Tag Archives: WWII

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.

9781627790307

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.

Race, family and identity

21 Apr

I had only a vague idea about American Ace when I picked it up.

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I knew Marilyn Nelson’s book was a novel in verse about a boy, Connor Bianchi, whose paternal grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman. What I learned as I read was that it was a complex story about an Italian-American boy who discovers that his grandfather was not the Italian immigrant everyone believed, but a Tuskegee Airman, stationed in Italy at the end of WWII.

Reading each poem, we see how various family members react as they find out that their family isn’t quite what they all believed it to be. Some, like Connor, embrace the revelation. Others react negatively believing that “bad news should be told privately”. Their reactions reflect attitudes about race in America.

Nelson includes an afterword in which she explains that she wanted to write about the Airmen from the perspective of someone new to their story. Since most African-Americans knew the story of the Airmen, she created Connor.

Goodreads Summary: Connor’s grandmother leaves his dad a letter when she dies, and the letter’s confession shakes their tight-knit Italian-American family: The man who raised Dad is not his birth father.

But the only clues to this birth father’s identity are a class ring and a pair of pilot’s wings. And so Connor takes it upon himself to investigate—a pursuit that becomes even more pressing when Dad is hospitalized after a stroke. What Connor discovers will lead him and his father to a new, richer understanding of race, identity, and each other.

 

Graphic History for Two Tuesdays

3 Nov

Tomorrow is election day in the United States and next Tuesday is Veteran’s Day in the US, Remembrance Day in Canada and other Commonwealth countries, and Armistice Day in France and Belgium. Interestingly, there is a new graphic novel to tie into each day.

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Sally Heathcote Suffragette by Mary M. Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot, follows the fortunes of a maid-of-all-work swept up in the feminist militancy of Edwardian Britain. Sally Heathcote is a working-class maid in turn-of-the-century Manchester, in service to Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the leaders of the British suffrage movement. telling the Suffragist story in a graphic novel is a stroke of brilliance because it really shows 21st century readers how hard women had to work to get the right to vote.

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In 1914, Canada went to war as a subject of Britain. In 1939, it made the choice to fight all on its own. Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself under the toughest possible conditions: in the midst of the most difficult war of the twentieth century.

With the cold weather and darker evenings, perhaps these are just the thing, along with a nice cup of tea, to enjoy on a blustery November night.

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