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Archive for the ‘A Year of Borrowed Men’ Category

A Year of Borrowed Men, “can teach young children to see the humanity of people at war.”—Youth Services Book Reviews

Posted on July 25th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressRating: 4

Genre:  Historical picture book

What did you like about the book? In Germany during World War II, Gerda’s family is given three French prisoners to work with them on their farm. Gerda’s mother is kind to the men, although they are required to sleep in an outbuilding . When a neighbor spies the three prisoners eating with Gerda and her family in the family’s kitchen, police take her mother away for the day to question her. Still, the family and the prisoners become friends, even though they don’t understand each other’s languages beyond a few words. Gerda shows the prisoners her new doll. When the doll gets too close to the stove and its hands melt, the prisoners bandage it up. This act of compassion remains in Gerda’s thoughts. The story is based on the wartime memories of the authors’ mother. Watercolor, colored pencil and pastel illustrations are rendered in muted tones with a sepia background, emphasizing the historical nature of the story. A simple story which can teach young children to see the humanity of people at war.  Author’s note with photographs at end.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Useful for parents and teachers seeking to explain war to children.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books or Picture books for older children

Click here to read the full review.

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Midwest Book Review praises A Year of Borrowed Men as “A fine story…seldom told for this age range.”

Posted on June 16th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressA Year of Borrowed Men is illustrated by Renné Benoit and tells of how World War II ‘borrows’ the men in seven-year-old Gerda’s family to use as soldiers. In turn, the German government provides three French prisoners of war who must work the farm in their place. The family is ordered to treat these men as war criminals, but Gerda is not so sure. Can’t they be nice to them? A fine story of ‘borrowed men’ and their effects evolves in a story seldom told for this age range.”

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Six Pajama Press titles featured in the Spring 2016 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by pajamapress

We are thrilled to announce that six recent Pajama Press titles have been selected and featured in the Spring 2016 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens:

Ben Says Goodbye | Sarah Ellis & Kim La Fave | Pajama PressBen Says GoodbyeSTARRED SELECTION
978-1-927485-79-8  Hardcover with dust jacket
Written by Sarah Ellis
Illustrated by Kim La Fave

ElephantJourney_LR_RGBElephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity
978-1-927485-77-4  Hardcover with dust jacket
Written by Rob Laidlaw
Illustrated by Brian Deines

Kiss, Kiss | Jennifer Couelle & Jacques Laplante |Pajama PressKiss, Kiss
978-1-927485-86-6  Hardcover with laminated case
Written by Jennifer Couëlle
Illustrated by Jacques Laplante


OnceUponALine_LR_RGBOnce Upon a Line
STARRED SELECTION
978-1927485-78-1  Hardcover with dust jacket
Written and illustrated by Wallace Edwards

Timo's Garden | Victoria Allenby & Dean Griffiths | Pajama PressTimo’s Garden
978-1-927485-84-2  Hardcover with laminated case
Written by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths

 

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressA Year of Borrowed Men
978-1-927485-83-5  Hardcover with dust jacket.
Written by Michelle BarkerIllustrated by Renné Benoit

 

Visit the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website to order your copy of Best Books for Kids & Teens today.

 

Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens. Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, every title in this guide has been given the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s stamp of approval – See more at: https://bookcentre.ca/publications/best-books-for-kids-teens/#sthash.AOfcMJ4N.dpuf
Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens. Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, every title in this guide has been given the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s stamp of approval – See more at: https://bookcentre.ca/publications/best-books-for-kids-teens/#sthash.AOfcMJ4N.dpuf

Canadian Children’s BookNews recommends A Year of Borrowed Men

Posted on May 10th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“Because German Men were conscripted to fight during World War II, the families left behind were obligated to by the Nazi government to take in French prisoners of war to perform needed work. This is why three captives came to stay with seven-year-old Gerda, her mother and siblings at their farm. The rules were stringent: the French were to assist with the operation of the farm, sleep in the out-buildings and be treated as enemies. Anyone showing kindness to these “borrowed men” could be imprisoned. It was, however, challenging for Gerda to be so hard-hearted. On one particularly cold day, she invited them to share dinner with her family inside their warm home. For this act, her mother received a stern reprimand from the local police. From then on, compassion was demonstrated in more subtle ways, ensuring that the captives were well fed and treated with dignity. When the war ended, they parted as friends.

Based on her mother’s childhood memories of Germany during World War II, Michelle Barker’s book is a poignant account of one family’s brave acts of kindness in an atmosphere thick with fear and distrust. The story is told from little Gerda’s perspective, and we witness how a prohibited relationship grew from Feinde (enemies) to Freunde (friends). “The borrowed men knew some German words but we did not speak French. We had to use our hands to show them what we meant. Sometimes I drew pictures for them.” An Author’s Note and family photographs provide further context regarding Gerda’s experiences.

