It is 1945, and thirteen-year-old Gwen has been a prisoner at the Weihsien Internment Camp in northern China for nearly two and a half years. Gwen is one of 140 children who were enrolled at a boarding school in Chefoo when the Japanese Imperial Army invaded China.
Life in the camp is difficult. There is not enough food or water, and even the children are forced to do hard labor. But Miss E., one of their teachers from Chefoo, has come up with an unusual scheme: she will follow the Girl Guide Code, treating Gwen and her friends as if they are part of a Girl Guide troop. Girl Guides promise not only to stay positive in the most challenging situations but also to do good turns, meaning they must be kind to others without any expectation of reward. Gwendolyn hopes that when she grows up, she will be as courageous and optimistic as Miss E.
But then Gwen learns that Miss E. is not as full of answers as she seems, and she realizes that in order to protect a friend, she will have to do something that could never be considered a good turn.
“This book is highly recommended for middle school libraries. Its setting and historical references, although not as famous as that of the Holocaust, provide a backdrop for a tale that is as chilling as it can be without being over the top.”
"Fascinating piece of history."
“Polak competently explores the experience, adding perceptive touches such as the girls’ complicated feelings...A compelling story.”
“This beautiful book is a song to courage and kindness, voices raised in cheerfulness faced with the hollowness of hope. It’s about the dignity and spirit that frees a prisoner from despair, a deeply felt prayer and yet somehow—amazingly—a rousing hymn. I loved every note.”
“It is a reminder that WWII was also experienced beyond the borders of Europe giving new dimensions to a much-studied topic. A book that would be a good addition to the study of World War II.”
“Highly readable with lots of dialogue, readers will encounter death and torture in learning about another aspect of the consequences of WWII, but will also learn of bravery and compassion, and the power of keeping ‘your chin up!’”
"So well-told and compelling…It is the sort of novel that will engage and inform grown-up readers as well. Highly Recommended."