Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Germany in 1906. He had a great childhood with a big, wonderful family, a good education, and a strong faith. By 14, Dietrich declared himself a theologian, an aspiration that shaped the rest of his life.

By all accounts, Dietrich was a normal, decent, faithful man.

Then the Nazi party rose to power, his beloved Germany became unrecognizable, and everything changed. Dietrich remained a normal, decent, faithful man—even while planning the assassination of Adolf Hitler.

In John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy, the life of this little known historical figure is explored with captivating prose and beautiful illustrations.

I had never heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer before picking up this graphic novel, which probably made the book even better. I didn’t know the fate of Dietrich and I was rooting for him the whole time. Even knowing that the assassination attempts fail didn’t take away from the suspense. I enjoyed following Dietrich through all the events in his life and seeing how one man played a big part in the German resistance during World War II. It shows how much one person can contribute, but also how resistance and revolution is the work of many people working together.

It is obvious that Hendrix did his research and this story is steeped in historical fact. He doesn’t over embellish or put his own opinions into the prose. Instead, Hendrix explains how Hitler came to power, breaking down the politics into an easy to follow and understand story. Everyone knows Hitler and knows about the Holocaust, but Hendrix was able to show what caused these terrible things to happen and how the normal, everyday Germans were blindsided by the atrocities.

Although filled with illustrations, The Faithful Spy is definitely wordier than the average graphic novel. It easily could have been a regular novel and still would have been enthralling. But Hendrix’s art adds so much to the story, even while only utilizing four colors—green, red, black, and white. It’s almost like the doodles on the side of your history class notes, but if you had enormous talent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life story captured my attention from the start and I loved every page, often taking my time to really study Hendrix’s illustrations. This is a gorgeous book that made me seek out more of John Hendrix’s work (he has several children’s picture books about other historical figures).

The Faithful Spy would make a great addition to World War II lesson plans. We often wonder how someone like Hitler and the Nazis could come to power and do these awful things. We often wonder how the German people didn’t stop him. Well, this book shows how it happened and that there were people trying to do something.

I highly recommend The Faithful Spy. It would be a great addition to libraries for teens and adults.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
by John Hendrix
ISBN: 9781419728389
Abrams, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

  • Lisa

    Past Reviewer

    Lisa Clark has worked at the Kenton County Public Library (KY) since 2005. She’s done a little bit of everything including shelving, working at the reference desk, scheduling, graphic design, editing, grant writing, and more. Currently she works in the children’s department and maintains the collection by weeding and ordering materials. She also leads the adult writers group at the library and writes read alike recommendations for Novelist. With a BA in English Literature from Northern Kentucky University, Lisa has always had a passion for reading. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she likes to run, watch TV shows and movies with her husband, and listen to podcasts.

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