Peter is twelve. It is 1940; nearly a year after Hitler began World War II. The Nazi invasions have left devastation everywhere, and Norway expects to be next. Peter’s father, a banker, and Uncle Victor, an adventurous and prosperous fisherman, are quick to see an added danger. If the Nazis capture Norway’s gold reserves, Norway’s wealth would be turned against the people who created it. If there is a Nazi invasion the gold would have to be smuggled to America. But, how ever could the gold bricks be slipped into Victor’s fishing vessel unnoticed?
Struggling for a plan, they see Peter and his schoolmates as their salvation. The children would carry small amounts of the gold on their sleds. Only children could coast down the snowy slopes by their village, right under the noses of the Nazi sentries, without catching attention. Except for some minor close calls their sledding activity causes little concern, but tension climbs as spring brings rain, and a new Commandant establishes tighter controls and curfews. The children are resolute, now well aware of what it means to lose the political freedom they and their parents had once enjoyed. Worse, they find they are being spied upon by a young Nazi soldier; their bold venture may be exposed almost as it is completed. Realizing he can save things that he values more than his life, Peter acts.
The techniques the Norwegians use, to hide their endeavor from the Nazis (who the author does not stereotype), are eye opening, and vividly demonstrate the power of rational planning. More importantly, the author shows Peter’s growing grasp of the abstract values that are essential to himself and his character. At first, when his father leaves for the militia, Peter is crudely determined to be the “man of the house”. Soon he is aware that his actions will affect an entire nation, and that he is fighting for the freedoms he, and those he values, enjoy. At each stage of the story his grasp of values becomes both wider (his nation) and narrower (his sister and himself) bringing him to increasingly profound actions that generate an equally profound admiration for his character.
Snow Treasure is based on a number of true events: a large amount of gold was smuggled from Norway, in spite of the Nazi occupation. Reader’s may also note that the author, understanding that gold is not merely glitter, adeptly ties the historically significant name of Uncle Victor’s vessel, the Cleng Peerson, to the leader of an earlier, equally historic mission. In the 1820s, Cleng Peerson encouraged culturally trapped Norwegians to a new life of freedom in America. What value is gold when men are not free?