Pajama Press

Posts Tagged ‘soviet’

Graffiti Knight nominated for R. Ross Annett Award

Posted on April 11th, 2014 by pajamapress

GraffitiKnight_MedPajama Press is proud to announce that Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass has been nominated for the R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature.

Administered by the Writer’s Guild of Alberta, the R. Ross Annett Award was established in 1982 in honour of the author of the popular Babe & Joe series.

A historical novel about a young man struggling to find his voice in Soviet-occupied East Germany in the years after World War II, Graffiti Knight is the winner of the 2014 CLA Young Adult Book of the Year Award. It was also chosen as a 2013 Ontario Library Association Best Bet and a 2013 Resource Links “The Year’s Best” selection.

Graffiti Knight “a riveting page-turner”—Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress

GraffitiKnight_MedExcerpt from the article “Exploring History through Fiction” by Rachel Seigel, Canadian Children’s Book News Winter 2014

“History is the succession of events that shape our present and our future, and one of the best ways to engage children in learning history is through historical fiction. Good historical writing offers insights into people and events from the past, and helps children to understand how the world we live in has been shaped by those events…

The last book, Graffiti Knight by author Karen Bass, takes readers to Soviet-occupied Germany in 1947, and is a riveting page-turner that readers will find impossible to put down.

Sixteen-year-old Wilm and his family live in Leipzig, Germany, a town scarred heavily by WWII and now occupied by the Soviets who are brutal and oppressive. The war has also left its scars on his family, but Wilm is finding his voice, sneaking out at night to leave messages on police buildings. What he’s doing is dangerous but exciting, and Wilm feels justified considering how much his family has suffered. When one mission goes too far, Wilm finds he’s endangered the people he’s tried most to protect, and he’s forced to take drastic action to keep them safe.

The setting is detailed and richly drawn, and Bass successfully creates an atmosphere of tension and fear. Wilm’s family are no strangers to Soviet brutality, and after witnessing a group of soldiers terrorize his crippled father, he decides it’s time to act.

His minor acts of rebellion give him a sense of power and control that he lacks in his daily life. The more he succeeds in angering the police, the more his game escalates, until it culminates in one final act that puts him and his family in a life-or-death situation.

The spelling of ‘knight’ in the title is a clever play on words, as Wilm’s acts take place under the cover of night and, at the same time, implies heroism. Wilm is a complex and fascinating character and readers will be left to decide whether his actions are heroic or simply reckless.

A skilled storyteller can bring history to life, and while the four highlighted books span different countries, cities, and historical periods, all effectively present these events through the eyes of the children living in them, and more deeply connect readers to the past.”

Graffiti Knight a “gripping page-turner…Highly recommended”—Kirkus Reviews

Posted on December 11th, 2013 by pajamapress

GraffitiKnight_MedThis gripping page-turner set in 1947 East Germany explores the aftereffects of war and occupation.

World War II is over and Germany partitioned among the victors. For most in the Soviet-occupied zone, life is grim and anything but peaceful. Hunger’s a constant companion, trust in short supply. Most despise their Russian masters and even more, the German police—Schupos—who do their bidding. With their elders embittered and broken, friendship sustains 16-year-old narrator Wilm and his friends, Karl and Georg. Pretending to spy on the Schupos blows off steam, but after the Schupos beat up Wilm’s amputee father and Wilm learns of the brutal sexual assault on his sister, Anneliese, the game turns real. Supported by Karl and Georg, Wilm starts by scrawling graffiti calling the Schupos “puppets” and vandalizing police vehicles. Risk-taking proves energizing and deeply satisfying—also addictive and eventually desensitizing. It’s at odds with his growing interest in building bridges. The engineer who mentors him lends him books and encourages his interest, but their connection weakens as Wilm’s acts of sabotage escalate. The authentic setting, compelling characters and taut, suspenseful plot claim attention throughout. Bass refuses to oversimplify human beings. When motivations are tangled and complex, actions, even the best-intended, have unforeseen consequences.

