that it’s also a good read for reluctant readers too.

Bruno and Frida book page image three
Image from digital copy ©Tania Rex

Overall I have enjoyed this book.  Some of the descriptions of what happens to some people, some deaths and especially a few mentions of what happened to some people in concentration camps is a little dark.  Even my adult self who is used to reading darker books about the war couldn’t help but feel uneasy and a bit shocked at some of the descriptions of things.  So I’d say that although this is aimed at children, they should be ready to hear something a little darker as some of the things that happened during that war are difficult to hear.  But apart from that this is a good story.  I would have preferred a story that focuses entirely on the past, rather than splitting off and being more about a recent issue in history at the end, but it’s still a good book and I like how this is a lovely story of Bruno and Frida which ends happily despite all the horrors of the war.

-Bruno and Frida will be published on the 3rd February 2022!

What do you think of this book?  Do you like historical fiction?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