Renné Benoit’s watercolour, coloured pencil and pastel illustrations convey a pastoral environment imbued with the bleakness of war. In the midst of fear and strife, we see comforting moments in one family’s life. The simple acts of preparing meals, gathering around a candle-lit Christmas tree to sing carols and sharing conversation and scarce resources with strangers offer hope that goodness can sometimes triumph over evil.”

 

This review originally appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of Canadian Children’s BookNews.

School Library Journal calls A Year of Borrowed Men a “precious gem”

Posted on April 19th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“Based on a true story, this precious gem evokes compassion in a way that is sure to resonate with young audiences. Told from the perspective of seven-year-old Gerda, the tale explores the warmth that can exist among individuals whose countries are at war with one another. Gerda’s “borrowed men” are three French prisoners of war during World War II. The men have been sent to work on her family’s farm in Germany at the same time that her father has been sent into battle. The generosity and human kindness shown by Gerda’s family—especially by the little girl herself—are contrasted with the cold, punishing actions of the village policeman, Herr Mohlen. On a particularly cold night, Gerda’s mother invites the French POWs (who normally eat, sleep, and live in the pig kitchen, where meals for the pigs are prepared) inside for dinner. The next day, Herr Mohlen “borrows” Gerda’s mother and threatens her with prison. The child narrates that a neighbor must have seen them (the author’s note explains the promotion and practice of neighbors spying on one another). But friendly bonds are formed in spite of the formidable authorities, and when the war is over, Gerda is just as sad to say goodbye to her amis as they are to leave their little freunde. The concept of “borrowing” in wartime—first introduced by Gerda’s mother when explaining the sudden appearance of the French POWs (“She said we were just borrowing the French men”) and peppered throughout the text—is sure to spark conversation about the so-called rules of war, especially with the reveal in the author’s note that Gerda’s father (also referred to as “borrowed”) and, later, her brother Franz die in combat. Photos preceding and following the text document what Gerda, her family, and the farm looked like. Illustrations done in watercolor and colored pencil, with a touch of pastel, create a beautiful backdrop that darkens and lightens with the tone of the narrative. VERDICT Purchase where nuanced portrayals of family during World War II are needed. Keep the tissues close by!”Gloria Koster, West School, New Canaan, CT

The Horn Book Magazine reviews A Year of Borrowed Men

Posted on April 8th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“The story is told in simple, conversational phrases that sound like someone sharing her memories, with the occasional French or German word included either with a translation or in context.
Highlighted incidents are child-centered, such as when Gerda visits the men on Christmas to show them her new doll (and accidentally melts the doll’s hands on the stove), or when Gerda invites the men in to her own kitchen on a particularly cold day and a neighbor reports the family to the authorities. Benoit’s watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations use a little pastel so that the pictures combine precise details such as the wrinkles in Gerda’s stockings at her knee with a softness and warmth that convey the tenderness of memory. She strikes a tone of gentle sweetness in her depictions of the people and farm animals that, like the text, is never sappy. Children will find many things to notice, and the book raises some interesting questions, such as the complicated idea of who is an ‘enemy.'”Susan Dove Lempke

Click here to visit the The Horn Book Magazine’s website.

 

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.”

A Year of Borrowed Men shows “compassion is possible even in times of war.”—Winnipeg Free Press

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“With Remembrance Day just past, B.C. writer Michelle Barker brings young readers (six to nine years) A Year of Borrowed Men, a feel-good story that occurred in Germany in 1944. Barker’s mother, Gerda, saw three French prisoners of war arrive at the family farm as labourers. There were strict rules: no fraternizing. But Gerda found ways to make friends. While the men lived in the “pig kitchen” close to the animals, Gerda helped them celebrate Christmas by making ornaments out of catalogue pictures. Ontario artist Renné Benoit’s gentle paintings help show compassion is possible even in times of war.”
—Helen Norrie

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A Year of Borrowed Men a “valuable and touching read…on the cusp of Christmas”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“…Released on Remembrance Day, A Year of Borrowed Men will be a valuable and touching read for years to come in classrooms commemorating those whose lives were touched by war.  But on the cusp of Christmas–also a memorable event in the story–A Year of Borrowed Men will speak to inherent kind-heartedness and be a reminder to demonstrate our humanity even in the most challenging of circumstances.   The potential, unspoken, that the Schottke family’s adherence to the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” might extend to their own family members away at war, is undeniable.  But their charity to strangers in a time of war, when others only demonstrate anger and suspicion, is a worthwhile lesson in empathy.  Michelle Barker gets the tone right for this message, telling her mother’s story simply and forthrightly, as a child might see the circumstances.  The fear and confusion is there but it is superseded by a fundamental goodness to do what is right.  Look at Renné Benoit’s unassuming illustrations of this child, this farm, the men and relive a simple though still harsh time, when war was horrific but there was a gentleness that could still be found. Thank goodness.”
—Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the full review.