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Written and illustrated by award-winning artist and current affairs specialist George Butler, Drawn Across Borders is a unique empathy-inspiring portrayal of the affecting personal experiences of twelve migrants, covering countries as diverse as Tajikistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Syria and Palestine. It’s an honest, awe-inspiring tribute to the featured individuals, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and a timely reminder that real people lie behind every news story on migrants. Real people with real (and varied) reasons for leaving places they once called home. Butler frames the book with brilliant clarity: “People move around the world for many reasons. Some migration is voluntary; most is not.” The written portraits are deeply personal, framed by the author’s experiences on the frontlines of - for example - refugee camps, and based on his conversations with migrants. When combined with the accompanying painterly illustrations, they create a book that draws the heart and eye to a clutch of stories that should be known. Recommended for readers aged 11 upwards who have an interest in current affairs and history (adults included), this would also make a valuable springboard for discussing migration and global politics in a classroom context.
Tom Palmer’s riveting After the War was sparked by the true story of Jewish Polish, Czech and German children who were sent to safety in the Lake District after surviving the horrors of Nazism. Addressing big questions - how does hope, humanity and friendship survive unimaginable horrors? How do we begin again? – in a highly-readable style (as is typical of Palmer and publisher Barrington Stoke), this is a thought-provoking, edifying read. Trevor Avery of the Lake District Holocaust Project sets the context in the book’s foreword: “A group of young people arrived in the Lake District in the summer of 1945 and stayed for a few months, the last of them leaving in early 1946. Although they only spent a short time in the area, it was a profoundly important experience for them, and they made a big impression on those who met them at the time.” A sense of this being a “profoundly important experience” is clear from the outset, as revealed when young Yossi first glimpses England, his imagined paradise: “This was the place where they had been told they would be safe. A place where there would be no German soldiers and no concentration camps.” But despite the peace, despite “the lush green hills under a bright blue sky” and the “huge clusters of trees, swallows flitting above them”, Yossi feels unsettled. The brick buildings remind him of concentration camps, and he’s haunted by terrible memories, disturbed by nightmares, and longs for news from his family - will his father ever be found and come for him? Details of everyday life are strikingly evoked, and springboard deeper insights into the children’s experiences – a bike ride reminds Yossi of when he had to surrender his bike to the Nazis, immediately after he and his dad witnessed a horrific attack. An opportunity to attend a Rosh Hashanah celebration triggers his recollection of the terrifying time the SS destroyed his synagogue. A storm over Lake Windermere reminds him of bomb explosions. This device works perfectly, and Yossi’s enduring trauma is palpable. Then, at his lowest, a memory of his father’s words pulls him from the depths of despair: “if we let ourselves go, the Germans will think that they were right: that we are not human.” An exceptional telling of exceptional true events.
‘Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive’, says Khosrou – or Daniel as he’s known to his new classmates in Oklahoma - the narrator of the many wonderful stories that make up this book. Central of course is his own story, how with his mother and sister he had to flee his home in Iran, leaving his father behind, but there are also the stories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, plus the myths that he’s grown up with. Horribly picked on at school and tormented at home by his new step-father, he shares his stories Scheherazade-like with his class and with us, the lucky readers, and because of that we know that one day he will be whole again. Poignant, touching, funny and heart-breaking, this is a book in a million, a story that will connect with every person who reads it and become part of their own.
General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms is an interesting anthropomorphic adventure which reminded me a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion King. This adventure story is told in reflection by Miaow, the chief of cats, who befriends a ten-year-old explorer, Jack, who manages to unite the kingdoms in order to overthrow the despot Lions and larger ruling cats. This fantasy adventure is complemented throughout with black and white illustrations. The narrative focuses on a number of teachable lessons for younger readers such as the positives of teamwork as well as having a more traditional good vs evil tale to enjoy. I liked the anthropomorphised animals although I would have liked to have some of their animal qualities maintained in the wording. For example, the description of the lions “ruling with a firm hand”, I would have preferred the phrasing to be ‘with a firm paw’. I also thought I spotted and enjoyed the play on the word kingdom, the subtle nod to not only the traditional geographical definition but also the taxonomic ranks which classify every animal. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, I could see that the plot of General Jack shares connections to stories in the Bible, although I think that this book could be an entertaining read for any young fantasy fan. As Miaow tells this story, which is his own redemption and self-discovery as much as the larger animal revolution, it is easy to become attached to the chief of the cats and his family, and I read hoping that my favourite characters survived unscathed. I think that this would be a very good story for middle grade readers and above, and teaches them that you’re never too small to make a difference.
