Banned Books #43- Summer Of My German Soldier

Welcome to 2018’s first edition of Banned Books. Each month, Beth and I review a book that has been on the Banned Books list. This month’s read was Summer Of My German Soldier by Bette Greene.

Summer of My German Soldier (Summer of My German Soldier, #1)

First published: 1973
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001  (source)
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Summer Of My German Soldier was first published in 1973, before I was born and it’s one of the older titles on the ALA’s top ten of banned/challenged books, challenged in 2001 which I still think of as fairly recent, I’m not sure about any of you? I was intrigued to read this book, especially when I found out that it was about a young girl and a German Nazi soldier and as with many of the books on our Banned Books list, I don’t agree with many of the reasons for challenging it. For example, I don’t remember any incidences of offensive language (perhaps I just glossed over them?) but I’m actually sitting here, racking my brain right now and I really don’t think there were any “bad words,” that shocked or offended me. Eye roll.

CHRISSI: I was really interested to see why Summer Of My German Soldier was challenged. As Beth mentioned, it is one of the older titles on the list. I didn’t find any of the language offensive in the slightest. There were some moments that were racist, but given its subject matter and the characters, it wasn’t really a surprise to me? I certainly don’t think it’s something that we should shy away from.

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned, I still think of 2001 as being fairly recent (that probably shows my age!) but it was in fact seventeen years ago. I would have hoped attitudes have changed for the better in those years in that a lot of us are more tolerant and accepting and less racist but sadly, this is not true in all parts of the world or for all groups of people. In 2001, I would not have described this book as sexually explicit in the slightest and I certainly wouldn’t now. Excuse me while I rack my brain once again for even a slight mention of graphic sexual content because there wasn’t one! The only thing I am a little uneasy about in this novel is the racism, which I do agree is there and I don’t particularly like it or condone it. However, I think everyone should have access to all kinds of books, with some stipulations for younger or more sensitive children and in one way, it might educate people about how terrible people of another race were (and still) continue to be treated.

CHRISSI: I could kind of see why it would be banned or challenged but that’s not to say I agree with it. The racism did make for some uncomfortable reading. I know it’s not something that has been eradicated. Goodness knows we still have racism around in 2018, but it’s something that does make me uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a book that should be banned though because it’s a good talking point and could potentially be educative. It just has to be used with sensitivity and with caution with impressionable readers.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  This is such a difficult one. Parts of it I really enjoyed, I loved Patty’s relationship with the housekeeper, Ruth and conversely, absolutely hated her relationship with her parents which made me incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy at points. The thing I had most problems with in this novel however was Patty’s relationship with the German soldier, Anton. She is twelve at the time when she meets him and he is twenty-two. She falls in love with him quite quickly, which is fine and he never outwardly reciprocates her love but there is hints that he feels the same way and that just feels very, very wrong to me. This book is also quite bleak at points so don’t go into it expecting a great resolution and a happy fairy-tale ending.

CHRISSI: Unfortunately, it’s not a book that I enjoyed. I didn’t like the relationships in this novel and it made me feel rather uncomfortable over all. I wouldn’t describe it as a pleasant reading experience!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me- I didn’t enjoy reading this book and I think there are better ones out there with the same subject matter.

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Wait For Me

Wait for Me

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

Thoughts:

I have read so many books about World War II so I always get very excited when new books come out. Imagine my excitement when I heard about Wait For Me which was YA based. I do love YA and I’m not afraid to admit it!

Wait For Me centres around Lorna who lives on a farm in Scotland. It is 1945 and alongside going to school, Lorna is helping her father on the farm whilst her two brothers are fighting in the war. Life changes for Lorna and hr family when Paul, a German prisoner of war is sent to help at the farm. Lorna is very hesitant at first, but over time she learns more and more about Paul and finds herself falling for him. This is a dangerous relationship, but Lorna is completely drawn to Paul.

I absolutely devoured this book. I loved Lorna and thought she was such a great character. I loved her determination and her acceptance of Paul as he was. Paul is completely likeable as well. I loved how Caroline Leech portrayed his story and showed the reader his history. They were a likeable, believable romance. As well as Lorna and Paul, there were some more fabulous characters. I really liked Nellie, who helped them on the farm. I also enjoyed reading about Lorna’s dad.

