Sunday, June 19, 2016

PICTURE BOOK - A Year of Borrowed Men by Michelle Barker

Illustrated by Renne Benoit
1st published in Canada in 2015; US publishing in 2016 by PajamaPress (Canada
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.78 (23 ratings)
My rating: 4 
Illustrations: "The illustrations are rendered in watercolour and coloured pencil, with a little pastel, on paper."
1st line/s:  "I was seven when the French prisoners of war arrive at our house.  It was 1944.  Mummy told us the government had sent them because all our men were gone to war, and someone needed to keep the farms running.  She said we were just borrowing the French men.  When the war was over, we would give them back."

My comments:  This WWII picture book for older kids was not told from the "usual" point of view.  How often do we consider what it was like for the average German family during that time?  Based on a true story, Gerta's family take on three French prisoners-of-war to work their large farm while her father is away fighting in the German army.  The Frenchmen must stay in the "pig kitchen" and Greta's mother will be taken to jail if they treat them in any un-prisoner-like way.  However, Greta makes friends with them, finding them kind.   It's a great story to show still another point-of-view during wartime, one not too often told. 

Goodreads: When World War II borrows the men in six-year-old Gerda s family, the German government sends them three new men in return: Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert, French prisoners of war who must sleep in an outbuilding and work the farm until the war is over. Gerda knows they are supposed to treat the men as enemies, but it doesn t seem fair. Can t they invite them into the warm house for one meal? What harm could it do to be friendly? Writing from her mother s childhood memories of Germany during World War II, Michelle Barker shares the story of one family s daring kindness in a time of widespread anger and suspicion. Renne Benoit s illustrations bring warmth to the era, showing the small ways in which a forbidden friendship bloomed: good food, a much-loved doll, a secret Christmas tree. Family photographs and an Author s Note give further insight into the life of Gerda, the little girl who proved that it isn t so far from Feinde (enemies) to Freunde (friends)."

No comments: