Pajama Press

Posts Tagged ‘wwii’

Friends Journal has “no hesitation in recommending [A Year of Borrowed Men] for families, meetings, and schools”

Posted on May 11th, 2017 by pajamapress

AYearOfBorrowedMen_Website“The text is clear and accessible to young readers. The narrative is interesting for reading aloud. The illustrations are beautiful full-page, and sometimes double-page, spreads, all in generous color. For me they combine clarity and immediacy with an evocative quality from the picture books of my own childhood.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book for families, meetings, and schools. The apparent simplicity of style and narrative offers opportunities for exploration of such matters as the definition of ‘enemies,’ how people change and behave under oppression and stress, how friendship can be demonstrated in the little, unassuming acts of everyday life.

Since the 1940s of my childhood, Germans are ‘enemies’ only in novels and films. But there is in the twenty-first century no shortage of so-called ‘enemies.’ The challenge of this book is to ask: How can we escape from the bondage of defining as ‘enemies’ people who don’t conform to our narrow definitions of ‘friends’? How can we welcome, accept, and value people we think of as ‘them’?

My friend’s granddaughter has been looking at books with me. My friend was born a few months before me, and like Gerda, he was born in Germany. He has lived in England for many decades. Although our families were ‘enemies’ when we were born, we have known nothing but friendship with each other. This book reminds me that such friendship is a precious fruit of peace that requires eternal vigilance and attention to the little things.”

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A Year of Borrowed Men takes “a very human look at hard times” says There’s a Book For That

Posted on March 28th, 2017 by pajamapress

AYearOfBorrowedMen_Website“…Told from a child’s perspective, this book is a very human look at hard times in European history. Full of tender and sweet moments and the harsh realities of suspicion sand cruelties of war.”

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Uncertain Soldier “is a solid, intelligent interpretation of the politics of the [1940s]” says There Will Be Books

Posted on March 24th, 2017 by pajamapress

UncertainSoldier_Internet“…Less traumatic than the American Summer of My German SoldierUncertain Soldier tells the story of Erich Hofmeyer, a German prisoner of war held in Alberta in the winter of 1943-44….

Uncertain Soldier is a solid, intelligent interpretation of the politics of the time and the effect of opinion on morale. Through the richness of its characters, the novel gives voice to a gamut of attitudes, revealing the complexity of life during the 1940s far more thoroughly and effectively than what is taught in history classes. In contrast to the Canadian Sam’s violent insistence that ‘a few firing squads last war would’ve fixed it,’ Erich’s British grandfather astutely notes that ‘more mercy by the Great War’s victors might have prevented the fight that loomed’ (103). The parallel with history is made more powerful by its subtlety; most readers will not hear Sam’s vehemence as an echo of French military politician Ferdinand Foch, who noted at the time that the Treaty of Versailles was ‘not peace [but] an Armistice for twenty years,’ asking for harsher restrictions to be place on the defeated Germany. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Erich’s grandfather’s position is reminiscent of John Maynard Keynes’s insistence that the conditions were too harsh, that the Treaty was a ‘Carthaginian peace,’ a peace ensured by the complete annihilation of the vanquished, such as Rome’s conquering of Carthage. Historians still debate the political ‘what ifs’ of the first half of the twentieth century, and this uncertainty, manifested at all levels of society, is brilliantly woven into the fabric of Bass’s text.”

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A Year of Borrowed Men is recommended as a holiday story by The Children’s War

Posted on December 16th, 2016 by pajamapress

AYearOfBorrowedMen_Website…A Year of Borrowed Men is a gentle story, poignant in its hopeful perspective, perhaps because it is narrated by 7 year old Gerda, and Michelle Barker is able to retain all the innocence of a child in her writing. A cruel, hateful regime and war, after all, doesn’t mean one needs to sacrifice their humanity, as so many did living under Hitler and during WWII. Although the story covers the year the POWs were at the Schlottke’s farm, because of the number of pages devoted to Christmas, it makes a nice holiday story, as well. There may not have been Peace of Earth at that time, but at least on one farm there was Goodwill towards men.

Renné Benoit’s watercolor, pencil and pastel illustrations has a gentle, almost folk art feeling to them, done in a palette of warms browns, greens, and ochre earthtones that seems to create a haven in the midst of war.

This book is recommended for readers 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL”

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Oak Bay News calls A Bear in War “a picture book destined to become a Canadian classic”

Posted on November 22nd, 2016 by pajamapress

A Bear in War by Stephanie Innes & Harry Endrulat, illustrated by Brian Deines“This picture book for ages five and older is a true story about Teddy’s remarkable journey from his life in East Farnham, Que., through his voyage overseas and his eventual journey home. Each chapter in Teddy’s tale is brought to life through Brian Deines’ poignant art. The result is a powerful, moving piece of literature – a picture book destined to become a Canadian classic.”

Click here to read the full article “Page Turners: Children’s book titles explore the topic of war”

Oak Bay News calls Graffiti Knight “a fast-paced story about a boy fighting for self-expression in an era of censorship and struggle.”

Posted on November 22nd, 2016 by pajamapress

GraffitiKnight_Website“Readers aged 13 and older will enjoy this story of 16-year-old Wilm, who’s finally tasting freedom after a childhood cut short by war and the harsh strictures of Nazi Germany. Despite the scars the Second World War left on his hometown and in spite of the oppressive new Soviet regime, Wilm is finding his own voice. It’s dangerous, of course, to be sneaking out at night to leave messages on police buildings, but it’s also exciting, and Wilm feels justified, considering his family’s suffering. One mission goes too far, however, and Wilm endangers the very people he most wants to protect. Award-winning author Karen Bass brings readers a fast-paced story about a boy fighting for self-expression in an era of censorship and struggle.”

