Sunday, April 7, 2013

Snow Treasure

It is early spring in 1940. The Nazis have just taken Poland and are headed towards the Norwegian Arctic Circle community of Riswyk. The citizens have a plan to get their gold bullion out of Norway to keep it from the Germans. They hide the gold in a well camouflaged snow cave just as the Nazis arrive in April, 1940. The task is  how to get it from the snow cave  in the mountains to a fishing boat that is waiting to take the bullion to the United States without the German’s knowing what they were doing. And get is done before the spring thaw. The older children of the community will carry the gold on their sleds down the mountain, a few bars at a time until the nearly 2000 pounds of gold are safely on their way to the US.

Twelve year old Peter Lundstrom’s father is the town banker. His uncle, Victor, is a fisherman who knows all the streams and fjords along the Norwegian coast. Peter, his sister Lovisa and his friends Michael and Helga are to be captains of teams of students who will carry the gold on their sleds to a place near a hidden fjord; then bury their gold bars in the snow. To mark the burial spots, they  will build snowmen. Uncle Victor and his first mate will dig up the gold bars each night and stash them in Victor’s camouflaged boat. It is a race to beat the spring thaw and avoid the German sentries. There are some close calls, but every bar makes it onto the ship. As the book ends, the ship is at sea on it’s way to America.

Snow Treasures

When I first read Snow Treasure in 1957 (that is not a typo) and my son read it in 1980, it was believed that this was a true story. The  Norwegian freighter Bomma landed in Baltimore on June 28, 1940 with 9 million dollars worth of gold bullion. The rest of the story has never been verified. Marie McSwigan wrote a piece in 1944 saying that she had read a newspaper article about the arrival of the bullion in New York and that children had helped ferry it out of Norway. She liked   their  resourcefulness and decided to write a children’s book about it. The article she wrote was easy for me to find in 2013 using Google, but probably much harder to find in an earlier era.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies.

The AR level is 5.3.

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