As is the case with many great works of children's literature, Summer of My German Soldier was largely ignored by the critics upon its publication. In fact, despite being nominated for multiple awards, Greene's book received only one major review. However, Summer of My German Soldier has become a popular favorite and a classroom staple.
In his New York Times Book Review review, Peter Saurian highlights both the strengths of the novel and the possible reasons that it escaped critical attention at the time. He asserts that "in some ways Bette Greene's material is not promising. Her characters could easily have come out of a melodrama." However, Saurian does not stop at this observation, pointing out instead that "the writing is fresh" and causes the reader to see these simply presented issues "in a fresh and unexpected light."
Saurian reads the novel as a "finely hewn" presentation of emotional complexity, suggesting that the characters who surround Patty offer multifaceted foils against which her character can define itself. Anton gives her "the delicately conveyed gift of her own value." At the same time, the review notes the major themes of the novel, calling attention to the association of Harry Bergen with Adolph Hitler. Arguing against a dismissive reception of the novel, Saurian summarizes the impact of the novel with the conclusion that "the stuff of it is fine, like the texture of Patty herself. The detail is too meaningfully specific, too highly selective to be trite."
While Saurian's review focused on the new emotional density that Greene brought to a relatively simple story, a later review dismissed the novel to such an extent that it got the basic facts wrong. The 1973 Christmas books round-up in New York Times Book Review summarized the plot of Summer of My German Soldier as the story of "a German POW...
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