This story is definitely more about the romance and not so heavy on the World War II content. It is there, but it’s more about the relationship developing between Lorna and Paul. So if you’re into romantic historical fiction then this book could be for you!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A sweet WWII romance. A fantastic debut!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Witch Child

Witch Child (Witch Child, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared? 

Thoughts:

I am always excited to read books that involve witches as I enjoy reading that kind of book. However, I felt a little let down by this book which wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be. I’d even go so far to say that I was a little bored when reading it. It was simply the author’s writing style that kept me reading. Her writing was particularly easy to read.

The story centres around Mary. Her grandmother is accused of being a witch and is hung in the town. We learn about Mary’s stories through entries in her diary. Mary flees the town. She is able to get onto a boat that is leaving the continent for the New World. Mary lives within a Puritan settlement. She tries to hide her true self, but becomes a target of hate. Mary just wants to be accepted somewhere and not be feared for her healing powers.

The reason why this book didn’t work for me, was because it didn’t feel original at all. I also didn’t feel like there was enough going on to really capture my attention. I understand that I’m probably not the target audience, but I’m not sure there’s enough for any age to be fully drawn into the story. Perhaps I’m wrong, so I think it’s worth giving the book a try, if you’re into historical fiction.

It’s not all bad though. The plot is particularly light and it’s a quick read! It just didn’t work for me.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
It’s not for me!- 2.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (December):
Finding Jennifer Jones-Anne Cassidy

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Thoughts:

I remember reading a book by Kristin Hannah in my pre-blogging days. It absolutely broke my heart and I remember actually crying over it. Therefore, when I knew this book was about World War II, I knew it was going to be another book that would play with my emotions.

The Nightingale centres around Vianne and her sister Isabelle. We learn about their experiences through World War II. Vianne and Isabelle have had a hard life. Isabelle was only four when their mother died. Their father was traumatised by the First World War and has sent them away unable to look after his daughters. Vianne met her husband Antoine. Isabelle ended up feeling very neglected by her father and became rebellious. Later, as World War II began Vianne and Isabelle began to experience curfews, rationing and blackouts. Isabelle is determined to do something worthwhile. She hates living life the way she is and joins the resistance fighters. Vianne meanwhile, has a Nazi soldier living in her house. Vianne is keen to keep her daughter safe. However, when people start to be taken away, she struggles about what to do…

I thought this book was so expertly written. We all have heard about what life was like for people in World War II, but I had never really thought about the struggles they must go through. Vianne had to constantly battle between whether she should work with the enemy to get small favours for those she loves or fight against the opposition for what’s right.

I can’t even begin to imagine what life was like for those living in that time period. Never knowing when it was going to stop. It’s terrifying. Kristin Hannah doesn’t shy away from describing how awful their experiences were. This book is heart-breaking but so very important to read.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re into historical fiction!

The Invention Of Hugo Cabret

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I was absolutely captured by this stunning book. It’s such a beautiful reading experience. Brian Selznick has created such amazing illustrations and a captivating story line. I’m sure any child would get something from this book. It’s one I’m going to be recommending to my school ASAP.

The Invention Of Hugo Cabret is about a little boy who looks after clocks in a station. He is left alone and carries on working on the clocks and also something that was a mystery to him… It’s also about a man who had a dream and his dream disappeared before him. I absolutely loved how much emotion was captured in this story. Even though it is essentially a story for children, it can be enjoyed by so many more people. It captures France at the time beautifully.

I loved that each character had something different to give. They weren’t your conventional story characters. I appreciate diversity in literature, particularly children’s literature. It’s so important to represent a range of people.

This is one of the most unique books that I’ve read and that’s down to Brian Selznick’s approach to storytelling. The story is half told through beautiful illustrations. I spent so much time pouring over the illustrations and looking at what they were telling me. The story itself is very simple but it’s engaging. I loved the balance between illustrations and written word. The illustrations really helped me imagine where the story was set. It was like a movie.

I do think there’s something for everyone in this book. It’ll work for you if you’re into graphic novels, films, and a touch of magic.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A unique reading experience. I highly recommend this book!

Letters From The Lighthouse

Letters from the Lighthouse

How did I get it?:
It was a gift from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

February, 1941. After months of bombing raids in London, twelve-year-old Olive Bradshaw and her little brother Cliff are evacuated to the Devon coast. The only person with two spare beds is Mr Ephraim, the local lighthouse keeper. But he’s not used to company and he certainly doesn’t want any evacuees.