Click here to read the full article “Page Turners: Children’s book titles explore the topic of war”

A Year of Borrowed Men “is a story to be shared at…a time of giving” says Sal’s Fiction Addiction

Posted on November 22nd, 2016 by pajamapress

AYearOfBorrowedMen_Website“…This is a book that has been on my shelf for far too long. Today, I will remedy that by telling you about it. It is a story of Germany at the end of World War II. Based on her mother’s memories of that time in her life, Michelle Barker chooses to tell it in clear, understated prose.

Gerda and her family ‘borrow’ three French prisoners to help them with keeping their farm productive. They will only stay until the war ends. They are there because the German army has ‘borrowed’ her Papi to help fight the war….

A young narrator’s voice lessens the horror that surrounds the family in wartime. This story of kindness, friendship, and a loving family is illustrated realistically with watercolor, colored pencils, and pastel to evoke the warmth of the situation at a time when there was little hope for many. The addition of family photos and an author’s note add clarity.

This is a story to be shared at any time of year. It would also work well at a Remembrance Day Service (sorry I missed telling you about it a bit earlier) or at Christmas, a time of giving and for being kind and thankful.”

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A Year of Borrowed Men is one of six books Orange Marmalade recommends to read to children about WWII

Posted on November 1st, 2016 by pajamapress

AYearOfBorrowedMen_Website“…Based on her mother, Gerda’s, childhood memories, author Michelle Barker tells the story of their family’s farm in Germany and of the French prisoners of war who were sent to help run it while their own men were away soldiering.

Little Gerda has a tender heart towards these seven men, who are supposed to be treated as prisoners. Her mother also has a hospitable heart, yet even inviting the men to eat indoors on a severely cold night, rather than in the pig kitchen, brings accusations from snoopy neighbors, a visit from the police, questioning at headquarters, and threats of imprisonment for any further kindness.

Read this brave, kindhearted story with children ages 4 and up. Warm, homey illustrations strike a gentle tone throughout. An Author’s Note tells more about the harrowing war experiences of the author’s mother.”

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A Year of Borrowed Men Resource Links Review

Posted on March 9th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“A Year of Borrowed Men tells a story from World War II that will be unfamiliar to many readers, but is nonetheless a moving part of the history of the German-Canadian community. The author writes from her mother Gerda’s recollections, bringing to life the engaging voice of the younger Gerda, whose family hosted three French prisoners-of-war on their German farm in 1944.

World War II from the German perspective remains some what problematic: how do we reconcile decades of erroneous equation of “German” with evil, with the real experiences of many Germans during the war? While the topic is dealt with effectively in some texts—Roberto Innocenti’s Rose Blanche (1985), Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2005), John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas(2006), among others—it will take so many more stories for truth to overcome the stereotypes. A Year of Borrowed Men contributes positively and significantly to our understanding of the compassion of some of the German populace who placed themselves in an almost untenable psychological and ideological situation.

Gerda’s father was “borrowed” by the German army, and in his place the government sent three French prisoners—Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert—to work the land. Gerda’s innocent narrative perspective ensures that the dark reality of Germany’s forced labour policy is not brought out. With the egalitarianism of young children, Gerda cannot understand why the three must live with the animals, and eat in the “pig’s kitchen,” where the slops were prepared. That was the rule though: these men were prisoners and were to be treated as such. Inviting them in to dinner one night almost sent Gerda’s mother to prison herself, yet the family could not deny their fundamental humanity. Despite regulations, in the face of threats, Gerda and her mother find little ways of making the Frenchmen’s lives more tolerable: extra butter on their bread, catalogues to cut into elicit decorations at Christmas, sneaking treats for them to eat. The men reciprocated with affection for their little German freunde: “I couldn’t keep the borrowed men here,” Gerda observes at the end of the war, “but we were friends—and I could keep that forever.” The story is made more powerful by the fact that Gerda did indeed keep that friendship alive: enough that her daughter has retold their story for her grandchildren’s generation to learn.”—Resource Links

 

 

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Kirkus Reviews praises “heartfelt picture book” A Year of Borrowed Men

Posted on January 22nd, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“A tender memoir of human decency during wartime as seen through the eyes of the author’s then-8-year-old mother. The setting for Barker’s story is rural Germany toward the end of World War II. Her mother’s family has been sent three French prisoners of war to help at the farm, as German menfolk were in short supply. These are the borrowed men. “When the war was over, we would have to give them back.” This sentence, early on, conveys the youthful sense of fairness that permeates the book: the Frenchmen should be treated with respect, fed well, allowed to celebrate holidays. Barker’s grandmother did just so and quickly learned she would be imprisoned if she continued….Readers will learn some French and German, get a look at life on a farm during wartime, and get the slightest bitter taste of how war changes people: the village policeman used to be kind, ‘but since the war began, he had changed, and we knew enough to be afraid of him.’ An author’s note reveals that Barker’s grandfather would not return from war, nor would her uncle, who is an important character of the story. The addition of old family photos from that time is poignant. This heartfelt picture book helps readers appreciate wartime’s toll.”