When you sit with a group of tweens who also are your reading companions and an unplanned topic such as children's books set in world war 2 comes up for discussion, what can you expect?
Over the last few months, I have been literally bombarded with children's books set in World War 2. Occasionally a book or two written for adults in the same time. Either I stumble upon it in one my go to sources for exceptional book finds or one of my amazing reading companions have strongly recommended it.
Safe to say that much of my reading has somehow revolved around this theme in the last few months and it amazes me to discover so many different facets of one of the worst time periods in history.
My most recent book in this genre is, The Boy On The Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. Leon Leyson was the youngest in the Schindler's List. Steven Spielberg's famous movie Schindler's List is based on the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist during Hitler's time, who risked his life and used his fortune to help the Jews who worked in his factories. Survivors such as Leon are deeply grateful to this man. But for him they would not have had a chance to survive is something many of them contend. Written for children in the 10+ age group, the book The Boy On The Wooden Box came into being soon after Leyson overcame his reluctance to talk about that time in his life. Keeping in mind the target audience, the content has been written with care and is not even close to depressing but more of an eyeopener. There are several moments in the book when I held my breath and prayed. A story of survival, heroism and selflessness, this is a must read!
This book set off a discussion at the Young Readers' Club
It must be noted that we did not read this book together. I mentioned to the group, that I am reading this book. I wasn't sure then, if any of them would be interested or perhaps even capable of reading something so unpleasant as the plight of the Jews in the time of Hitler. To my surprise, I got more recommendations from the tweens in the group. They are a lot more matured readers and evidently their reading inventory had far more serious and thought provoking books, than I imagined. The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne came up more than once. Another book that got strongly recommended was Band of Brothers by Stephan Ambros.
The discussion slowly paved the way to the movie Oppenheimer. One of them had watched it and recommended it. Another reader was eager to watch it. I admitted that I was skeptical about it and for some strange reason it gave me the jitters. I don't know a lot about the movie or Oppenheimer's story other than the fact that he was the man who invented the atom bomb. The immediate association is with the tragedy that it caused and I can't bring myself to probe further. To my surprise my reading companions did not have any bias. They were far more open minded and wanted to know how such a horrific invention came about! The one who has watched the movie shared how impactful the sound effects in the movie were especially when the explosion was shown. It sounded like it had its desired effect, it froze the audience.
This discussion made me realise how knowing all of this is important for the younger generation. They hold the future in their hands and hopefully these kind of books and movies demonstrate that certain actions can have serious consequences, disastrous even. Talking about it in ways to encourage thinking about the various facets of such events not only makes history far more meaningful but also paves the way for a better future. And for me as an adult, the takeaway was to become more open minded.
The list of books I have discovered over the last few months for anyone who may be interested in books set in World War 2.
Goodnight Mr.Tom by Michelle Morigan (Recommended by a 11 year old)
When Hitler Stole my Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (10+)
Bombs on Aunt Dainty by Judith Kerr (adult)
Small person faraway by Judith Kerr (adult)
The boy on the wooden box by Leon Lyson (10+)
We are wolves by Katrina Nannestead (on my TBR- recommended for 10+)
Recommendations from the tweens
The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambros
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