Desperate to be helpful, Olive becomes his post-girl, carrying secret messages (as she likes to think of the letters) to the villagers. But Olive has a secret of her own. Her older sister Sukie went missing in an air raid, and she’s desperate to discover what happened to her. And then she finds a strange coded note which seems to link Sukie to Devon, and to something dark and impossibly dangerous.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adore Emma Carroll’s writing. I don’t know why I didn’t get around to this book any sooner, because my goodness it was amazing. It didn’t take me long to devour. As soon as I get started on an Emma Carroll book, I’m instantly gripped and Letters From The Lighthouse was no exception. I cannot recommend Emma Carroll’s books highly enough. I can’t wait to teach juniors again so I can expose them to her beautiful writing. I will, however, pass this book onto our Year 5/6 teachers, especially because their topic is going to be World War II. This book would be incredibly for those older children to explore.

Letters From The Lighthouse centres around Olive and her little brother Cliff, who are evacuated to the Devon coast after a bomb raid in London. During an air raid, their older sister Sukie goes missing. Olive finds a coded message which seems to link Sukie to Devon. Olive is determined to find out what’s going on with Sukie, but she never expects to find out what she does…

This book does have light and dark moments. I loved the lighter moments, but it was the darkness of humanity around that time that struck a chord with me. It always makes me feel so disheartened whenever I read about what Jewish people went through. I wish things had been different.

I loved the characters Emma Carroll has created. As ever, they are so well rounded and developed. There wasn’t a character that I didn’t feel for in one way or another. There are some genuinely touching moments. I shouldn’t have been surprised, as Emma is a wonderful writer, but the poignancy of this story really touched my heart.

This book may be intended for children, but it’s a pleasure for adults to read as well. It will stay with me for a while, I know that.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A simply stunning read about family, grief and tolerance!

Banned Books #37 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

banned books

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

The Kite Runner

First published: 2003
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.

Synopsis:

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This book was first published in 2003, which is fourteen years ago (I can hardly believe it!) but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in that time. I am however interested as to why it took five years to appear on the banned books list (2008) if it was published five years earlier and some people obviously had a problem with it. Hmm…interesting. If anyone has any ideas I’d be intrigued to know! So let’s start to talk about some of the reasons why it has been challenged/banned. Firstly, offensive language. Well, I’m not too easily offended but I can’t really remember any instance of foul language in this novel – if there was, I have clearly forgotten. It certainly wasn’t over-run with expletives in any way, shape or form, I would have remembered that!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can’t believe this book was published almost fifteen years ago. I don’t really understand why it was banned several years after it was published. That’s a bit odd to me. To be honest, when we were thinking of the books for the challenge this year, I wanted to read this one to work out why it made the banned/challenged list. I’m still a bit stumped. The language wasn’t that offensive. I guess the sexual content could be a bit much for some, but I don’t think this book is necessarily aimed at younger readers.

How about now?

BETH: In my opinion, there is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned in 2017. When I read our banned books, I tend not to look at the reasons they were banned until I come to write these answers, I like to try and figure it out myself while I’m reading the story. When I was reading it, I was struggling to be honest and the only thing I could come up with was the ONE sexual scene which is not overly graphic (but is still quite horrific, I have to admit) and then I thought, perhaps there was a bit of a problem with the religious aspects? This isn’t my view, I hasten to add. Reading the last reason though has me completely stumped. Unsuited for age group?? I’ve been struggling with trying to research this on the web but I don’t think this book is actually aimed at younger readers anyway. The violence and sex scene may be inappropriate for youngsters but I think older teenagers would get a lot from a book like this. 

CHRISSI: I really don’t think it should be challenged or banned in 2017. There is definitely a lot more explicit content out there. I think Young Adults could gain a lot from this book. I think it’s incredibly educative and something that shouldn’t be challenged at all. I certainly think it has a place in a high school/college library, with just a recommendation that their is some sensitive content within the story (some violence/sex scene).

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’ve actually read this book before and have written a longer review of it on my blog. I gave it five stars when I read it three years ago and I give it five stars today. It’s a hugely important and emotional story about friendship, family and war that taught me a lot when I first read it and reminded me of a lot of things I had forgotten when I read it for a second time. Everyone should read it!

CHRISSI: This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. It was interesting to read it back once more. I initially gave this book five stars, but I would say it’s a strong four for me as a reread. I think it’s so beautifully written and an incredibly emotional, moving read. I think it’s such an important book!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!