A different kind of war story, highly recommended.

Click Here to visit Kirkus Reviews

Graffiti Knight “has more drama than The Hunger Games” – Resource Links

Posted on November 5th, 2013 by pajamapress

GraffitiKnight_MedRated E: excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!

“This notable fourth novel by Karen Bass should add an interesting dimension to the current fashion of [dystopian] novels. It is based on real evens from post-war Europe (1947 to be exact) in what is now East Germany. For my money, it has more drama than the Hunger Games.

The hero of the novel is a teenager in Leipzig, a broken city whose citizens live in fear of their new oppressors, with no hope of escape. Wilm is almost finished school and quite by accident finds himself waging a war of embarrassment against the German police he considers to be puppets of their Soviet masters. His campaign gains momentum and a shift in focus after he learns that his sister had been raped the year before by a group of Soviet soldiers when she had gone to the train station to meet her German soldier boyfriend. Wilm had idolized the boyfriend, who then joined the German police. Wilm sees the betrayal as doubly troubling.

In the midst of all this is the budding friendship between Wilm and a structural engineer who works for the Soviets, although not by choice. He mentors Wilm until Wilm strikes a compromising deal with the German police and the ex-boyfriend in an effort to save a close friend from imprisonment. Left to his own devices, Wilm commits one more account of defiance and lands all his friends and family in trouble. The only escape is complete escape – to the Americans on the other side of the border with Czechoslovakia.

Five of them set out on a life or death path to hoped-for freedom, aware that the price will be steep and the journey treacherous. They are pursued by the ex-boyfriend who uses his professional resources in what is now a personal vendetta.

Author Karen Bass and author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (Making Bombs for Hitler, The Hunger, Last Airlift) are cousins. Between them they have brought to life vital portraits of life before, during, and after war, regardless of locale or allegiance. By not resorting to fantasy to carry their work, they have done all of us a great service.

P.S. Graffiti Knight is a great title.

Thematic links: World War II; Adolescence; Communism; Post-war Germany; The Cold War; Rape; Civil Disobedience.”

Lesley Lute

Learn more about Resource Links.

Interview with Karen Bass

Posted on October 11th, 2013 by pajamapress

Interview conducted by Aliya Stacey.

K.BassAward-winning author Karen Bass takes readers on a suspenseful historical adventure in her new novel Graffiti Knight. Set in post-World War II East Germany, the book explores the struggles of living during that time and the courage needed to defy those in power.

Karen took some time to answer a couple of questions about the process of researching this book, writing for a younger audience, and getting in touch with her inner adolescent.

What attracted you to post-World War II East Germany as a setting?

The simplest answer is that it was a truly awful place to live. It had a dystopian quality that appealed to me – the city in ruins, society in upheaval, the enemy in control. From a storyteller’s perspective, what’s not to love about that? Not to be glib, though. The fact that it was a time and place that really existed means I also was able to tell an exciting story and at the same time can reveal a part of history to younger readers that is likely unknown.

What is the biggest challenge about writing a story set in the past?

Writing historical stories and fantasies have a similar challenge in that you have to be very familiar with the society in which the story is set (world-building). So while it’s true I need to do a lot of research about the time and place, possibly more important is figuring out the attitudes of the people who lived in those times. Sometimes I hypothesize that if things were like this then people would act like that. Sometimes I come across writings from the time that show me more directly how people thought and acted.

What kind of research did you do for Graffiti Knight? Did you enjoy it?

GraffitiKnight_MedI read non-fiction books to learn about life in the Soviet Zone; they were heavy and grim. I’m not sure ‘enjoy’ is the right word for that part of my research, but it was fascinating. I did, however, travel to Leipzig in Germany to explore the city and its museum, and to interview a museum curator who answered pages of questions. That part of my research was fantastic. I also came home with some books full of pictures from during and after WWII, which I never would have found over here. Since those books were all in German it’s a good thing that pictures really do tell a thousand words. Discovering treasures like those books make the travel even more rewarding. (Note: my husband is advocating that I should write a book set in Fiji or somewhere similar so that we have to go there and do more research.)

