The Last Execution

by Jesper Wung-Sung

On February 22, 1852, 15-year-old Niels Nielsen was the last person to be executed... read more

On February 22, 1852, 15-year-old Niels Nielsen was the last person to be executed in Svendborg, Denmark. He had been charged with arson and the murder of the sheriff ’s son. This story opens just before dawn on the day of his execution. The boy waits in his prison cell in almost a dreamlike state, reflecting on his life and the circumstances that led to him being charged as the relentless clock keeps ticking and the hour of his execution approaches. He led a fairly miserable existence, wandering with his father, hungry and cold, looking for work. There were also rare moments of kindness from strangers, one of which connect to the actions for which he’s being executed. His only company in his cell is a fly, and lonely Niels imagines conversations with him. The points of view of various people in the village, from the baker to the messenger to the carpenter who is building Niels’s coffin, all add up to an unusual glimpse into a bit of history that is far from irrelevant today. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2017

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