Tag Archives: John Boyne

This week’s book talks 11/5-9

9 Nov

Monday

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War written by an amazing array of  contemporary YA authors (David Almond, Michael Morpurgo, John Boyne, AL Kennedy, Marcus Sedgewick, Adele Geras,Tracy Chevalier, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Sheena Wilkinson, Ursula Dubrovsky, Timothee de Fombelle) and illustrated by Jim Kay

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Tuesday

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

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Wednesday

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave by John Boyne

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Thursday

I gave students an influenza twofer on Thursday because Friday marks the end of the quarter and there is no school.

A Death-Struck Year  by Makiia Lucier and More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War by Kenneth C. Davis

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Escaping reality

23 Jul

Summer is a time when I escape into the things I love.

Escaping isn’t only for the happy. It is also a refuge for those who don’t want to face difficulties, as john Boyne shows us in Noah Barleywater Runs Away.

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Goodreads Summary: In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, bestselling author John Boyne explores the world of childhood and the adventures that we can all have there. Noah is running away from his problems, or at least that’s what he thinks, the day he takes the untrodden path through the forest. When he comes across a very unusual toyshop and meets the even more unusual toymaker he’s not sure what to expect. But the toymaker has a story to tell, a story full of adventure, and wonder and broken promises. And Noah travels with him on a journey that will change his life for ever.

A thought-provoking fable for our modern world from the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

This was John Boyne’s second novel. It followed his hugely successful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although a very different sort of book, more magical realism than fairy tale, it also carries a sadness. Noah’s mother is ill. The toymaker has regrets. But Noah’s story has a happier ending than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

This week’s book talks

10 Nov

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day in the US, but in my heart, it is still Remembrance Day. I’ve been wearing the poppy I knit last year on my school lanyard.

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Students had a three-day week, so I only book talked three books, all set during the Great War.

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Publisher’s Summary: The Great War is a powerful collection of stories by bestselling authors, each inspired by a different object from the First World War. From a soldier’s writing case to the nose of a Zeppelin bomb, each object illuminates an aspect of life during the war, and each story reminds us of the millions of individual lives that were changed forever by the four years of fighting. This remarkable book is illustrated by the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Jim Kay. Featuring new work from: ** AL Kennedy ** Tracy Chevalier ** Michael Morpurgo ** David Almond ** Marcus Sedgwick ** Adele Geras ** Ursula Dubosarsky ** John Boyne ** Timothée de Fombelle ** Sheena Wilkinson ** Tanya Lee Stone **

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Publisher’s Summary: The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight—but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know where his father might be, other than that he’s away on a special, secret mission. Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father’s name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realizes his father is in a hospital close by—a hospital treating soldiers with shell shock. Alfie isn’t sure what shell shock is, but he is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place. . . .

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Publisher’s Summary:  The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast—but Cleo Berry knows it is a world away from the safety of her home in Portland, Oregon. Then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode—and into a panic.

Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she cannot ignore the call for help. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can’t help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

 

Innocence corrupted

5 Aug

When we first meet Pierrot Fischer, he is a sweet 7-year-old, small for his age, bullied by bigger boys, but certain in his friendship with Anshel. His father disappears and dies. When his mother dies, he moves in with Anshel’s family temporarily.  Because pre-WWII France is not an easy place for Jews, Anshel’s mother finds a place for him in an orphanage, where he stays until he is claimed by his long-lost German aunt. When he joins her in Austria, Pierrot’s eyes are opened to a new world and we see him evolve into someone far less likable.

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Publisher’s Summary: When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing, and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.

What I, and his Aunt,  found most terrifying is the ease with which Pierrot is turned from sweet boy to Nazi thug. She calls him on his behavior.

“Perhaps you shouldn’t spend so much time with the Führer from now on,” she said, finally turning around to look at her nephew.

“But why not?”

“He’s a very busy man.”

“He’s a very busy man who says he sees great potential in me,” said Pierrot proudly. “Besides we talk about interesting things. And he listens to me.”

“I listen to you, Pieter,” said Beatrix.

“That’s different.”

Pierrot gets caught up in the uniforms and the power he begins to feel, turning the small bullied boy into a bully. He does some terrible things. When the war ends, he claims that he was only a child and didn’t really understand, but Herta, a maid in the house, calls him out, claiming he knew what was going on.

“You have many years ahead of you to come to terms with your complicity in these matters.Just don;t ever tall yourself that you didn’t know.” She released him now from her grip. “That would be the worst crime of all.”

We see that the post war years are emotionally difficult for Pierrot but the ending brings some catharsis.

As with Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the reader requires some background knowledge to truly understand what appears, on the surface, to be a simple book.  But it is a book worth reading.

