Snow Treasure Summary & Study Guide

Marie McSwigan
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Snow Treasure Summary & Study Guide Description

Snow Treasure Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan is historical fiction based on the real life accounts of the children of Norway who helped to smuggle out the nation's gold reserves under the noses of the occupying German military during World War II.

The novel begins by introducing four children: Peter (13), Lovisa (10), Michael (12), and Helga (11). They are playing in the snow, which has remained later into the season than usual, when they see Peter's Uncle Victor and his first mate, Rolls, coming over the hill from the seaport. They all wave enthusiastically, but are concerned when Victor hardly acknowledges them. This is unusual for Peter's normally gregarious Uncle.

Later that night Peter tells his father at dinner time that he's seen Victor and that Victor is back from tending his nets at sea. Peter is shocked that his father doesn't finish his meal, but leaves abruptly to find Victor. Later that night, Peter is wakened by voices in the front room. He gets out of bed to see who it is and overhears Victor and his father, Lars, discussing the possibility of war and what it could mean for Norway's money reserves.

Victor spots Peter and his eyes widen. He tells Lars that the children would never be suspected. Lars argues with him, but Victor turns to Peter and asks him if he would like to help his country in a time of war. Peter, wanting to be adventurous like his uncle, says that he would. Victor learns from Peter that there are more than 30 children that are of the age to participate in sledding the gold down the mountain to the waiting ships.

The next day Peter invites Michael and Helga to come to his and Lovisa's home. Though Lovisa is Peter's younger sister, she is also included as a team member. Peter tells the children what Victor has asked of them and they all readily agree. They take Peter's ancestral sword from over the fireplace, place their hands on it and swear to keep the secret about the gold and to refrain from speaking to a German, ever.

Later that day, at school, Uncle Victor visits the classroom and tells the children that air raid shelters have been built around town and that they must practice going to the shelters in an orderly manner. He also tells them that he's forming a War Defense Club and that if anyone is interested in joining, they should see Peter, who will be the president. Peter's father leaves to join the army with many of the other men in the village.

38 children, in all, join the club. In the middle of the night, Lars wakens Peter and has him follow Lars out to the railroad tracks where they meet up with some other men from the village, including Uncle Victor and Rolls. They take Peter to a manmade cave in the middle of the woods where they've stacked bricks of gold bullion from floor to ceiling. They tell Peter that he is to bring his team to the shelter every day, where someone will load the sleds for them, and then the children are to lay atop the bricks, belly-down, and sled them to the bottom of the mountain (nearly a 12 mile trip). They will stay overnight at the Holms' Farmstead, then walk the rest of the way home the next day.

Peter learns from Victor that the children will be broken into teams, but that only 2-4 children at a time will go down, so as to avoid suspicion. Peter goes and tells the rest of the children, making each of them swear the same oath to not speak to the Germans. Later that day, Peter, Helga, Lovisa, and Michael take the first run. It goes well until they reach the mid-way point. There they can see that the German soldiers are building a more permanent camp by the water's edge, and that they are using the only sledding trail to make their way up the mountain. The children are frightened, but Helga encourages them to look happy and normal.

They manage to get past the German soldiers as the Captain of the soldiers tells his men to stand aside to let the children through. He even tells Peter as he comes past that he used to enjoy sledding when he was a boy. When the children reach the bottom of the hill, they pull their sleds to a prearranged clearing, find two submerged trees, and then they bury the bricks as Victor has shown them. Then, to mark the spots so that Victor and Rolls can come under cover of night to get the bricks and load them onto the boat, the children are to build snowmen. This they do.

The sledding by the teams begins in earnest and half of the bricks are taken down the mountain when the weather threatens to shift. If it rains then the snow will melt and there will be no more sledding, and no more way to get the gold safely down the mountain. However, Per Garson, the man who works for Peter's family, says that his trick knee says that it will be fine. It is. That night the weather turns into a blizzard and everyone is snowed in for three days straight.

Afterwards, the sledding begins again. Peter sees, when he comes over the hill, that the Germans didn't fare so well during the blizzard. The new Camp Commandant is upset and is screaming at his soldiers when Peter sleds past. The Commandant stops Peter on his way back out of the woods and asks him if he would rather stay at the camp with him and be his servant. Peter remembers his vow not to speak to the Germans, and so he doesn't say a word. The Commandant believes him to be simple or rude and angrily sends Peter away.

A week passes without incident, until one day Helga tells Peter that she feels as if they are being watched. Then, as they reach the Holms' farm, they see a man on skis shoot out of the tree-line and head down the mountain. Peter fears that they have been observed and tells Herr Holms. Herr Holms goes out at night to go to the village and warn the other children not to come down the mountain until they can figure out what is to be done.

Mrs. Lundstrom, Peter's mother, arrives at the Holms' farm and tells Peter and the others that they should go ahead and continue with their sledding trips for now, but that they will all keep a sharp eye on things. Peter goes on another run a few days later and the Commandant stops him again. He says that Peter and the other children are stupid because they don't go to school. He announces that all children will go back to school starting the next day.

Peter's mother visits the doctor and they devise a way to make it look as if the children have a case of German Measles. Thus, the older children cannot go to school or risk catching it. This is relayed to the Commandant who now sees the village as disease ridden. Meanwhile, a blue-eyed soldier that Peter noticed on the first day down the hill comes into the village and sits in the pastry shop. This is shocking to Peter as none of the soldiers dare venture into the 'disease ridden' town. No one speaks to him, Peter notes. The soldier looks somehow very sad to him.

The gold continues to go down, and it is after Peter has just finished burying his gold and making his snowman when he feels he is being watched again. He quickly looks up and sees the blue-eyed soldier standing over him. Peter falls back into the snow, but before anything more can happen, Victor and Rolls come out of the trees and capture the German soldier. They take him back to their boat, the Cleng Peerson. Peter follows them.

Peter and the others learn that the man's name is Jan and that he is actually Polish. He'd been forced to join the German army after they learned that he could speak six languages. He tells them that all of his family has been killed or are in exile in other countries. He begs Victor to take him with them to America, which is where they will take the gold for safekeeping. Victor tells him that even if he believed his story, he couldn't take him to America without official papers. They lock Lars up and Peter goes home.

Because of this new development it is decided that the mothers with small children will also pull bricks down the mountain to the clearing, in addition to the children on their sleds. They feel that it is only a matter of time before the soldier is missed and a search party comes looking for him. When that happens it could all be over.

The next day the children have just finished building their snowmen when the Commandant shows up at the clearing. He asks Lovisa if she's seen a German soldier lost in the woods. Lovisa just stares up at him and refuses to speak. The Commandant becomes enraged and begins knocking her snowman down. Panicked, Peter picks up a snowball and hits the Commandant with it, then runs away. The diversion works and all of them chase Peter. Unfortunately, he is caught and placed in a jail cell in the German camp.

Later that night a soldier comes to take away his supper dishes. The soldier is Jan in disguise. He tells Peter that he's there to rescue him. He hands Peter a letter from Victor that tells him to do as Jan says. They manage to escape and make their way back to the boat. Because the Germans are likely to find them if they stay any longer, it is decided that they will all set sail for America immediately.

Victor has found out that the Americans are very interested in the information that Jan has, and so will grant him entrance to the country without papers. Victor sadly tells Peter that they can't risk taking him home, and that he needs to come with them. Peter understands but is sad to think that he might never see his family again. Victor tells him that they have an Uncle living in Wisconsin that they can live with until the war is over. He tells Peter that what he and all of the other children did for their country will never be forgotten.

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