SummaryBased on Christine Leunens’ acclaimed novel Caging Skies, first published in 2004, the story begins in fictional Falkenheim. In this quaint town under Nazi rule, the end of the war is rapidly approaching. However, in 10-year-old Jojo Betzler’s bedroom, anticipation is mounting. For today, he finally has the chance he’s been waiting all his 10 years for: to join the Jungvolk, aka The Hitler Youth. To Jojo, so credulously gullible and susceptible to the pervasive propaganda that surrounds him, it feels like his first opportunity to do something big and important, to help protect the single mother he loves beyond anything, and maybe even to feel like he belongs. To sooth his insecurities, Jojo brings along an outsized imaginary friend: a clownish, hare-brained
apparition of Hitler, who with all the emotions of a child dispenses advice Jojo might have sought from his absent father. With Adolf in his head, Jojo feels invincible. But in fact, Jojo’s troubles are just beginning. Humiliated (and nearly decapitated) in the Jungvolk camp, his frustration only grows deeper. Then, Jojo makes a discovery that slowly, yet radically, transforms how he sees the world. Chasing what he believes to be some kind of phantasm, he finds instead that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl in the wall at terrible risk to them all. The shock nearly undoes him—here is the “danger” he’s been warned about living in his own home, under his own nose, mere feet from where he regularly confides in his imaginary friend Hitler. But as Jojo endeavors to keep tabs on the mysterious Elsa, his fear and vigilance grow into something even Adolf cannot seem to fathom. For the more he gets to know Elsa as a person, the more she becomes someone Jojo can’t imagine allowing anyone, including his Nazi idols, to harm.