Posted on May 11th, 2017 by pajamapress
“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.”
Click here to read the full review
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men | Tagged book-review, canlit, diverse-books, diverse-kidlit, empathy, friendship, kidlit, love, Michelle Barker, picture-books, POW, prisoners-of-war, Renne Benoit, world-war-two, wwii
Posted on March 28th, 2017 by pajamapress
“…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.”
Click here to read the full review
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men | Tagged book-review, canlit, children's-books, History, humanity, kidlit, kindness, Michelle Barker, picture-books, Renne Benoit, World-War-II, world-war-two, wwii
Posted on December 16th, 2016 by pajamapress
“…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”
Click here to read the full review
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men | Tagged book-review, can-lit, children's-books, holiday-story, kidlit, kids-can-lit, michelle-barker, picture-books, prisoners-of-war, renne-benoit, World-War-II, wwii
Posted on November 22nd, 2016 by pajamapress
“…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.”
Click here to read the full review
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men | Tagged book-review, childrens-book, michelle-barker, picture-book, POW, prisoners-of-war, renne-benoit, World-War-II, wwii
Posted on November 1st, 2016 by pajamapress
“…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.”
Click here to read the full review
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men | Tagged book-review, germany, michelle-barker, picture-book, POW, prisoners-of-war, renne-benoit, World-War-II, wwii
Posted on October 14th, 2016 by pajamapress
Pajama Press is excited to announce that four of our titles have been nominated for the 2017 Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Awards.
The Hill, written by Karen Bass, is nominated for the Red Maple Award. Click here to view the The Hill classroom discussion guide.
Elephant Journey, written by Rob Laidlaw and illustrated by Brian Deines, is nominated for the Silver Birch Express Award. Click here to view the Elephant Journey classroom reading guide.
A Year of Borrowed Men, written by Michelle Barker and illustrated by Renné Benoit, is nominated for the Golden Oak Award. Click here to view the A Year of Borrowed Men reading guide.
Next Round, written by John Spray, is nominated for the Golden Oak Award.
The Forest of Reading is an initiative of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) that helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. Every year, over 250,000 participants read a shortlist of books in their age category and vote for their favourites.
Pajama Press extends our congratulations to Karen Bass, Rob Laidlaw, Brian Deines, Michelle Barker, Renné Benoit, and John Spray. Our sincerest thanks go to the Ontario Library Association for promoting reading and Canadian books through this outstanding program.
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men, Elephant Journey, Next Round, The Hill, Uncategorized | Tagged award-nominations, award-nominees, forest-of-reading-2017, golden-oak-award, ontario-library-association, red-maple-award, silver-birch-award
Posted on October 12th, 2016 by pajamapress
“A gentle story, told from the view point of a German girl, of how the war impacted German families. A beautiful, poignant story that subtly introduces humanity during times of war.”
Click here to read the full review.
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men | Tagged book-reviews, children's-books, michelle-barker, picture-books, renne-benoit, World-War-II
Posted on September 8th, 2016 by pajamapress
Pajama Press is thrilled to announce that three of our titles have been nominated for the 2016 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards.
A Year of Borrowed Men, written by Michelle Barker and illustrated by Renné Benoit, has been nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.
The picture book, which is written from the WWII memories of Michelle’s mother Gerda, celebrates the ability for humanity to win out over hostility during a dark time in world history. Gerda’s father has been conscripted into the German army, and the “borrowed men” sent to work the family’s farm in his place are prisoners of war forced to labour in their enemy’s homeland. Still, the seven-year-old girl finds small ways to defy authority and build a forbidden friendship. This book has also been nominated for the 2017 Chocolate Lily Book Award.
In a Cloud of Dust, written by Alma Fullerton and illustrated by Brian Deines, has been nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.
In this picture book set in Tanzania, a young girl named Anna is determined to get an education in spite of the long walk that leaves her no daylight in which to do homework at the end of the day. Working through the lunch hour instead, she misses a visit from the bicycle library. Luckily, her compassionate classmates find a solution that lets everyone get home faster than ever before. In a Cloud of Dust has previously won the Rainforest of Reading Award, been nominated for the Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award, and been a Foreword Reviews Best Children’s Books of Fall 2015 selection.
Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass has been nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.
