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A friend is a comrade, chum, compatriot, crony, advocate, ally, a confrere ( I like that word). The bond of friendship is forged by many and varied things - common opinions and values, humour, food, shared experience, even disagreement can bring us together as friends. Friendship can be lifelong or fleeting. We remember friends from when we were little - when everything was supposed to be a great deal less complicated but often was not. Then there's the primary playground where we fell in and out of love with our friends as quickly as the cloud moves across the sun. Then, in a teenage time of change we longed for or adored or hated our friends and most probably all at once.
And now? Well, I'll return to now at the end of this blog.
friend - noun a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. orig. present participle of frēogan, cognate with Gothic frijōn to love
See how dark and gloomy the world looks when you're friendless.
Harry - in a place of isolation
The world can seem big and cold ...
Croc is looking for a friend at Christmas
You might be lost and sad ...
I loved the brother sister friendship in I'll Give you the Sun, how it broke down, how each made new friends, before finding each other again. I also loved, as a child, the sibling friendship in Linnets and Valerians. Perhaps it has something to do with not having silblings that this type of friendship always catches me. Nicky Schmidt
Nobody understands you like a friends does ...
“Without friends, no one would want to live, even if he had all other good.' Aristotle
Wise words, Aristotle. In other words, you don't need stuff to make you happy. One of my favourite picture books about friendship is this one ...
Crispin has everything or does he?
Crispin has every expensive present he could possibly wish for at Christmas but he finds no joy in them until he has friends to play with as well. At the simplest level friendship makes us happy and the lack of it makes us sad. Friendship can be profound and it can be frivolous. It can make us laugh, it can make us cry, it can make us really cross, it can support us in our hour of need, it can save our lives. It is the stuff of stories.
I would not wish Any companion in the world but you. (The Tempest 3.1.60-1), Miranda to Ferdinand
For me, friends are the thrumming heart of stories. On her own, our hero is alone in the woods with only the wolves for company. She spends her time scrabbling for berries to eat and scurrying to the makeshift hut to escape being eaten. By the light of the makeshift fire, she knows that this is quite a boring and dodgy way to live. Eventually hunger drives her out of the woods (hers and the wolves) and she meets a small boy who gives her a three course meal. She discovers the joy of having a proper chat with someone who is not a tree and who also has the power to hypnotise wolves. Plus, he tells the best jokes. And we're off. There are as many different types of friends as there are characters
I love the way Oliver Jeffers explores friendship in his boy and penguin books (Lost and Found, Up and Down etc). The misunderstandings and problem solving are handled beautifully .Katherine Lynas
A short-lived but bright-burning friendship between a pig and a spider
Max is called stupid and Freak is called Dwarf but together they are unstoppable
Pippa WilsonFlora And Ulysses is an absolutely brilliant one to look at.
A friend is somebody to understand you when nobody else seems to
In Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray's, 'The Unstoppable Maggie Magee', the friendship between Maggie and Sol is unusual in that Sol cannot speak and has limited communication but Maggie is his friend and they find their own way to communicate because it's important to them. Their friendship takes them to the places that they dream of.
An important story of an unstoppable friendship
In Jeanne Willis', 'Dumb Creatures', Tom's got plenty to say but it's all caged up inside him. Then he meets Zanzi the gorilla who changes everything. Like Tom, she too can sign and it makes for an unusual and touching friendship.
Not so dumb creatures
In 'Siddharth and Rinki' when Siddharth moves to England he feels that the only friend who understands him is his toy elephant, Rinki. But slowly Siddharth understands that friendship can come through gestures and smiles and adventure.
You don't have to speak the same language to make friends
School Friends - The first rule of children's books is Kill The Parents/Adults, that leaves your character only one option - make friends. It's a brilliant story arc that works everytime. New school, everyone hates me, make friends. I'm all alone with no one to help me, turn to another child for solidarity. I use this theme again and again. Oh! My secret is out! Jo Franklin
Friendship can go beyond boundaries.
