Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass
Pajama Press: Toronto. 2013.
Reviewed by Curtis Smith
Wilm is a 16-year-old living in Soviet-occupied, post WWII East Germany in 1947. Life is grim, hunger is constant and trust is fleeting. Wilm and his friends, Karl and Georg, keep a watchful eye on the Soviet-friendly German police, the Schupos, for entertainment, but two events – the beating of Wilm's war veteran/amputee father by the Schupos and Wilm's learning about his sister's rape by Soviet soldiers – turn their boyish pranks on the Schupos (aka the puppets or marionettes) into something decidedly more serious.
Fast-paced and interspersed with facts about early East Germany, Karen Bass' portrayal of the realities of this time period serves as a great learning tool into the after-effects of WWII and the early part of the Cold War. The narrative is tightly written and the perspectives of the young protagonists are effectively counter-balanced by the adult characters in the novel – Wilm's parents, his engineer-mentor Otto, his mathematics professor and the "bad guy" Ernst. Wilm's actions, and their ultimate results, combine to demonstrate that there are second and third-order consequences to every undertaking and that rashness can lead to stupidity. A valuable read set in a unique period of human history.