Was there any part of this book that you struggled with or wanted to avoid writing? What was it and why?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the first draft, as I often do. I love discovering the story as I write and fleshing it out. My struggles often come during revisions, making sure a character’s actions are true to his or her personality, deciding if that scene really adds to the story or is just taking up space. Editors are a huge help in this regard, and I’d never put a story out there without their input.

Is it awful that the more fraught a scene, the more I tend to enjoy writing it? Though it can be a struggle to make sure things don’t spill over into melodrama.

The horrible attack that Annaliese experienced did give me pause but I never seriously considered changing it, primarily because it was accurate historically. As I said earlier, it was a time of great trauma in many ways, and one of them was the way the Soviets treated the Germans, whether or not you think they deserved it. Maybe that’s one of the questions Graffiti Knight leaves readers with: should children be punished for the crimes of their elders?

What drew you to writing books for a younger audience?

My first novel involved a high school student on an exchange trip, so it quite naturally lent itself toward a teen audience. Writing that book made me realize I really enjoy creating stories for teens. Part of the allure is that it is an age of becoming. Young adults are just that; they are taking their first steps into full adulthood. It’s an exciting and sometimes confusing process, and all that undiscovered potential makes YA a cornucopia of story ideas. I also love to read YA and am constantly amazed by all the superb writing happening in the genre today.

As an adult, is it difficult to convey the realities of adolescence? How much do you draw from your own teenage experiences?

I actually think that as we age, most of us gain the ability to better understand other people’s points-of-view. If we let ourselves remember our teen years, then it’s not overly difficult to tap into those experiences to create common connections with modern teens. I’ve been on a kick lately, telling writers how important it is to be able to empathize. The key to writing for a particular group is empathy, seeing the world through their eyes. Readers, by the way, score higher on empathy scales – yet another reason to encourage young people to read.

That second question is loaded. Oddly, it’s one that I’m not usually asked by students when I do presentations. Some actual events from the teen years might make it into my stories, though I’m more likely to include isolated incidents that happened to others. That said, my own experiences do sometimes show up in my fiction, but in the form of emotional truths. Ways that I felt, struggles I had in understanding or in communicating my feelings, the elation or devastation I felt over some event.

The novel centres around Wilm’s need to speak out against social injustice. Do you think the young teens of today are as willing or motivated to do the same? Why or why not?

In North America, not many young people are facing the trauma and upheaval in society that Wilm faced, so it’s hard to draw comparisons. But here in Canada, Idle No More would be one example of young indigenous people stepping out to express their upset at the status quo. And there are other examples of young people fighting for things they believe in, such as unfair school rules, stopping bullying or drunk driving, and so on. Thankfully, in our society we can protest openly so teens don’t have to resort to the sneaky and illegal things Wilm did.

Ultimately, if young people feel as strongly as Wilm did, then they are just as likely to speak out. Teens have a very strong sense of justice, and when it’s tapped, they bring an energy to fore that leaves most adults in the dust. The biggest hurdle to overcome is that teens, like almost everyone, are so busy, so distracted, that getting them to pay attention to things that might be impacting them can be difficult. (But I think most of them are more aware of things than adults give them credit for.)

Learn more about Karen Bass at www.karenbass.ca

CM Magazine praises Graffiti Knight as “second to none”

Posted on September 20th, 2013 by pajamapress

“Karen Bass’ depiction of life in post-war Eastern Germany is incredibly gripping and informative. As young adult war-related historical fiction goes, this book is second to none. The story is loosely based on the true story of a close family friend of the author, making her protagonist all the more realistic and relatable. Readers will find themselves seeing the war-ravaged vantages through Wilm’s eyes and feeling his pulse racing as Wilm sprints from the scene of his crimes, avoiding enraged Soviet officers and Schupo. Wilm’s triumphs and fears become the readers’ own.  I believe this book could well be used as a supplement to World War II historical education in Canadian high schools. Highly recommended.”

