Posts Tagged ‘Bullying’

White Bird

By R. J. Palacio

ISBN 9780241397244

Penguin Books

Penguin Random House

I read the book Wonder a number of years ago and loved it. I have it as year six book club title and the children love it too. So it was a no brainer to buy a copy of White Bird which shares with us the backstory of Julian’s grandmother. For those who read Wonder, you will remember that Julian was a bully and very unkind. While there is no excuse for such horrible behaviour, we can see in Whitebird that Julian later regretted his actions. For homework Julian has to write an essay about someone he knows and he chooses his grandmother. At first she is reluctant to share her story but she goes ahead and we are taken back to the 1940’s and a world at war.

Wow! Where to start? I loved this book so much. I cried so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Julian’s grandmother Sara Blum, was a young Jewish girl living in occupied France, who believed her life was good and a bit like a fairy tale. Her family had nice things, food, a home, and spent time together as a family in the fields of bluebells. One day the Nazis came to school wanting to collect all the Jewish children. They ran through a forest trying to escape but Sara hid in a room upstairs in the school where a crippled classmate found her and led her to safety. Together, this boy Julien, and his family helped hide Sara in a barn and kept her safe.

Throughout the story we see bullying, kindness, trust, and mistrust, courage, hope, the futility of war and the impact it had long after the war was over. We meet strong, kindhearted people risking their lives, as well as nasty ones, ready to shoot on sight. Throughout the years in hiding, it is the friendship between Sara and Julien that is most moving of all.

This is powerful and at times uncomfortable to read but it’s a must read.
Written and illustrated as a graphic novel by R. J. Palcio you can see that the author knows exactly how her characters respond to situations, she knows their stories, their thoughts and fears and captures them in her illustrations so well, that we also know and can relate to them. We can feel Sara’s sadness and we can feel Julien’s frustration at his disability, especially as he remembers how fast he could run before polio ruined everything.

This is ideal from middle grade right through to secondary. There is so much to consider, so much to unpack and just so much more than a story about a young girl hiding and trying to survive in Occupied France. It is a story of hope.

Julian’s grandmother has a message for us all “Never again”.

 

 

 

You can read White Bird as a stand alone but if you want a little more out of it then read Wonder if you haven’t already.

Sunken Forest

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775434030

Scholastic NZ

forest

Des Hunt has a very deserving reputation for producing top quality stories and Sunken Forest is no different.

           New town, new school, one random act of kindness.

           Wrong choices, bad mates,

           A raft of false accusations.

           Matt Smith is forced to attend a military-style wilderness camp with a bunch of kids he barely knows.

          It’s a nightmare, until he meets Elsa in the sunken forest…

           Who knew he could feel such empathy for a giant eel?

          And how far could that stretch when disaster threatens the lives of all? Matt is about to find out.

 

It seems no matter which way Matt turns, someone is there ready to dig the knife in especially when people realize his father is in prison. People suddenly don’t want to trust or believe him. He finds trouble everywhere, as one problem leads to another escalating out of control. He is however, determined and resourceful but struggles with the notions of justice and revenge. This is a great read, well paced and well researched. The descriptions of  New Zealand’s native bush and its wildlife and fauna highlight the beauty of our country. The author also points out the danger in our bush and how the weather and in particular, heavy rain, can create incredibly dangerous situations. It is a very real way of life in the New Zealand bush. The environment is always incredibly strong in Des Hunt’s novels so that setting is part of the story as much as any of the characters.

The characters are strong but all have flaws just as we all do. It is the flaws that lead to poor decisions which impact on Matt’s lives. His good deed to help an old lady ends up with him being accused of theft for which he is sent to a camp for problem kids. It is at the camp that he meets Elsa.

I love the relationship Matt has with Elsa, the giant eel. They seem to connect on a number of levels. It certainly proves the quality of Des Hunt’s writing in that it works, as we are right next to Matt and Elsa as they cross that bridge of communication between human and animal.

This is a great read for those who love the outdoors, conflict, bullying, and adventure. Goodness, it really does have heaps going on and I will be recommending it to all my year six students at school. I also think it would be perfect for a set text for teachers or librarians wanting to work with a group of keen readers.

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