Morpurgo, Michael. The Mozart Question.
A young reporter is sent to interview a famous violinist on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, and is instructed NOT to ask "the Mozart question". Not knowing what this is, she blurts out that she is not to ask it, and the violinist gives her the entire story. As a young boy living in Venice, he finds his father's violin and starts to play it with the help of a street fiddler. Eventually, he discovers that the fiddler knew his parents when they were all in an internment camp during World War II. Their survival depended on their skills in a prisoner orchestra-- which was instructed to play Mozart to distract new arrivals from the dire fate that awaited them. This is a small but powerful book, short (70 pages), with illustrations, but I will buy a copy because it will be good for reluctant readers when the 8th grade studies the Holocaust.
Khan, Rukhsana. Wanting Mor.
Jameela's life is difficult not only because of the war in her native Afghanistan, but because her mother (mor) has died, she has a cleft lip, and her father moves her to the big city, where he marries and then abandons Jameela in the market. A kindly butcher takes her to an orphanage, where she gets schooling and better care than she has known. She helps with the younger students, has surgery to correct her lip, and makes an uneasy peace with her family and her fate. The details of daily life in regards to food, religion and customs are wonderfully done, and the inclusion of native vocabulary, with glossary in the back, lends immediacy to the story.Our sixth grade reads Deborah Ellis' The Breadwinner, and this is an excellent accompaniment to that title. Staples' Under the Persimmon Tree and Clements' Extra Credit also cover life in Afghanistan.