– Amy Trepanier

Click here to read the full review.

 

Graffiti Knight Book Launch at Audrey’s Books

Posted on September 18th, 2013 by pajamapress

Last night Karen Bass launched her exciting YA novel Graffiti Knight at Audrey’s Books in   Edmonton, Alberta. The author read, signed, shared German baked goods, and even got tattooed for the occasion.

Karen Bass' henna tattoo reflecting Rebecca Buchanan's cover design

Graffiti Knight tells the story of Wilm, a sixteen-year-old boy seeking freedom and self-expression in post-World War II East Germany. Watch the book trailer or learn more about the book here.

This is Karen’s fourth YA novel, and she has a long history of celebrating them with Audrey’s Books. Tomorrow she will share the evening with another group of readers at Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, Alberta.  You can read more about that event here.

Thank you to Karen Spafford-Fitz for sharing her pictures from the launch with us.

 

Karen signs books in character

Reading from Graffiti Knight

Graffiti Knight Book Trailer

Posted on September 6th, 2013 by pajamapress

Award-winning author Karen Bass brings readers a fast-paced story about a real-world era of censorship and struggle too often forgotten by history: Soviet-controlled post-World War II East Germany, where one boy fights for self-expression and the freedom to build his own future.

Watch Graffiti Knight Book Trailer

Quill & Quire praises “Character-rich” Graffiti Knight

Posted on August 22nd, 2013 by pajamapress

“Alberta author Karen Bass’s latest novel is a character-rich story about a 16-year-old boy struggling with anger, loyalty, and rebellion. What makes Graffiti Knight different is the setting: Soviet-occupied Eastern Germany in 1947.

Wilm and his impoverished family live in a tiny flat in war-ravaged Leipzig. His father is a crippled, bitter war veteran, his sister an emotionally paralyzed victim of the Soviet invasion, and his mother a ghost-like figure fighting to keep the family together. The only people in Wilm’s world with any power are the Soviet occupiers and the brutal collaborationist East German police; everyone else compromises and tries to get by.

Minor acts of rebellion give Wilm a thrill and offer him a sense of power that he is otherwise lacking. Unfortunately, the minor vandalism he and his friends see as a game escalates dangerously. Suddenly, Wilm finds himself dragging his family and friends into a deadly race to escape across the border into the American zone.

The characters in Graffiti Knight are multi-faceted and their motivations complex. Wilm, in particular, represents an excellent portrayal of how teenage anger can sometimes lead to stupidity. In attempting to assert his individuality, Wilm is seduced by the power he feels carrying out sabotage. But does that mean he is the same as the enemies he is trying to outwit? …Wilm is a thoroughly believable character who invokes the reader’s sympathy (and a sense of frustration at his actions).

Bass has artfully recreated an historical time and place peopled by realistic, three-dimensional characters grappling with their own emotions and global forces they can only barely understand.”—John Wilson, whose latest novel is Stolen (Orca Book Publishers)

Becoming a hero—CanLit for LittleCanadians reviews Graffiti Knight

Posted on July 30th, 2013 by pajamapress

Karen Bass‘ thorough research, as she describes in her Historical Notes at the back of the book, provides the authentic background for Graffiti Knight,challenging all that readers might think they know about Nazi Germany and its aftermath….By seeing Leipzig and other parts of Germany through the eyes of a young man of sixteen, who lives through World War II but experiences further injustice in its aftermath, when so many were celebrating victory, Karen Bass provides enlightenment via a new perspective.  Heroes are not just made in war.  Courage and compassion, the virtues of heroes anywhere and anytime, can make a knight out of anyone, even Wilm.”

—Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the full review.