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Middle-Grade Review: Lines of Courage

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Book By Book

One of the audiobooks I listened to in August for the #BigBookSummer Challenge was Lines of Courage by Jennifer Nielsen, a middle-grade historical novel about WWI.  It was not only a gripping story with wonderful characters, but I learned a lot!

In June 1914, twelve-year-old Felix is proud to be a part of Austria-Hungary, one of the oldest and largest empires in the world. He and his parents visit Sarajevo, and while there, Felix sees a gunman on the crowded streets kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife as they drive through the streets waving from the back of a convertible. It’s a moment Felix won’t ever forget. Back home, family friends visit from Germany, including their eleven-year-old daughter, Elsa. Felix isn’t thrilled to be entertaining the chatty younger girl, but Elsa is excited to tell him all about the homing pigeons she trains. She hopes they can become pen pals. As the war moves forward, and Felix’s father goes to the front, Felix and his mother struggle to remain safe, as Jews living in Austria-Hungary. In Britain, as the war begins, Kara goes along with her mother, who is a Red Cross nurse, on a hospital train. They travel throughout France and England, picking up wounded soldiers, caring for them, and transporting them to hospitals for full care. Kara yearns to be old enough to help, earn a Red Cross pin herself, and maybe even someday become a nurse or a doctor. In France, Juliette is fleeing her small town with her mother and little brothers, as the Germans move into town. Her father has been imprisoned, and Juliette wants to help her mother, but she gets separated from her family. Dimitri comes from a poor farming family in Russia and joined the military in order to earn money to send back home. He’s only a teenager and is sent to the front without a weapon. He just wants to survive and continue to support his family, but being in the midst of the fighting is a horrifying experience. 

Each of these five young people is experiencing different parts of the war in different parts of Europe, though their paths will all cross at one point or another. In this way, the reader gets an inside look at what it was like for families during WWI, dealing with starvation, being put out of their homes, fearing for their lives and their fathers’ lives, and even, as the story moves forward, being immersed in the battles themselves in the later years of the war. The narrative moves through the different characters’ perspectives and shows that war isn’t a clear case of the good guys and the bad guys but all shades of gray and suffering on all sides. These brave and remarkable (yet ordinary) young people show caring, courage, and friendship as they strive to stay safe and help others. The audio production was very well done and provided an immersive experience. I’ve read many books about WWII, both fiction and nonfiction, but I knew very little about WWI. This middle-grade novel was suspenseful, engrossing, and very informative.

400 pages, Scholastic

Scholastic Audio

Note: The novel covers the full period of WWI, from 1914-18, so the characters age into their mid- to late teens as the narrative moves along. It is appropriate for middle-grade or teen readers.

This book fits in the following 2023 Reading Challenges:


Diversity Reading Challenge

Travel the World in Books – England, France, Germany, Austria/Hungary, Russia

Big Book Summer Challenge


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. The sample is from a chapter where the Russians have begun to come to Felix’s village, and Jewish families have begun to disappear.


Or get this audiobook from and support local bookstores. You can hear that same audio sample here.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)–the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



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