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Dear Peter, Dear Ulla

Author: Barbara Nickel
ISBN: 9781771872171 Categories: Juvenile Fiction, Family, Historical
Publication Date: 15 October, 2021
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5"

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is an imaginative and beautifully crafted historical middle-grade novel about two cousins who have never met but have become fast friends through an exchange of letters—until the outbreak of World War Two interrupts their conversation.

Ulla lives in Danzig, a city that has just been occupied by the Nazis, and Peter lives on a Mennonite farm in Saskatchewan. What had been an easy and entertaining connection between Peter, a talented pianist, and Ulla, who is gifted at drawing, becomes fraught with unthinkable questions. Are they supposed to consider each other enemies now that Canada and Germany are at war?

While Peter deals with Bruno, a bullying neighbour boy, Ulla is secretly aiding Erwina, a Polish friend severely burned when her home in the Polish Post Office was attacked by the Nazis.

Unfolding in alternating chapters, the story will have young readers in thrall to the entwined lives of these two fiercely intelligent cousins who must confront issues of bullying, prejudice, and racial violence—some of the most challenging issues of their time, and ours.

About the Author

Barbara Nickel grew up in Saskatchewan and has taught Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. She has published acclaimed books for both adults and young people. Her children’s titles include Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach, which won a B.C. Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, as well as a picture book, A Boy Asked the Wind, which was a finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award. Barbara lives in Yarrow, British Columbia, with her husband and two sons.


“Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is a rich historical book, with many layers of interest. By portraying two distinct ways of life, one in a free country and the other under a Nazi regime, the book gives children a taste of the reality of the era and the cruel choices necessary. A thought-provoking read for ages 10-14, Dear Peter, Dear Ulla provides a very human story of a critical time in history and in the lives of two adolescent children and their families.” – Aileen Wortley (CM: Canadian Review of Materials)

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“Barbara Nickel has done something very clever with her book Dear Peter, Dear Ulla. She brings Mennonite history to life as she presents the daily struggles of two related families who find themselves on opposite sides during the Second World War. The book explores adolescent themes, such as bullying and sibling rivalry, but her story also addresses more complex issues, such as pacifism and the Mennonite response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Although it is advertised as a book for children, it should also be read by adults.” – Barb Draper (Canadian Mennonite)

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Shortlisted for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize.

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