Wonderful, quirky friendships in a wonderful quirky world suggested by Pippa Wilson
Friendship does not recognise fences
Huckleberry Finn chose to be with friends with Tom Sawyer, "the best fighter and the smartest kid in town".He thought himself lucky to have such a friend and in 1884 America, such a friendship was also brave.
Stephanie Cuthbertson pointed out the friendship in Huck Finn as unconditional with no agenda and no prejudice.
Friendship can be stronger than death
Keith Gray has written a brilliantly unsentimental odyssey, Ostrich Boys. Three friends steal the ashes of their dead friend and set out to give him one last adventure.
"You know, yesterday and today have been amazing. All the stuff we've been through? And it's all been because of him. I'm telling you: we've got the best story ever. But he missed out. He's never gonna be able to tell it." His shoulders shook as he wept.
But they did it - Kenny, Sim and Blake. They braved authority and defied common sense for the sake of friendship. It's as good as picking up a sword. Remember Neville in Harry Potter?
Friends will go to the ends of the world to save you Someone can overcome incredible odds to rescue their friend. In The Snow Queen, small, young, Gerda risks her life and soul to recover her friend, Kay from the Snow Queen.
A wonderful illustration by the illustrator Amy Chipping
"I can give her no greater power than she has already, said the woman; don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has ... If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen
In the end, friends will not give up on you "To find out where Jonah had gone, he would have to go there too. One day it would come. He would hear something or see something, and he would know that this was the day. It might be only hours from now, it might be years. But he would know it when it came ... And then, he knew, he would find him."
When everyone else despairs of finding him, Joe never gives up on his best friend, Jonah
Story or real-life A friend will fight for us
Rescue us Stick up for us
Find us when we are lost
Support us when we are unsure
Tell us the truth Or close their eyes to our faults ...
Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Written by Josh Funk Illustrated by Brendan Kearney Sterling Children’s Books 9/01/2015 978-1-4549-1404-4 32 pages Ages 4—8 “He race is on . . . “Lady Pancake ad Sir French Toast are the best of friend until word gets out that there’s ONLY ONE DROP OF …
This month is Picture Book Month for those who love picture books, and Picture Book Idea Month if you are on the writing or illustrating end of picture books. Continuing with that theme is a wonderful, heartfelt picture book by Daniel Pinkwater and Will Hillenbrand. Bear and Bunny Written by Daniel Pinkwater Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand …
Through NetGalley, I had the opportunity to read The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin, a middle grade book that will debut mid-September 2015. In this book, Suzy Swanson processes the death of her old friend Franny and the end of a friendship. She grieves the way that she and Franny grew apart before Franny drowned. Suzy’s way of making sense of this loss is to fixate on jellyfish: she reads about them and believes that Franny must have drowned after being stung by a jellyfish because otherwise Franny’s death makes no sense.
When I worked in children’s publishing many years ago, I remember that we had specific educational books and then we had fiction. Years after I left that industry, I learned that even fiction books need some kind of educational component in order to sell them to the school and library market…I say that to say that this book has a lot of educational material. The author really packs in the scientific info and uses a science teacher’s explanation of the scientific method to introduce each chapter. This is not a bad thing but it is noticeable. When you choose fiction do you consider its academic as well as its storytelling merits?
At the end of the book, the author explained how the book began with the copious research she did for a different project that was rejected. She repurposed that research to create Suzy, a character who finds subjects she is passionate about but misses the social cues that would tell her when others may not be quite a interested as she is.
As a reader, I came to feel a lot of compassion for Suzy because she is so lost. The first half of the book alternates between the present and Suzy slowly narrating just how she and Franny went from young BFFs to sitting at separate lunch tables and no longer hanging out in middle school. As a parent, the book is a reminder of a child’s rich inner life: you just can’t know all your child is going through. Suzy’s well-meaning parents put her in therapy and try their best but they aren’t really reaching her.
The tone of the book changes when Suzy decides to embark on a trip to see the one person she thinks will understand her interest in jellyfish. While I’m not one who believes that every wring must be severely punished, I was surprised at the lack of consequences in this book. Suzy steals significant amounts of money from family members but I guess they feel that she has been through enough so they don’t address the theft in a punitive way.
