Holub, Josef 1926-

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Holub, Josef 1926-


Born 1926, in Neuern (now Nýrsko), Bohemia (now Czech Republic); children: three children. Education: Attended teacher's training college.


Home—Baden-Württemberg, Germany.


Writer. Has worked as an art dealer, mason, smuggler, mail carrier, postal administrator, and village mayor. Military service: Served during World War II.

Awards, Honors

Peter Hartling prize, 1993, for Der rote Nepomuk; Zurich Children's Book Prize, 1996, for Bonifaz und der Räuber Knapp; Mildred L. Batchelder Award, 1998, for The Robber and Me; Best Books for Young Adults selection, American Library Association, and Mildred L. Batchelder Award, both 2006, both for An Innocent Soldier.



Der rote Nepomuk, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1993.

Bonifaz und der Räuber Knapp, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1996, translated from the German by Elizabeth D. Crawford as The Robber and Me, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

Lausige Zeiten, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1997.

Juksch Jonas und der Sommer in Holundria, Beltz & Gel-berg (Weinheim, Germany), 1998.

Schmuggler im Gluück, Beltz & Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 2001.

Die Schmuggler von Rotzkalitz, Oetinger (Hamburg, Germany), 2001.

Der Russländer, Oetinger (Hamburg, Germany), 2002, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann as An Innocent Soldier, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2005.


Josef Holub is the author of the critically acclaimed young-adult novels The Robber and Me and An Innocent Soldier. Literary success came late in life for Holub, who has worked as a mason, a mail carrier, and a village mayor in Germany; he did not publish his first work, the award-winning novel Der rote Nepomuk, until the age of sixty-seven. Since that time, he has written several more titles and garnered a number of awards, including the Zurich Children's Book Prize.

Der rote Nepomuk was inspired by Holub's childhood experiences. Set in Bohemia in 1938, the work concerns the friendship between Pepitschek, a German youth, and Jirschi, a Czech. The boys' loyalties are tested when the Nazis invade their region. Interestingly, though Holub wrote the novel during the 1940s, it was not published until 1993; according to the author, up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, cold-war tensions had made it impossible to find a publisher for the book. For years after completing the manuscript, Holub almost forgot about the novel; he revisited when he returned his attention to writing following retirement. For his efforts on Der rote Nepomuk, Holub received the Peter Hartling prize.

Holub's second work, Bonifaz und der Räuber Knapp— published in English translation as The Robber and Me—follows the adventures of an orphaned preteen living in nineteenth-century Germany. In the work, eleven-year-old Boniface Schroll is sent from the city to live with his uncle, mayor of a remote mountain village. Put out of the stagecoach in a dark forest in the middle of the night by a repugnant coach driver, Boniface quickly becomes lost and wanders about until he collapses. Awakening in his uncle's home, Boniface has only a vague memory of being rescued by a tall stranger wearing a black hat. Once enrolled at school, the boy befriends Christian Knapp, an outcast whose father is reputed to be a thief. Boniface comes to believe that Mr. Knapp is the man who saved his life, however, and he determines to investigate a series of crimes that has the town on edge. According to Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman, "Boniface's endearing first-person narrative is comic and innocent, capturing the newcomer's bewilderment at the strangeness of country life and also his yearning to belong there." Though the events in The Robber and Me date back more than a century, as a critic noted in Publishers Weekly, "the dynamics of a community and the power of one person's actions to change the status quo are every bit as relevant for today's readers."

In An Innocent Soldier (Der Russländer) Holub explores the horror of war through the eyes of a sensitive

teen. Adam Feuchter, a orphaned farmhand, is tricked into joining French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armée months before its ill-fated 1812 invasion of Russia. A private in a horse artillery unit, Adam is frequently bullied by his sadistic commanding officer until a young lieutenant, Konrad Klara Lammersdorf, requisitions Adam to serve as his personal assistant. Adam and Karl support each other throughout the disastrous military campaign, which ends in a long retreat during a brutal Russian winter. "The sweet bonding of these two teens as they slog to Moscow and back underscores the importance of friendship," observed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, and Booklist contributor Jennifer Hubert similarly noted that the duo "form an unlikely bond that transcends class and station." Christina Stenson-Carey, writing in School Library Journal, called An Innocent Soldier "a well-wrought psychological tale," and a critic in Kirkus Reviews praised Holub's "simple, understated and at times eloquent first-person narrative."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, October 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of The Robber and Me, p. 406; November 15, 2005, Jennifer Hubert, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 55.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1998, review of The Robber and Me, p. 206.

Horn Book, January-February, 2006, Joanna Rudge Long, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 81.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2005, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 1028.

New York Times Book Review, February 1, 1998, review of The Robber and Me, p. 24; March 12, 2006, Julie Justfrom, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1997, review of The Robber and Me, p. 76; November 14, 2005, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 71.

School Library Journal, December, 2005, Christina Stenson-Carey, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 148.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1998, review of The Robber and Me, p. 386; February, 2006, review of An Innocent Soldier, p. 486.

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