Tag Archives: Monica Hesse

Inside & outside

17 Oct

We started book clubs this week. In booktalking their options, I realized there was a lot about world history my students didn’t know. As time marches forward, things that were recent history to me, might seem like ancient history to them. It makes it all the more important to encourage them to read historical fiction – it is the gateway to non-fiction and knowledge about world events and their connection to the present.

Despite my history degree and a passable knowledge about the internment of people of Japanese and German ancestry during WWII, I learned something new while reading Monica Hesse’s  The War Outside. 


I hadn’t realized that people of Japanese and German ancestry had been in camps together or that families who hadn’t been interned, could voluntarily join family members who had been. Or that there was a program to repatriate some.  In The War Outside we see how world events impact the lives of some of those people.

Publisher’s Summary: It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

Life After High School

1 Jul

Yesterday afternoon, I attended my niece’s high school graduation. It was a  well run ceremony for the 178 grads. They did a couple of things I’d never seen done before. The program not only listed each grad’s name, but their plans for the next phase in their life and the awards, if any they were receiving. Here’s my niece’s page.


I realize you can’t read the text, but I wanted you to see her space. She is the first name on the page and won a lot of awards. The phone call from the high school said she was winning “an award” so it was a surprise to everyone, my niece and her parents, that she won so many. She was also one of three who delivered the valedictory address. I was a proud auntie! I only cried once. As I read over her awards, one of them stood out to me: the Unity Masonic Lodge Award for the Social Sciences. I couldn’t help but thinking how proud my dad, her grandpa, a lifelong Freemason, would have been to see that.

Not everyone in her graduating class are of to a post secondary experience. Some are entering apprenticeship programs. Some are going straight into work. Some will be traveling and others are returning for a victory lap.

Hanneke , the main character in The Girl in the Blue Coat, by Monica Hesse, doesn’t attend university after high school as she had planned.


It is 1943 and the Germans have occupied Amsterdam. Rather than pursuing higher education, which seems pointless to Hanneke in such a mad world, she gets a job that leads her into becoming a black marketeer.

Publisher’s Summary:Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.
This is the book I read, cover to cover as I flew from Portland to Toronto earlier this week.  I highly recommend it.


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