Illustrator: Richard Collingridge
Genre: Spy fiction / Wartime Adventure
Target audience: 10+
Summary from Amazon:Review:
Norway, December 1942.
Following the German occupation of the power plant at Vemork in southern Norway, the British government has become aware that Hitler is trying to find a way to use the heavy water it produces to make a nuclear weapon. One mission to destroy the power plant has already failed and time is running out. Now the Allies' fate rests in the hands of four teenagers - Jakob, Freddie, Ase and Lars - who must survive for weeks in the freezing conditions of the Hardanger Plateau before they launch a sabotage attempt that will decide the course of the war.
Stuck-in paper inserts bring to life the wartime experiences of these special Special Agents, from digging snow holes and butchering reindeer, to combat knives and behaviour under torture.
The book: Mission Telemark. The characters: Ase, Fred, Jakob and Lars. The year: 1942. The plot: Four fluent Norweigan speaking teens are recruited by a senior officer in the British Army to complete a secret mission. Chance of survival: Minimal.
Mission Telemark had me gripped from the very first page. I became completely absorbed reading Ase and Jakob's log of their mission. The story is told from their two perspectives. Ase is a champion gymnast and her small physique is perfect for sneaking into Nazi strongholds undetected. Her account in the log is comical and kept making me giggle. Jakob is the leader of the mission. His character is outwardly calm and controlled and he is very intuitive. Jakob's parts of the story are interspersed with his drawings which are the most beautiful illustrations and really add something special to the fabulous narrative.
I must not leave out Fred and Lars. Clumsy, uncoordinated but extraordinarily intelligent, Fred is physically the weakest member of the group. However, he is vital to the mission because he has a photographic memory and has the role of communicator with HQ. Lars is a very insular character. He has witnessed dark events in the war and his story slowly unfolds throughout Jakob and Ase's account.
The four recruits must pull together to complete the vital task they have been set. Their mission is fraught with danger both from the Nazis and from the environment which they have to navigate. They experience true hardship and the author does not try to make trivialise the hellish conditions faced by our soldiers during the Second World War. Instead she lightens the story with thoughts of chocolate and the natural joys of childhood.
The book was full of fascinating details about the war, about the equipment the soldiers were issued with and about the chemistry behind the weapons. There are no James Bond gadgets here. The author stayed true to the time period and I felt like I journeyed into the life of a British spy by reading this book.
I surprised myself by how much I loved Mission Telemark. I am not into spy novels but I do love historical fiction. There was just so much to enjoy through the characterisation and the format of the book. This book will appeal to all ages. It will appeal to fans of war stories, of historical fiction and of spy stories. It will appeal to those who just love a good adventure. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I've already ordered a copy for the school library because I know some boys who will love it just as much as I do. A fabulous wartime adventure!
NB: Amanda Mitchison is a UK 2010 debut novelist. I am so lucky to be finding all these amazing new authors that I would not have read otherwise if it wasn't my personal mission to read as many UK debuts as I can this year. Thank you so much to Walker Books for allowing me to review Mission Telemark.