One additional winter-journey story to cap off this week. While you’re watching the luge and bobsledding teams, here’s a well-loved story of some brave sledders in Norway.
Snow Treasure, by Marie McSwigan, illustrated by André LaBlanc
In the summer of 1940, while Europe was fighting WWII but before the U.S. was engaged, a Norwegian freighter arrived in the port of Baltimore, loaded to the gills with gold bullion. Nine million dollars worth of gold! At the time, Norway was occupied by the Nazi army, so the huge question was: How had the Norwegians smuggled all that gold past the soldiers and out of the country?
The ship’s captain said that a team of Norwegian children had accomplished the task. Whether that’s true or not, we don’t know, but Marie McSwigan has written this well-loved novel to tell the story of how it might have been done.
It’s the story of Peter Lundstrom, twelve years old, his sister Lovisa, and several friends, who bravely pack the gold bricks onto sleds, ride the sleds for miles down the forested mountainsides right under the noses of the German guards, then bury the gold in the snow, topped with a peculiar marker to ensure their Norwegian comrades find it. There’s heaps of pride and danger involved in the many sled runs they make, as well as spies and a prison break, before the adventure concludes.
Apparently it was made into a movie, too.
It helps to note that the book was published in 1942, right in the thick of the war. Anti-Nazi, and therefore anti-German sentiments are articulated in strong, at times mocking terms, and heart-stirring pride in the freedom and promise of America as well as the boldness of the Norwegian people are also running themes. Young readers may not observe this, but it felt a bit painful to me in spots. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting story of brave, independent children taking on adult-level risks and work which kids ages 8 and up will certainly enjoy.