A Cake for the Gestapo by Jacqueline King – REVIEW

Slotting in beside THE MACHINE GUNNERS and WAR HORSE, A CAKE FOR THE GESTAPO tells the story of a fictional gang of kids in Jersey during the German Occupation in WW2, weaving in very real islanders’ own stories of the Occupation at its core – A history that has never before been told in children’s literature. June 1940. As World War Two rages on, for Joe, Spinner, Ginger and Clem life continues as normal on the small island of Jersey. Dealing with school bullies and angry parents, none of them really believe the enemy will invade. That is until the island is bombed and Joe is injured. Outrage turns to terror. The grownups avoid the Germans, but the gang have a plan. Playing tricks on the soldiers, they trip them up in their every move until their plan lands them and the whole community in terrible, mortal danger. The threat of starvation begins to hang over the islanders as the German occupiers tighten their grip, but the gang refuse to give up. What if they could take down one of the German s most dangerous leaders? What if they could defeat the cruel and terrifying Viktor?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zuntold.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“Our aim will be to defy the enemy and destroy their morale by being a general nuisance with tricks, pigs and catapults.”

I was kindly invited to take part in the blog tour for A Cake for the Gestapo and, since I haven’t read any children’s historical fiction lately, eagerly accepted. Set in Jersey and spanning two years of the German Occupation during World War Two (1940-1941), the story focuses on a group of school children forming a Resistance Club and vowing to do whatever they can to annoy the German soldiers until they leave the island. The children had a fantastic group dynamic and such authentic voices, reminding me of an Enid Blyton creation. Each child felt fully-realised and it was easy to differentiate between them. Whilst the children’s antics are amusing, there’s a low level of underlying threat pervading the action and I often found myself worried for the children as they failed to grasp how serious the repercussions of their actions could be.

“Don’t hurt anyone, Joe, not ever. Put yourself in their shoes. Bullying and hating and fighting, they leave a stain on people.”

The author evoked island life wonderfully and it’s obvious that she interviewed the people of Jersey and knows the island well. Like reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the occupation of the Channel Islands was something I knew little about and it was interesting to view the occupation from different perspectives. This story would be an ideal book for children studying the Second World War and an invaluable teaching resource. I particularly appreciated how the author goes to painstaking lengths not to present the Germans as one-dimensional villains. Instead we are shown compassion from some German soldiers and there’s an emphasis on the shame various soldiers felt regarding the SS. 

“Evil flourishes when good people fail to act. We will not let evil win.”

Woven throughout the book is the idea that evil can only succeed if good people do nothing; the small acts of bravery committed by the children actually mean so much in the grand scheme of things. One interesting aspect the author explored was the danger of good people becoming bad in their attempt to stop evil. At what point have you gone too far and become like the very enemy you’re trying to stop? Do you need to be a monster to stop monsters? The final message of the book is one of kindness, courage, and compassion, and I fervently hope these resourceful children survived the atrocities and privations awaiting them. A Cake for the Gestapo is a well-researched and engaging addition to the canon of war fiction, and should be essential reading for all school children.

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Hive)

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