Towards the end of the book Suzy finally reveals her rather disturbing actions that may have done away with any chance that Franny would reach out to her again. Suzy is never found out and doesn’t get to speak to Franny again before Franny dies but clearly Suzy feels a lot of guilt, which can be its own punishment.
Today is a special treat for me. I love the Monster & Me series by Paul Czajak and Wendy Grieb. Last year, I missed bringing you Monster and Boy’s Christmas story and Monster’s first party. So today I am giving you both. Consider it an early gift: a mashed-up double review. A first time venture …
It's 1945 and the war is over but not the danger. Felix, now 13, and Gabriek are hiding out in a relatively safe albeit rather wrecked building, and have one simple rule - Stay quiet and out of sight. There are roving bands of men wearing badges that say Poland for the Poles and never hesitate to shoot anyone who is Polish, and that includes Felix, who is Polish, but he's also Jewish.
The war was hard on Gabriek and Felix who lost quite a few people they loved very much, and now Gabriek spends most of his time sleeping off the cabbage vodka he makes in his still, when not doing repair work to get food for the two of them.
Felix, who wants to become a doctor, goes how on the streets with his "medical bag" and the skills he learned from Doctor Zajak, when he and Gabriek joined the partisans before the war ended. While out looking for people to help, Felix runs into two people - Anya, a mysterious girl wearing a filthy pink coat and carrying a gun, and Dimmi, who threatens the lives of Felix and Gabriek because the lock they fixed for him has broken.
Felix isn't out on the street long before he is kidnapped by the Poland for the Poles thugs who require his "medical services." Luckily, Felix escapes and back on the street, a woman throws her baby to him just before she is shot to death. Felix is immediately smitten by the baby and brings him home to an unhappy Gabriek.
It turns out that Anya is living in an orphanage with other kids under the care of Dr. Lipzyk, who invites Felix to visit his medical library anytime he wants to. But things happen that make Felix uncomfortable about the doctor. First, nothing seems to be done about Anya constant vomiting, then, Felix makes a deal with Anya for an endless supply of powdered milk and other baby needs for Pavlo (yes, Felix and Gabriek name the baby a nice Ukrainian name, since his mother was from the Ukraine), and lastly, the doctor cold attitude toward him when he sees Felix without pants on.
In the post-war danger and chaos in Poland, where hate and bigotry still seem to rule the day, will Felix be able to retain his hopeful spirit that the world will someday be a safe and happy place?
I wasn't expecting a 5th book and I may have jumped the gun a little in my need to find out more about Felix's experiences during World War II when I ordered it from The Book Depository. It's out in Australia, New Zealand and Britain, but I don't know when or if it will be published in the US. But is is do worth reading, even though I didn't get any sense of closure when I finished it - but perhaps that is as it should.
Soon is an action packed novel, partly because Felix is able to go out among people in a way that he hasn't been about to for a long, long time. And amazingly, Gleitzman has managed to keep Felix a consistent character in Once, Then, After, and now Soon even as he matures, and despite some of the horrific things he has witnessed (I don't count Now because it is about Felix at 80 year old and not told from his point of view). Felix is a character who seems to understand human behavior instinctively even if he does still read some behaviors incorrectly at first, but that is just because he is an optimist. And readers can't help but care about what happens to him.
Soon can be read as a stand alone book, but it would be a much richer experience if readers at least read the first three books. And like all of the Felix and Zelda family of books there is violence, but not sex or bad language.
Once again, Gleitzman has explored themes of family and friendship in the worst of times and written a powerful, appealing novel and now I would really like to know what happens to Felix next, but I have a feeling it's not going to happen this time.
