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Book club: author inspired by her family’s Holocaust story

April 20, 2021 6:15PM Kids News

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Reading level: orange

Heroes of the Secret Underground is a timely and powerful time-slip story inspired by the author’s family in Budapest during the Holocaust.

Louie lives with her brothers, Bert and Teddy, in a hotel run by their grandparents. It is one of Sydney’s grand old buildings, rich in history … and in secrets.

When a rose-gold locket, once thought lost, is uncovered, it sends Louie and her brothers spinning back in time. Back to a world at war: Budapest in the winter of 1944, where their grandparents are hiding secrets of their own …

From best-selling author Susanne Gervay comes a heart-racing time-slip story inspired by her own family’s escape from Budapest during the Holocaust.

Book cover - Heroes of the Secret Underground by Susanne Gervay media_cameraHeroes of the Secret Underground by Susanne Gervay.

Praise for Heroes of the Secret Underground

“Impossible to stop reading” — Jackie French

“A story of light and love and exceptional courage” — Ursula Dubosarsky

Be one of the first kids in Australia to read Heroes of the Secret Underground

We have a special sneak preview just for Kids News readers – you can start reading Heroes of the Secret Underground here.

media_cameraHeroes of the Secret Underground author Susanne Gervay. Picture: Jessica Higgins

Become a Kids News Reporter — interview author Susanne Gervay

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Susanne Gervay?

Susanne will answer the 10 most original questions from Kids News readers and the answers will be featured on Kids News.

If your question is one of the 10 chosen, you will also win a copy of brand new book, Heroes of the Secret Underground.

Email your top question to to enter the competition.

Make sure you get your entry in by Friday, April 23.

See competition terms and conditions HERE

Heroes of the Secret Underground is a time-slip novel. A time-slip novel weaves together two similar stories from different moments in history to show the similarities and differences between the two.

Characters in time-slip novels often have to overcome an obstacle in the past to resolve an issue in their present.

  • What is the issue Louie is dealing with in the present? What obstacle does Louie have to face in the past to resolve it?
  • Which are the two moments in history the story is set in?
  • Who is Louie’s guide in the past? Are they similar or different to her guide in the present?
  • What does Louie’s journey to the past teach her about her family?

Imagine that you are going to write a time-slip novel of your own.

  • Which other moment in history would you set your story in and why?
  • Who would be your guide in that time? Are they the same as you or different?
  • Write a character profile about your guide. What is their life like?
  • What challenges might you face?
  • What would connect the two of you?

Literary Techniques
When Louie finds the necklace, she is intrigued by the ‘n’ symbol on the front.

  • What does the ‘n’ mean?
  • How does she discover what it means?
  • What symbol does Louie decide she will add to the necklace? How do her experiences in Budapest influence this?
  • What other objects and symbols in Louie’s present are significant in her past?

Choose an object that has been handed down through your family.

  • Describe it – what does it feel like and look like?
  • What shape is it?
  • Where did it come from?
  • How has it been handed down?
  • Interview another family member for whom this object has meaning. Write up the story of your chosen object and its significance to your family, and share it with the class.

“Louie treads carefully. There are huge twisted tree roots along this street that make the pathway rough. Some people complain about the trees and cracked paths and the leaves that cover the ground. They want the trees down, but Louie loves them.” (p7)

  • Why do people want to get rid of things that they don’t like?
  • Should they be allowed to?
  • What other scenes in the book do you see this attitude in?

A metaphor uses a word or phrase to describe an object or action that it is not literally applicable to.

  • How is the tree a metaphor for racism in the book?
  • What other metaphors can you find?
  • Come up with your own metaphor for feeling sad, or feeling afraid.


Members of the Kids News Book Club can purchase Heroes of the Secret Underground for $5 less than you can buy it in shops.

Only members will be sent a link to the discount via email.

To join for the discount get your parent or guardian to sign a consent form HERE and send to Then we will sign you up.

Extra Reading in book club