Genevieve’s War by Patricia Reilly Giff

Genevieve’s War

Patricia Reilly Giff, Author

Holiday House Book, Historical Fiction, Mar. 30, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: WW II, France, Underground movements, Intergenerational Relationships, Love, Courage, Friendship

Synopsis: French American Genevieve, 13, and her older brother, André, are spending the summer of 1939 in Alsace, France, helping the grandmother they’ve never known with the family farm. Mémé turns out to be prickly, tough, disagreeable, and a taskmaster.

At the end of the summer, André returns to New York. Genevieve is set to leave on the Normandie, on what may well be the last passenger ship leaving France before the anticipated invasion of France by Germany. But on the day she leaves for the ship, she impulsively changes her mind and decides to stay in Alsace to help her aging grandmother run the farm. The farm is close to the German border and there are times when she questions her decision. But there is no turning back because World War II has begun and the Germans are infiltrating Alsace. Genevieve and Mémé soon become part of the Resistance when her friend Rémy commits an act of sabotage and they shelter him in an attic room, one story above a bedroom that a German soldier has claimed. In the years that follow, Genevieve learns a lot about survival, trust, the value of friendship, love, and belonging.

Why I like this book:

Patricia Reilly Giff”s beautiful work of historical fiction is impressively written and well-researched from beginning to end. Genevieve’s journey is a captivating and compelling journey about survival, taking risks, doing what is right, and learning who is trustworthy. Not only will teens enjoy this story, so will adults.

Giff’s novel offers readers a different perspective on WWII. It is convincingly narrated by a very Americanized girl of French descent, who is caught up in the middle the war and assisting the Resistance. Readers will fall in love with Genevieve, observe her growth, maturity and transformation over six years and her love and devotion to aging Mémé.  Genevieve is a strong, thoughtful, brave, and wise protagonist. Her story is one of triumph, both personally and for her community.

The setting if vivid and rich in detail. The plot is exciting, full of tension and fast-paced. Giff manages to capture what life is like in an occupied country. Genevieve and Mémé have hidden half of the vegetables they canned from their garden in a secret place behind an armoire. When a German officer billets at their house, there is constant fear. He takes the livestock, the pony and cart and food. The winter is brutally cold, their secret food stash runs out and they live on thin soup and hot water. Yet they are committed to helping the Resistance at great risk. Along the way Genevieve unravels mysteries about her deceased father and family. There are many surprises in this story.

Resources:  There is an Educator’s Guide available for Genevieve’s War with pre-reading suggestions, classroom discussion questions, curriculum connections and internet suggestions. You can download it from the publisher, Holiday House.

Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children, including Lilly’s Crossing, a Newbery Honor Book and Boston Globe-HornBook Honor Book, and Pictures of Hollis Woods, a Newbery Honor Book. Her works for works for younger reader include the best-selling Kids of the Polk Street School series and the Hunter Moran books.

For the next few months Greg Pattridge will be hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Thank you Greg for keeping MMGM active while author Shannon Messenger is on tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7.

A Chanukah Noel

Chanukah Noel9781897187746_p0_v1_s260x420A Chanukah Noel

Sharon Jennings, Author

Gillian Newland, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Moving to a foreign country,  Feeling left out, Chanukah, Christmas, Friendship

Opening:  “One day, Daddy came home from work and said, “I have a big surprise.  We are going to live in France.”  I wasn’t so sure I liked this surprise, but I left home with Mommy and Daddy and sailed all the way across the ocean. 

Synopsis:  Charlotte and her family move to France.  She doesn’t speak the language and is put in a lower grade.  She finds that foods in her French village some times taste and smell strange.  Many of her classmates are friendly, except Colette.  At Christmas the village is beautifully decorated.  Charlotte is Jewish and wants to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas.  She’s disappointed when her mother tells her they will celebrate Chanukah.  At least, at school she can participate in the festivities of decorating the class and bringing a gift.  When Charlotte discovers that Colette is poor and won’t be able to celebrate Christmas either, she sets aside her hurt feelings and comes up with a plan to help her friend and celebrate both holidays.

Why I like this story:   Sharon Jennings has written a charming story based on the true story of her friend.  Readers never learn the origin of Charlotte’s country, only that she is Jewish and she finds Christmas in France exciting.   It is also a story about feeling left out.  But, Charlotte shows a lot of compassion and helps a poor classmate enjoy Christmas with her family.  I enjoyed the story, but wished there was a little more shown about Charlotte’s Jewish Chanukah tradition.  Gillian Newland’s illustrations are rich and capture both the holiday spirit and the feeling of a timeless French village.

Resources:  Chanukah or Hanukkah activities for children and teachers can be found at this website.