I hope the Easter bunny has been good to you this year and brought you lots of treats! Alas, I bought a Boston Cream donut from Tim Horton’s yesterday and just as I was about to take a big bite right into the squishy cream part, it fell on the ground chocolate-side down, so I didn’t even get to taste it and had to deposit it straight into the compost bin. Good thing I planned ahead and bought a yummy Date Bar from City Café to have with my chai tea, always a delicious treat!
On this long weekend, I finished two Juvenile/Young Adult books. The first is Refugee by Alan Gratz. I love this Young Adult author, who is best known for his historical fiction set in WWII. Refugee is a bit different in that it weaves together three stories set in different time periods, focusing on three separate families who are seeking refuge from a life set in areas of political controversy, war and almost-certain death. Twelve-year-old Josef and his family are trying to escape Germany in 1939 after his father is released from a concentration camp and told that if he remains in Germany, he will be returned to the camp. They obtain passage on a ship heading to Cuba, where they, along with nearly 900 other Jewish passengers, have been guaranteed asylum. When, in 1994, Fidel Castro announces that anyone who wants to leave Cuba could do so without interference, Isabel and her family join forces with their neighbours and head out onto the Atlantic Ocean in a manmade boat to try to reach Miami before he changes his mind. In 2005 Syria, amid bombing and riots, Mahmoud and his family also try to escape and head for asylum in Germany, where they believed they would be welcomed. All of these families seek safety, and all face obstacles, take risks and encounter perils as they journey into an uncertain future, a future that they believe must be better than what they leave behind. These stories, all based on real historical events, kept me forging ahead even when I knew I had other things that needed to be done - I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. It had me cheering for these children, forced to grow up too soon and live through things no one of any age should ever have to experience. This was a moving, heart-wrenching, yet ultimately uplifting and informative novel that I would recommend to readers between the ages of 10 and 100.
Another poignant book I read was Deborah Ellis’ short story collection, Sit. This Silver Birch Award nominee weaves together stories of different children sitting, sometimes in chairs, sometimes on fences, sometimes on latrines. One child is in an evacuee camp in Japan after a tsunami, one is working in a furniture factory in Jakarta, one is in prison, one is in a food court with his family, one is sent to a time-out chair by her bullish, domineering mother, one is on an Amish farm working with the community to overcome a tragedy, and there are many others. This slim volume was so engrossing, so well-written, so moving, and heart-wrenching and touching and literary and… well, the best word I can come up with is “real”, that I think I will have to buy a copy of for myself and maybe add it to my volunteer book club list for next year. Each story offers a snapshot of a situation that explores an emotionally and/or politically significant theme, and each theme begs to be explored further, even as the stories are complete in and of themselves. I can’t say enough good things about this slim book of stories, and would recommend it to just about any reader. I read it in a couple of hours, but it should really be read slowly, giving time to contemplate each and every situation and theme.
That’s all for today. Happy Easter and Happy Spring!
Bye for now…
PS I almost forgot to mention that next weekend is the big annual CFUW Book Sale in Waterloo at First United Church, so if you are in the area and are in the market for used books, I highly recommend that you make time on Friday or Saturday to check out the huge selection and great deals! http://cfuwkw.org/index.php?page=annual-used-book-sale
And Julie’s Reading Corner is 8 years old this weekend - Happy Birthday! And it is World Book Day on April 23, as well as Shakespeare’s birthday… so many reasons to read, read, read in April!