Reader Reviewed My Brother's Secret by Dan Smith

My Brother's Secret

Written by Dan Smith

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

May 2014 Book of the Month Growing up in Germany at the beginning of the Second World War, Karl Engel imagines the role he might play in fighting for his country. Joining the Hitler Youth movement will be his first step. But after his father is killed, Karl realises that the war is not so good or glorious as he had once thought. Gradually, and especially after his brother Stephan is in trouble, Karl begins to question the world he lives in. Rich in detail, this is a thought-provoking story.

A Piece of Passion from Barry Cunningham, Publisher, Chicken House

Brothers often fight – and feel that parents just don’t understand or take unfair sides. But when taking sides becomes a matter of life and death, then the brothers in Dan Smith’s war-time Germany have to make some tough decisions together. Based on real Second World War events, this brilliant story gives a feeling of what life was like when children were faced with real evil and conflict. Fighting for our freedom – who knows if it may be something we have to choose again one day!

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Twelve-year-old Karl is a member of the Deutches Jungvolk. His father has gone off to fight, and he wants Germany to win the war. But tragedy strikes and Karl realises some of the choices he made may not be right. Hitler is no longer his hero. He must protect himself and save his brother from Kriminal-inspektor Wolff. An exciting adventure story about bravery and independent thought.
~ Andrea Rayner

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Morgan Steigmann, age 15 - 'I would urge you to give this book a try- just wait until you discover you can’t put it down!' Read full review >
  • Benjy Randall, age 10 - 'A brilliant book full of breath taking moments. I couldn't put it down!' Read full review >
  • Stuart Philpot, age 10 - 'My Brothers Secret is a gripping novel that will make you want to stay up late and finish it.  Ten out of was as though the book had sprouted arms and was never letting me put it down. ' Read full review >
  • Ellen Faulkner, age 12 - 'My Brother's Secret was riveting, and I did not want to put it down, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.' Read full review >
  • Rory Faulkner, age 9 - 'a mixture of exciting and at times scary and it really gripped me...I definitely recommend you read this book.' Read full review >
  • Ellie Frost, adult - 'World War Two from another perspective. Karl is in the Junior Hitler Youth, but his older brother Stefan is a pacifist. Their father is killed at war, and things start to change. I loved this book.' Read full review >
  • Eloise Mae Clarkson, age 11 - 'I loved this book and I learned a lot about how Germans thought during World War Two...They cared about their country and their friends and family.' Read full review >
  • Rose Heathcote, age 15 - 'GREAT READ – you won’t be disappointed.  I have read a Dan Smith book before and his detailed writing style continues into this book, this detail enables you to imagine that you are right at the side of Karl.' Read full review >
  • Traviss Chaytors, age 11 - 'A gripping book full of adventure and sadness.' Read full review >
  • Alice East, age 9 - 'The book is interesting as it tells you lots about the war from the view of Germans rather than the British...I really enjoyed reading this book although it was sad in places.' Read full review >
  • Amie Coffman, age 10 - 'I really enjoyed this book and became fascinated by WWII.  You learn that not all Germans behaved the same and I was surprised how I ended up feeling about the German boys.  I highly recommend it!' Read full review >

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My Brother's Secret by Dan Smith

Germany, 1941. 12-year-old Karl Engel is looking forward to joining the Hitler Youth, like all boys his age. But when his father is killed, his rebellious older brother Stefan shows him things that leave his faith in the Fuhrer shaken. What does it mean to be a good German? What does it mean to wear the mysterious flower sewn inside his brother's jacket? Who is the real enemy?

Dan Smith further explored the moral dilemma of war and the challenge that patriotism sometimes brings in his previous novel, My Friend the Enemy.

About the Author

Dan Smith

Growing up, Dan led three lives. In one he survived the day-to-day humdrum of boarding school, while in another he travelled the world, finding adventure in the padi-fields of Asia and the jungles of Brazil. But the third life he lived in a world of his own, making up stories . . . which is where some people say he still lives most of the time!

Now settled in Newcastle with his wife and two children, Dan writes stories to share with both adults and children – and with an interest in World War 2, a great-aunt who was a flak-gunner, and a grandfather who was an army captain during the war, is it any wonder that his first book for children is set during those uncertain days of 1941?

A Q+A with Dan

You have books published for adults and children. Do you find it easier or harder to write for children? I don’t think I find it easier or harder. Of course there are differences in the way I write for adults and children, but those differences aren’t very big. I approach stories as stories whoever I write them for. My adult books often have children in them, and my children’s books often have adults in them, so I just change the focus of who tells the story – the adults or the children.

How did you get your big break? It’s difficult to say whether I’ve had a big break or not. I think I’ve had a series of small breaks – which makes me sound like I should be in hospital. My first break, though, was finding a great agent who loves my writing. I spent a lot of time sending letters and sample chapters to different agents until I found just the right one. She always gives me good but brutally honest advice about my books, which is sometimes hard to listen to, but helps me get better and better at telling stories.

Any advice for budding authors? Read, read, read. And then read some more! I really believe that the more a person reads, the better they will understand how stories and characters work. The other important thing is to write. It might sound obvious, but if you sit about, waiting for inspiration and dreaming about being an author, then you’ll never be an author. Writing makes you an author so … get writing!

Where is your favourite place to write? I sit on a small sofa in the corner of the sitting room. It’s not very glamorous but it’s comfortable and it’s the brightest, warmest room in the house. I put my laptop on a cushion and perch it on my knees and, you know what? It’s just about the best place in the world.

Have you ever wanted to do anything other than write? When I was very young I wanted to be a judge. I have no idea why. Then I wanted to be a vet until I saw Star Wars at the ripe old age of seven. After that I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be Han Solo. I was never any of those things, though, and by the time I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Nothing else would have been good enough. Apart from, perhaps, being Han Solo.

You can only read three books for the rest of your life, what would they be? Well, if you asked me this on another day I might give you a completely different answer but today I’m going to say Lord of The Flies by William Golding because it’s a brilliant story about children who find themselves in a terrifying situation without any adults to help them, The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway because it’s the classic tale of man versus nature, and The Go-Between by LP Hartley because it’s a summery, dreamy tale about a shy child who is thrown into an adult world that he struggles to understand.

Do you visit your local library? Really, I like to own books, because they’re such lovely objects to hold and look at, but, yes, I do visit my local library. I find the library especially helpful when I’m researching a book of my own and I’m looking for information about something in particular. Also, both of my children love to borrow books and they take part in the Summer Reading Challenge every year.

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Book Info


320 pages


Dan Smith
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Chicken House Ltd

Publication date

1st May 2014




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