Louie lives with her brothers, Bert and Teddy, at The Majestic Boutique Hotel – a hotel run by their grandparents. It is one of Sydney’s grand old buildings, rich in history . . . and in secrets.
When a rose-gold locket with a mother-of-pearl shell, once thought lost, is uncovered by Louie, it sends her and her brothers spinning back in time. Back to a world at war – a Nazi-occupied Budapest. And here, their grandparents are hiding secrets of their own.
While in the past, Louie and her brothers must uncover and decode the clues of their grandparents’ history in order to return to present-day Sydney. In the process, they get caught up in danger at every turn and must use intelligence, strength and persistence in order to face the realities of this war-ridden period, and their own Jewish heritage and family history.
Heroes of the Secret Underground is inspired by author Susanne Gervay’s own family’s escape from Budapest during the holocaust. As a child of refugees, books were a safe and special place for Gervay to explore the world and ideas. She wants that for all young people. This is evident through the way she presents the Holocaust and highlights the harsh realities of history through a digestible time-slip and relatable themes.
The book moves between the two major time zones of Sydney, Australia in the summer of 2000, and Budapest, Hungary in the winter of 1944. Each setting is as important as it is vivid. The story’s relatability stems from descriptions of fauna, food, and classical music that showcases Hungarian culture and traditions in an authentic way, while also shedding light on themes of displacement and identity for first and second-generation Australians.
Riveting, encouraging, and authentic, Heroes of the Secret Underground introduces the topic of World War II in a fresh and enlightening way. Recommended for readers aged 9+, children learn about this pivotal moment in history through themes of culture, resilience and confidence –themes readers of all ages can relate to. My heart was left racing after each page turn, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too.