This was kind of amazing but also quite confusing and maybe a little hard to get into… And I’m still not 100% sure what happened in the end. It’s essentially about a teenage boy who falls into his great-grandfather’s story during WWI, after being hit by a bus in the present day. It didn’t really grab me from the outset, and even once I got into it I was still largely reading to find out how he was going to get back to the present day – let’s just say that it didn’t end how I thought it would! I think I’d recommend this, but it’s definitely complex and you’d want to give it to young people who are interested in war, because they do have to work for it, it’s not an easy read. Weird. But good. But Weird.
Had to reread this to support a student sitting it for her exam. Cried waaaay more than the first time. Clearly it hasn’t lost its touch in the last decade!
I’m sure there are a few purists out there who might feel shocked that I’m about to give this graphic adaptation of the iconic Diary of Anne Frank a rave review. But in the words of adaptor Ari Folman, “I wish to declare that we are sensitive to and aware of the liberties that we have taken, and that our goal was always foremost to honor and preserve the spirit of Anne Frank in each and every frame.” In this, they absolutely succeed. This is a stunning graphic representation of Anne’s innermost thoughts, one which actually allowed me to see her in a different light. For example, when Anne concludes that she’s, “made up my mind to lead a different life from others girls, and not to become an ordinary housewife later on,” there is a gorgeous depiction of her as an adult woman sitting at a desk, with various framed images on the wall behind from her time in the Annex. As my husband pointed out, Anne lives forever frozen in our minds as a young girl; these images gave me the push I needed to actually think about who she might have become had she had the opportunity to fulfill her potential.
The pictures are stunning and the choices of what to include I think leave you satisfied that you’ve captured Anne’s story. Towards the end, as her thoughts become more and more mature, the editors increasingly include whole passages from the diary. Anne’s writing still succeeds in reminding us that each generation faces the same dilemmas, no matter the issues of the day. I will leave you with this as a final thought, because Anne, in her timeless manner, manages to capture the way I feel everyday when I read the news, or hear basically anything about American or British politics:
“It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering, and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals.
Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!”
I requested this magical book as a farewell gift from my students at HHT, and forced them all to sign it before I left. This meant I felt a bit emotional about starting it, so I’ve only just gotten to the end, but my god, what a storyteller! I’m not hugely into autobiographies, but the former FLOTUS can seriously spin a yarn – it is truly never, ever dull or long-winded. What a brilliant woman (as if though we didn’t already know!). There was one passage at the very end that really resonated with what we have tried to teach our students over the years, and it is this:
“So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there’s only one way to be American – that if our skin is dark or our hips are wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is, until someone dares to start telling that story differently.”
One of my lovely, thoughtful students brought me this book a few weeks ago (in fact, I was delighted to receive not one but two books from students that day, I couldn’t believe my luck!). I’ve been ploughing through a whole bunch of YA novels to see if there’s anything new I should add to our collection, so this was a bit of a breath of fresh air. The story is set in Papua New Guinea in the early 90’s, the country I was born in but don’t actually know a huge amount about. This story is utterly captivating and just devastatingly, crushingly heart breaking. That’s a lot of overly descriptive words, but there’s no other way to express it! The story follows a young girl, Matilda, who is given a chance to continue going to school despite the war that is raging between the various groups in PNG. The warfare has meant a loss of all life’s luxuries, medicine included, and all the teachers escaped on the last boat out. The one white man left is Mr Watts, who is married to Grace, a reclusive and unusual local woman. He steps into the role of teacher and introduces the kids to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which is where the title comes from. The relationship between the students and Mr Watts is just delightful, and I had become so enchanted by it that I was unable to bring myself to heed the signs that things might not end well. I mean, it’s set in a war, right? Without giving any more away, let’s just say this is on my must read list. Now I just have to get the guts up to watch the film, which stars the fantastic Hugh Laurie. Can I bear it??
Max is a book that talks about the Nazi method set in 1936. Max is a young boy who is brought up as an orphan to follow the Nazi lifestyle. He later meets a young boy named Lukas who is against the way of the Nazi system, and things begin to take a turn for the worst. In my opinion, the book is a sad but realistic read, and kind of reminds me of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
The Help continues to be one of the more popular titles in our library; the girls have even asked me to read it aloud for our Wednesday cake and story time. For those who haven’t yet been seduced by the film, the book is a compilation of stories about black maids living in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960’s; needless to say, their lives are pretty hard. The stories are pulled together by a young white woman, Skeeter Phelan, who throughout the book finds her feet as an activist and writer. The novel has a level of tension that doesn’t exist in the film, one which really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It definitely captures the fear of being found out that would have plagued women in this situation. Of course there is always the niggling issue of the black maids needing to be “saved” by a white woman, but I suppose it’s par for the course…. Read The Hate You Give instead if if this bothers you!