John Dante is so enmeshed in WW II’s patriotic fever that he can hardly wait for his 18th birthday, in 1942, to enlist. Meanwhile, his sister, stricken with empathy and concern, is engaged to two soldiers and pregnant by a third; Dad, a nuclear physicist, is called from Pittsburgh to California for secret research; and John falls sweetly, ardently in love with pretty Ginny, who urges him to become a conscientious objector. To John, her fervent pacifism is incomprehensible; but as he endures active combat, without relief, until 1945, stereotypes give way to the reality of the enemy’s humanity, and Ginny’s ideas become clear. Still, after his long immersion in horror, John never communicates with her again-until a message at the end of this novel, narrated in 1992 when he’s a retired professor in Canada: “I want you to know that I am really alive. And I still love you.” Yet John has not been “alive” as he might have been: a lifelong solitary, he was even driven from his home by the war (“I could not stay in America because America had not suffered”). Rylant depicts-with some irony and much insight and compassion-the tragedy of young men putting aside their true selves and fighting in a war in which they ultimately lose faith.
Archive for the ‘War and peace’ Category
9 year old Bruno lives in Berlin with his parents and 12 year old sister. His world is turned upside down when he is told that the family is moving from his beautiful home, away from his friends, to a strange place he calls “Out-With”, where a very important man called “The Fury” has sent his father to be in charge. Bruno dislikes Out-With and is very lonely, he can see from his bedroom window that there are lots of people living behind a big wire fence beyond his new home, and wonders why he can’t play with the children there.
He sets off exploring one day and encounters a boy sitting just within the wire fence, they strike up a conversation and begin a beautifully naïve and moving friendship that continues until Bruno makes the innocent but heartbreakingly tragic decision to join his friend on the other side of the fence.
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger and her younger brother are being taken by their mother to live with a foster family outside Munich. Liesel’s father was taken away on the breath of a single, unfamiliar word ? Kommunist ? and Liesel sees the fear of a similar fate in her mother’s eyes. On the journey, Death visits the young boy, and notices Liesel. It will be the first of many near encounters. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
My Name is Hanna Michelson. I am fifteen. I am Latvian.
I live with my mother and grandmother. My father is missing – taken by the Russians.
I have a boyfriend. When he holds my hand, everything feels perfect.
I’m training to be a dancer. But none of that matters now.
Because the Nazis have arrived, and I am a Jew. And as far as they are concerned, that is all that matters.
This is my story.
Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad.
Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house.
Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh.
My name is Felix.
This is my story.
Everybody deserves to have something good in their life.
At least once.
They escaped from the Nazis but how long can they now survive when there are so many people ready to hand them over for a reward?
Thanks to the courage of a kind, brave woman they are able to hide for a time in the open, but Felix knows he has a distinguishing feature that identifies him as a Jew.