Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#WNDB Wednesday- A Tiny Piece of Sky

It was not that long ago that people of German descent were discriminated against. I had relatives in Iowa who attended German language schools and Lutheran churches until WWI; their children get upset about the influx of Mexican immigrants in the town now. Why? They don't speak English. 

How quickly we forget. 

25431146Stout, Shawn K. A Tiny Piece of Sky
January 19th 2016 by Philomel Books
Copy provided by the publisher

In 1939, Frankie is not happy that her older sister gets to spend the summer at an aunt's farm, but SHE has to work in the family's new restaurant. Since there is so much work to be done, she ends up not even having time to do to the pool with friends or even roller skate. She knows it is important to her family's survival that the restaurant, does well, and she does enjoy working with the staff, but she misses her sister. When local Chamber of Commerce leader Sullen Waterford Price isn't happy with the way he is treated by Mr.  Baum, he starts a rumor that the Baums have ties to the Nazis, and an anti-German campaign that interferes with the opening of the place. Frankie investigates and tries to stop him, but is only partially successful. Others in town don't believe that the Baums are anything but loyal citizens, and the restaurant is able to stay open, even after a tragedy occurs. 

Strengths: In light of current immigration trends, and the public reaction to them, I think this is an important book for students to read. There is very little out there about the treatment of Germans during either of the world wars; there's a Bunting title, Spying on Miss Muller, and the Parker Edenville Owls, but that involves more spying and not the general treatment of German families. This had a lot of good details about daily life at the time, which is always a plus in historical fiction. The fact that it is based on the author's own family, and that she had some letters and documents to give her some direction, adds a very interesting personal touch to the story. 

Weaknesses: This is on the longer side (320 pages) and is rather slow paced, and books about the home front during WWII don't circulate nearly as well as ones set on the battlefield. 

What I really thought: This is an interesting addition to any collection of books set during World War II, but might take some handselling to get students to read it. 


2 comments:

Jennifer said...

I've always found this fascinating, in a weird, depressing way as well. It was only a few generations back that my family was poverty-stricken (and possibly criminal) German immigrants. Now some members of my family rant about "those Mexicans" (I have a weird, weird family). It makes no sense to me.

Beth said...

My mom's maiden name was Hettler, which made life as a kid in the early 1940's a bit hard. They had already been in American for several generations, so at least they didn't have a German accent to go with the name.

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