#CourageAndDefianceBlogTour Blog Stop @Deborahopkinson

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Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in World War II Denmark

Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 25, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545592208

Clearly you love history. How did you decide to write about World War II Denmark? 

I am writing three nonfiction books about World War II, and as my editor and I discussed ideas I remembered how much I and my children loved Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, a historical fiction classic about this same time period. When I began to research the actual events that inspired it, I was amazed by how much I didn’t know about the Danish resistance and the rescue of the Danish Jews, and so I set out to learn more.

What was your favorite part of researching this book?

I enjoy the process of digging into history. For Courage & Defiance, my favorite aspect was reading accounts by ordinary people who made difficult, courageous decisions to become involved in the resistance, whether it was working on underground newspapers, taking part in sabotage efforts, or arranging transportation to Sweden for Jewish neighbors and friends. It was a reminder that the choices we make as individuals do matter. 

I know you had the opportunity to meet Diane and Niels Skov. What was that like and how important was it for you to tell Niels story?

I had already become fascinated by Niels Skov’s memoir, A Letter to My Descendents, and it was an honor to meet him. Quite by coincidence, I mentioned an incident that I had chosen to recount about his first act of sabotage, which took place soon after the German occupation. Niels had set fire to a German military vehicle using just a match and a homemade screwdriver. At that point, to my amazement, Diane brought out the screwdriver, which Niels had kept for seventy years. It is a privilege to be able to share his story with young readers and in a small way, help keep his legacy alive. 

It’s an interesting time to be growing up – with news, information and technology at students finger tips. In fact, most teens are pre-teens are bombarded by information daily by the media. Why is history important and how important is it for students to unplug and read about real life heroes?

I find that most students I meet in schools love to read, but they also love the Internet – and so do I. It’s certainly true I couldn’t write about history as easily as I do now without it. I feel very fortunate that oral histories and accounts, such as the Titanic investigative hearings, are now available online. And in my books I try to encourage readers to continue their exploration by searching online for images, photos, or oral history interviews that will enhance their reading. 

How did you become interested in history?

I grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution, and so I was surrounded by history, though I didn’t appreciate its significance at the time. In fact, it wasn’t until years later, when I began writing, that I found myself drawn to historical fiction and nonfiction. Perhaps if I had become a professor rather than a development professional and grant writer in my day job, I might have become immersed in only one period of history. The best thing about being an amateur historian and author is that I can move from World War II Denmark to 19th century New York City, which is the setting for my forthcoming historical fiction novel, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket. 

What do you love most about sharing historical stories with students? 

I know that most of the time, the students I meet in elementary and middle schools are probably more interested in reading fantasy or science fiction. But studying history is a form of time travel, and can be just as exciting. All I can do is speak from my heart and share the stories about ordinary people in history that fascinate me – and hope that maybe a little of my enthusiasm will rub off on young readers.

Thanks so much, Deborah, for stopping by our blog today! For more stops on the tour, please click here!

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