I picked up Shadow on the Mountain immediately when I saw it at the library because I recognized its author, Margi Preus, as the author of Heart of a Samurai, which I loved. While this one didn’t wow me quite as much as Newbery-honor winning Heart of a Samurai, I greatly enjoyed this novel based on the real-life heroics of a Norwegian teen who joined the resistance against the Nazis. The fictionalized hero, Espen, is a young teen when the story starts out, and is mostly interested in antagonizing the Nazis with his friends. The only illegal activity he’s involved in is delivering illegal newspapers. However, his involvement in the Resistance increases as the story progresses, and we see how it affects his life.
This is one of those stories that is written from multiple viewpoints. We get Espen’s point of view, his younger sister Ingrid’s, and that of a Nazi collaborator named Aksel who is out to get Espen. I don’t particularly care for this particular way of telling a story, and it doesn’t really add anything positive to this story in my opinion. Actually, it seems to me that it might’ve detracted a little bit from it because there were a few times that I lost the thread of the action because of the back-and-forthing of the points of view. Really, though, this is my only criticism of the book, and it’s more a personal preference than a criticism. The story was slow to get started, but once it did I quickly became very interested in Espen’s life and how things turn out for him. Of course, this is only a small portion of his life; the story begins in 1940 and ends in 1945, with Espen escaping to overland to Sweden (via skis, mostly) with the Nazis hot on his trail. Preus follows Espen’s fictional story up with fairly extensive backmatter, including an author’s note about the real Espen, Erling Storrusten, as well as a section of color photographs, a timeline, and a selected bibliography. I think this might be my favorite part of the story–knowing that it’s based on facts. Of course, such heroic tales of the World War II era abound, and this one is a good one to add to the list. I’ll definitely be handing this one over to my girls when the time is right. Highly Recommended. (Abrams, 2012)