Fiction/Nonfiction Pairing: The Great War

29 Apr

I’ve had the First World War on my mind since before the 100th anniversary of its start, almost two years ago. Quite a bit was done and written in the months just before August 2014, and there have been trickles since. This week, I’ve become enamored of a delightful pair of books that look at the Great War through a literary lens.

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The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War is a collection of modern stories, written by an amazing array of  contemporary YA authors (David Almond, Michael Morpurgo, John Boyne, AL Kennedy, Marcus Sedgewick, Adele Geras,Tracy Chevalier, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Sheena Wilkinson, Ursula Dubrovsky, Timothee de Fombelle) and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Publisher’s Summary:A toy soldier. A butter dish. A compass. Mundane objects, perhaps, but to the remarkable authors in this collection, artifacts such as these have inspired stories that go to the heart of the human experience of World War I. Each author was invited to choose an object that had a connection to the war—a writing kit for David Almond, a helmet for Michael Morpurgo—and use it as the inspiration for an original short story. What results is an extraordinary collection, illustrated throughout by award-winning Jim Kay and featuring photographs of the objects with accounts of their history and the authors’ reasons for selecting them. This unique anthology provides young readers with a personal window into the Great War and the people affected by it, and serves as an invaluable resource for families and teachers alike.

In a powerful collection, eleven internationally acclaimed writers draw on personal objects to bring the First World War to life for readers young and old.
That collection of short stories would pair nicely with this collection of biographies of 12 men and three women, who participated in the First World War, and who later gained fame in other ways.
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In the Fields and Trenches:The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I is written by Kerrie Logan Hollihan and published by the Chicago Review Press.
Publisher’s Summary: When it started, many thought the Great War would be a great adventure. Yet, as those who saw it up close learned, it was anything but. In the Fields and the Trenches traces the stories of eighteen young idealists swept into the brutal conflict, many of whom would go on to become well-known 20th-century figures in film, science, politics, literature, and business. Writer J. R. R. Tolkien was a signals officer with the British Expeditionary Force and fought at the Battle of the Somme. Scientist Irène Curie helped her mother, Marie, run twenty X-ray units for French field hospitals. Actor Buster Keaton left Hollywood after being drafted into the army’s 40th Infantry Division. And all four of Theodore Roosevelt’s sons—Kermit, Archibald, Quentin, and Theodore III—and his daughter Ethel served in Europe, though one did not return.In the Fields and the Trenches chronicles the lives of heroes, cowards, comics, and villains—some famous, some not—who participated in this life-changing event. Extensive original material, from letters sent from the front to personal journals, brings these men and women back to life. And though their stories are a century old, they convey modern, universal themes of love, death, power, greed, courage, hate, fear, family, friendship, and sacrifice.
Together, these two books give readers a glimpse into the impact of The Great war on ordinary lives.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar

Since it is St. Patrick’s Day, it seems auspicious to share the Irish Book Award Winner and shortlist.

The winner is Asking For It  by Louise O’Neill.

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The five books on the shortlist are:

Unknown-2 The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

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Unknown-3 One by Sarah Crosan

Unknown-4 Darkmouth: Worlds Explode by Shane Hegarty

Unknown-5 Demon Road by Derek Landy

 

 

 

 

The War at Home

27 Jun

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Tomorrow we mark the event that set the dominoes of the First World War in motion: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

In John Boyne’s Stay Where You Are & Then You Leave,  we see the effects of war throughout the eyes of you Alfie Summerfield. He’s only 5 at the beginning of the book and 9 by the end, but John Boyne really captures how a boy of that age would view and understand the world and the crazy event going on around him. I love that he thins at 21 he’ll need glasses to read and will want to go to bed early because he’s so tired.

This is the best of what historical fiction should be: details woven into the fabric of the story so naturally we don’t even realize that they are historical facts. We get a real glimpse of what life was like for people left at home and the consequences the war had on society. We learn about shortages, deportations, conscientious objectors, white feathers and shell shock.

Alfie’s father went off to war. At first the letters were funny, then serious, then confused. Then they stopped. Alfie’s mother tells him his dad is on a secret mission, but Alfie thinks his dad is dead. While working as a shoeshine big, Alfie comes across some information that set him on a secret mission of his own to rescue his dad.

This book is a real gem. It was more like Michael Morpurgo’s  War Horse than Boyne’s most famous book,  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  It would be an excellent novel to read as kids learn about WWI.

Alas, I couldn’t help but do the math. Alfie  is 9 in 1918. That means he’ll be 30 in 1939 when the next World war breaks out. It broke my heart to think about that. The fact that I care is a testament to the quality of the writing that created the character of Alfie.

Jone Rush MacCulloch

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