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A historical fiction inspired by, and a tribute to Susanne's own family's history in Budapest during the last years of World War II. 

The story is driven by nearly 13 year old Louie lives with her two younger brothers, Bert and Teddy, in a beautiful old-style hotel with her Hungarian grandparents, Zoltan and Verushka. The children's parents are world-renown musicians who are often away but the three children love living in the Hotel Majestic, an oasis of magnolias and tranquility in a busy city. 

There are always interesting guests, the busyness of helping their Pa and Grandma with the daily tasks and the fascinating building itself to explore continually. When Louie glimpses a strange girl in the street and finds a stunning rose gold locket the secrets of the past begin to slowly reveal themselves. 

There are certain clues the children find in the hotel itself but the locket is the talisman that transports them to a dark and dreadful time in their grandparents' lives - Budapest 1944 and the cruel tyranny of the Nazis. The mysterious girl, Naomi, is their guide into the dangerous world of the secret Jewish underground and the siblings become involved in a fraught mission to help rescue dozens of children as well as restoring the wondrous locket to its rightful owner. They are amazed to realise that they are watching their own grandparents, children themselves, heroically leading in this deadly encounter. 

As this hidden history unfolds, Louie understands so much more about her gracious grandparents and all they have overcome to reach the peaceful present. There are moments of real terror and anguish but these are beautifully balanced with the hope and courage demonstrated by all the young people involved. 

There is inspiration that even in the darkest times there are those willing to stand up and resist. 

A year ago at the World Holocaust Forum Prince Charles said “The lessons of the Holocaust are searingly relevant to this day. Seventy-five years after the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart, still tell new lies, adopt new disguises, and still seek new victims.” 

This story empowers young people to vigorously oppose the ongoing spread of hatred and bigotry and celebrate the hero they can be.

Praise for Heroes Of The Secret Underground - 

'It will be impossible to stop reading, and when you finish the book you’ll find the insights and compassion stay with you always, as do those you have met within its pages. As Susanne weaves in stories from her family’s secrets, she writes about the essence of humanity.’ - Jackie French AM Australian Laureate 2014-2015 Australian of the Year 

'This is a personal story that has huge meaning to all of us, beginning in a beautiful safe world which turns suddenly to chaos and terror. A child discovers for herself that there is history that can’t be hidden - it cries out in the darkness of secrets. But it’s also a story of light and love and exceptional courage. The pages seemed to turn by themselves.' - Ursula Dubosarsky Children's Laureate

About The Author

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Awarded the Lifetime Social Justice Literature Award by the International Literacy Association, Order of Australia, nominee for Australia for Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Susanne Gervay is recognized for her writing on social justice.  

Her award winning stories are published in literary journals and anthologies including the cross Sub-Continent- Australian anthology 'Fear Factor, Terror Incognito' on terrorism alongside the works of Sir Salman Rushdie and Thomas Keneally.  She represented Australia  in ‘Peace Story’ an IBBY, UNICEF anthology where 22 authors, 22 illustrators from 22 countries wrote for peace.  

She writes from picture books to young adult novels. Butterflies is recognised as Outstanding Youth Literature on Disability. Her award winning I Am Jack children’s books which have become rite-of-passage on school bullying adapted into an acclaimed play by Monkey Baa Theatre has toured theaters across Australia and USA. 

Her books are endorsed by The Cancer Council, Room to Read, bringing literacy to the children of the developing world, Children’s Hospital Westmead Sydney, Books in Homes reaching indigenous and disadvantaged schools, Life Education, many anti bullying and literacy organizations. 

An acclaimed national and international speaker, Susanne Gervay is head of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand, Ambassador for many literacy, reading and equity campaigns.  You can learn more by visiting

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