Reviews /

Bruna and Frida

Authored by Tony Bradman
Illustrated by Tony Bradman
Published by Barrington Stoke Ltd

Bruna and Frida: Writing about war is difficult, writing about war in very few words is extraordinarily difficult. In Bruna and Frida Tony Bradman manages to encapsulate emotions and feelings, tensions and fear. He allows us to experience Bruna’s horrendous journey to freedom. He also manages to seamlessly join this historical story to a modern day story of the plight of refugees in Syria.

It is the end of World War Two, things should be getting better, but they weren’t. They were soon going to get a whole lot worse for Bruno and his mother who are forced to escape from advancing Russian troops. Bruno’s mother was killed by a strike from a fighter plane. He has no choice but to leave his mother on the roadside where she died. Heartbroken he is forced to continue his escape with thousands of others.

On his journey Bruna encounters a large black dog with something strapped to his back. Scared at first, he sees that this dog is also scared and shaking from fear. Bruna unstraps the package remembering his mother had told him dogs were used to carry and set off explosives. Suicide dogs! Bruna takes the dog on his journey, happy to have a companion. He names the dog Frida. Helped by a grandmother along the way Bruna builds up strength but eventually they have to escape again. Bruna saw terrible things and had to be very brave. Frida helped him with this. Eventually Bruna found his way home and was reunited with his real grandmother.

The end of the story picks up in real time 2015. The adult Bruna tells his granddaughter about his terrible journey. Maya draws comparisons with the plight of refugees in Syria. Bruna tells Maya of his perpetual guilt that Germans had behaved in such a way. Frida lived another nine years with Bruna; this time in happier circumstances.

This is a wonderful telling of an historic event, of the effect on these ordinary individuals that is not often told. A marvellous story full of things to discuss with KS2 readers. Told with compassion and empathy and as I said at the beginning in so few words and beautifully illustrated throughout.