Monday, May 24, 2010

More Holocaust Books

Greif, Jean-Jacques. The Fighter.
Moshe has a difficult childhood in Warsaw and then Paris-- he is small and weak, and the children bully him because of this and also because he is Jewish. He learns to box, which helps things a little. Unfortunately, after he grows up, marries, and has a child, he is deported from Paris and sent to Auschwitz, where his toughness helps him survive. The beginning of this covers a lot of ground, but time slows down when Moshe is sent to the camps. Based on interviews with Holocaust survivors, this is an excellent addition to a Holocaust collection,and one of my reluctant readers said it was the best book ever. This was translated from the French by the author himself; I would love to see more of his titles in English.

Chapman, Fern. Is It Night or Day?
This is also based on interviews with survivors, this time the author's grandmother. I was not aware that before the war, over 1,000 German Jewish children were sent to the US, sponsored by various relatives and citizens. This is the story of Edith, who comes to live with an uncle and join her older sister. Adjusting to hew new life is difficult, and not made easier when she is identified as an "enemy alien". While the war and Holocaust are covered, this is more a story of a girl's adjustment to a new life. Like Lasky's Ashes, it is a facet of the war previously unknown to me.

Hobbs, Valerie. The Last Best Days of Summer.
Lucy, who is worried about entering middle school, looks forward all year to spending a week with her grandmother at the lake. When she gets there, she finds that her grandmother's memory is failing quickly. On top of that, Eddie, a boy with special needs to whom she is paid to be a companion, runs away from home and shows up at the lake house. Knowing this will be the last week with her grandmother, Lucy struggles to make the best of the situation. While I enjoyed this, it had a distinct 80s feel to it, from the cover to the serious writing. I'll see what Picky Reader thinks, but I'm not sure who the readers for this one are.

Later: Ms. Hobbs was kind enough to comment on this post: "Just curious: when did we stop writing "seriously"? Or about "serious" topics? Are we only entertaining our readers now?" This is a fair question. I think that there are many books on serious topics that also entertain readers. Jordan Sonnenblick's After Ever After is an excellent example. Students do like to be entertained when they pick up books for pleasure reading; to me, The Last Best Days of Summer reads more like something that a teacher would assign because of the number of problems that Lucy is facing and the manner in which they are worked out. It's a hard balance to strike, I know. Perhaps this is for a slightly younger audience, which I find harder to gauge.

Books at which I looked, but which weren't quite right for my collection: Scaletta's Mudville, Kephart's The Heart is not a Size, and McMullan's Sources of Light.


  1. Anonymous1:17 PM EDT

    Just curious: when did we stop writing "seriously"? Or about "serious" topics? Are we only entertaining our readers now?

  2. MAUS might be too mature for middle school readers, but we're reading it in my high school English class. Wow...who knew a graphic novel could make such an impact?