This dramatic and touching play brings Manchester during the Second World War and its people to life, and provides a variety of opportunities for school classes to explore both historical and literacy topics in an involving and creative setting. Also includes helpful tips on staging and costume.
“We are all family,” says Mo, the Indian-born RAF pilot who becomes irrevocably connected to thirteen-year-old Joelle when his plane crashes near her Nazi-occupied French village. “I believe that all of creation is one whole. We are bound together, each of us, by invisible links, and all are equally important.” This uplifting ethos of equality ripples through Mohinder’s War, a story of solidarity and survival against the odds; of friendship and hope through horror and loss. Joelle lived a “charmed life” in pre-war France, her English mother and French father kept busy by their family boulangerie. Following the outbreak of war and Nazi occupation they support the French Resistance. As a result, when Joelle happens upon Mohinder, they keep him safe in their home - but at huge risk, for the Germans know about Mo’s crashed plane and have placed a reward on his capture. Alongside the ever-present menace of discovery, the French Resistance want Mo as a bargaining chip. “The British left us to rot,” they say. “Now, in exchange for their pilot, they must pay too.” Then, when treachery leads to tragedy, Mo comes good on his promise to protect Joelle. Short, and driven by compelling characters, engaging dialogue and an onward-marching pace, this is perfect for reluctant readers who may struggle to keep focus. It’s also excellent for prompting discussions around WWII and broader ethical issues - betrayal, trust and what it is to do the right (and wrong) thing. Importantly, it also shows the vital role played by Indians in Britain’s WWII campaign, and shares information about Mo’s Sikh faith. Stirringly, the story is framed by a contemporary setting, with Joelle revealing this incredible - and hitherto unknown – story at Mo’s funeral.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | A personal, powerful and resonant account of the Holocaust by one of this country's best-loved children's authors. By turns charming, shocking and heart-breaking, this is the true story of Michael Rosen's search for his relatives who went missing during the Second World War - told through prose, poetry, maps and pictures.
A powerful, unforgettable graphic novel from the world of Wonder, by globally bestselling and award-winning author R J Palacio. To the millions of readers who fell in love with R J Palacio's Wonder, Julian is best-known as Auggie Pullman's classroom bully. White Bird reveals a new side to Julian's story, as Julian discovers the moving and powerful tale of his grandmother, who was hidden from the Nazis as a young Jewish girl in occupied France during the Second World War. An unforgettable, unputdownable story about strength, courage and the power of kindness to change hearts, build bridges, and even save lives, from the globally bestselling author of Wonder.
It is Charlotte's first night at boarding school, and as she's settling down to sleep, she sees the corner of the new building from her window. But when she wakes up, instead of the building there is a huge, dark cedar tree, and the girl in the next bed is not the girl who slept there last night. Somehow, Charlotte has slipped back forty years to 1918 and has swapped places with a girl called Clare. Charlotte and Clare swap places ever night until one day Charlotte becomes trapped in 1918 and must find a way to return to her own time before the end of term.
Winner of the Books for Confident Readers and the overall Winner of the Children's Book Award 2020 | Though the title refers directly to D-Day, and much of the action takes place on or near the D-Day beaches, Tom Palmer skilfully and thoughtfully enables readers to consider war in general, what it means to those involved – soldier and civilian – and even why it still goes on. Jack is excited about his school trip to the D-Day landing beaches. His father is a reservist and the two spend happy hours together re-enacting the Allies’ landing on Jack’s PlayStation. But a number of things come together to change Jack’s view of war, and his trip to France becomes a very different experience to the one he is anticipating at the book’s opening. Palmer introduces some complex ideas and emotions while ensuring that the book is accessible to all readers (in Barrington Stoke’s Conkers series it is written with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind). His characters are always convincing and Jack’s reactions to the things he learns entirely credible. Compelling, thought-provoking, this is a very fine short novel.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | “There are no stupid questions nor any forbidden ones, but there are some questions that have no answers.” So writes Heidi Fried, an Auschwitz survivor, in this wise, personal and deeply humane reflection on one of human history’s most troubling periods. It is marked out by the respect and empathy she shows in her responses to the questions young people ask her. An important book-her message could well help navigate the challenging time we are living through.
A suspenseful historical YA debut inspired by the true story of an all-female bomber unit in Russia during World War II. World War II has erupted in Valka's homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She's a pilot-and a good one-so she eagerly joins an all-female bomber regiment. Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German targets is something else entirely. The raids are dangerous, but as Valka watches her fellow pilots putting everything on the line in the face of treachery, she learns the true meaning of bravery. As the war intensifies, though, and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home. Inspired by the true story of a famous all-female Russian bomber regiment, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, of learning to fight for yourself, and of the perils of a world at war.
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