Uncertain Soldier is a suspenseful YA novel about a WWII prisoner of war struggling with conflicting loyalties. All his life Erich has learned that keeping his head down is the best way to avoid trouble. But when his silence could cost a friend dearly, it may be time to stand up at last. Uncertain Soldier has previously been nominated for the IODE Violet Downey Book Award and the Forest or Reading Red Maple Award. In 2014, author Karen Bass won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for her novel Graffiti Knight.
From the Canadian Children’s Book Centre press release:
“The nominated books exemplify some of the very best work by Canadian authors and illustrators across the country. The winners of the English-language awards will be announced at an invitation-only gala event at The Carlu in Toronto on November 17, 2016. The winners of the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse will be announced at an invitation-only gala at Le Winsor in Montreal on November 1, 2016. Overall, $135,000 in prize monies will be awarded.
This year, TD and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre are once again partnering with CBC/Radio-Canada to present the Fan Choice Award/Choix du public littérature jeunesse. Young readers are invited to choose their favourite book from the titles shortlsited for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse. The awards will be presented to the winning authors at the Toronto and Montreal galas.”
Click here to read the full press release and the lists of nominees.
For more information about these awards, please visit the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website.
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men, In a Cloud of Dust, Uncertain Soldier | Tagged a-year-of-borrowed-men, awards, canadian-childrens-book-centre, ccbc, in-a-cloud-of-dust, td, td-canadian-childrens-literature-award, uncertain-soldier
Posted on August 30th, 2016 by pajamapress
On August 26th, the website Jewcy.com published a critique of A Year of Borrowed Men. The article asks why there has not been any conversation about the absence of the Holocaust in this World War II story. We would like to have that conversation.
In today’s global climate, we saw a lot of value in telling a story about people who refuse to hate others just because they are told they should. Seven-year-old Gerda was told to treat the Frenchmen as prisoners, but she could only see them as human. Because of that, she and the men were able to show each other small kindnesses in spite of the larger horrors at play.
This book takes place in Germany, at the time when the Holocaust was taking place. The real life of Gerda was of course affected by the actions of the German state. But beyond the conscription of her father and brother and the appearance of the Prisoners of War, she understood little of it. We deliberately told a non-fiction story from a child’s perspective, and it would have been potentially irresponsible to force in perspectives that weren’t hers.
Is understanding the full picture of the war, including the Holocaust, important for children today? Of course it is. And we hope parents, teachers, and librarians will pair A Year of Borrowed Men with other books that tell those stories. We hope our book, which is written for an adult to read to a young child, will spark questions and conversations that will open history up to young listeners.
A point that Jewcy readers particularly wanted to discuss was the incident in which Gerda’s mother was threatened by authorities for allowing the French prisoners of war to eat at the family table. If this has been perceived as making a hero of someone at the expense of millions who suffered far more, we sincerely regret that. Here is the value we see in that scene:
If we never show the human face of a conflict, we can write off terrible crimes as the actions of an evil person, an evil regime. But how did ordinary humans become cogs in the wheel of that regime? Maybe they were tempted by power. Maybe they were threatened by authorities. Maybe they, like the people in Gerda’s community, were trained to protect themselves by reporting on their neighbours. We need to know, so that we can recognize these things when they happen in the world today.
And because those things have happened and are happening, we respond by telling stories. Stories from all the perspectives we can get. Tell us yours. Tell us what you think of the ones we’ve told. Tell us how best we can communicate with you. We want to listen.
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men
Posted on August 25th, 2016 by pajamapress
Pajama Press is proud to announce that two of our recent titles have been shortlisted for the 2017 Chocolate Lily Book Award. Bad Pirate, written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by Dean Griffiths, and A Year of Borrowed Men, written by Michelle Barker and illustrated by Renné Benoit, have both been nominated under the Picture Books category.
The Chocolate Lily Book Award is a young readers’ choice program that encourages grade school students to read and enjoy some of the best fiction by British Columbia’s authors and illustrators. The program is intended to spark a love of reading in the reluctant reader and enrich the strong reader’s passion for books.
We are pleased to extend our heartfelt congratulations to our nominated B.C. creators, Dean Griffiths and Michelle Barker.
Click here to see all the nominees.
Posted in A Year of Borrowed Men, Bad Pirate | Tagged a-year-of-borrowed-men, awards, bad-pirate, chocolate-lily-awards, kari-lynn-winters, michelle-barker