You can read an except of Soon on Morris Gleitzman's website HERE
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library
Stanley’s Diner Written and Illustrated by William Bee Peachtree Publishers 8/01/2015 978-1-56145-802-8 32 pages Age 3—6 “Stanley is cooking for some hungry customers. He is also baking a birthday cake—but who is it for? It’s another busy day for Stanley and friends . . .” [back cover] Review Young children will …
Crow Made a Friend Series: I Like to Read® Written and Illustrated by Margaret Peot Holiday House 9/15/2015 978-0-8234-3297-4 24 pages Ages 4—8 “Crow was alone. He had a plan. He tried and tried and tried to make a friend. If you like to read, you will like this book.” [back …
If you’re anything like me you’ll love a good dog story, especially those feel-good ones of friendship, courage and love. Typically known as our best mates, the canine variety so often teach us about loyalty, responsibility and maintaining a zest for life, and these three picture books certainly contain these elements in their own gorgeous […]
Blue Whale Blues Written and Illustrated by Peter Carnavas Kane Miller 9/27/2015 978-1-61067-458-4 32 pages Ages 4—8 “When Penguin hears Whale singing the blues, he tries to help. But how exactly do you stop a blue whale from feeling blue? A delightful story about a whale with bike trouble and …
Rosemary Wellsis one of a handful of picture book author/illustrators, along with the magnificent Kevin Henkes, that I discovered more than twenty years ago when my first child was born. Wells and Henkes, both of whom are also gifted writers of chapter books for older readers, have this remarkable insight into children and the emotional ups and downs of being a little kid. Their picture books combine empathy, compassion and intelligent humor (as well as great vocabulary) with meaningful stories that never get old. Happily, two decades later, both Wells and Henkes continue to create wonderful picture books that I am always excited to read, even if my daughter can't sit in my lap to listen anymore...
With Felix Stands Tall, Wells revisits Felix the guinea pig. When Fiona asks if she can be Felix's best friend and he agrees, she tells him it's settled - the will be in the talent show at the Guinea Pig Jubilee and they will win first prize! She goes on to tell Felix that they will sing, "There's a Pixie in My Garden." When Felix asks if they have to, she assures him that best friends do everything together. Feeling reassured, Felix has his mother make him a boy pixie costume to go with Fiona's girl pixie costume (hand drawn patterns for the costumes make charming front pieces) and he learns the song and dance. And they do win!
Sadly, this is where things start to get bad for Felix. Minkie, Bucky and Dimples begin to tease Felix , at first just with words, but eventually with pranks like putting a Slime Creeper down his shirt and a chirping plastic cricket in his egg-salad sandwich. At lunch, Fiona notices something is up and tells Felix he is a "hot mess." While this may seem out of place for the tone Wells creates in Felix Stands Tall, it is delivered with such matter-of-factness from Fiona that it is downright hilarious. Wells has a distinct gift for comedic delivery in her characters - Ruby, the long suffering big sister to Max, comes to mind - and it comes through in the bold Fiona. Fiona shares the secret to her bravery with Felix (in a very sweet way that I could see kids trying out themselves) and it works for him! He even has the courage to counter Fiona's suggestion that they wear twin cupcake costumes for Halloween with an idea of his own - fire breathing dragons, the pattern for which appears on the endpapers!
Yet another hit out of the park for Rosemary Wells! You can read my reviews of other books by Wells - picture and chapter - here.
Rather than terrifying the boots off you, these two gentle yet energetic picture books caper around the Halloween spirit whilst addressing themes of responsibility, friendship and teamwork at the same time. A perfect opportunity to share some magic, cheeky giggles and affection with your little ones. The Witch’s Britches, P.Crumble (author), Lucinda Gifford (illus.), […]
Sometimes, it takes a little while for things to change from what they were to something different. Imagine a new seedling nudging its head up through the earth for the first time, no longer a seed, not yet a tree. This miraculous transformation of being represents the way I felt reading Martine Murray’s new mid-grade […]
Title: A Friend For Lakota: The Incredible True Story of a Wolf who Braved Bullying Authors and photographers: Jim and Jamie Dutcher Publisher: The National Geographic Society, 2015 Ages: 5-8 Themes/topics: wolves, hierarchy, friendship, bullying Source: review copy from publisher. … Continue reading →
I thought I could begin this post by asking whether you want your kids to be happy.
But I figured that even as a rhetorical question, it seemed a little silly. Of course we want our kids to be happy. Perhaps a harder question to answer is “How do we help our kids to be happy?”
Everything I’ve seen on fostering happiness says one key component is nurturing gratitude: learning to see the good and great things around us, focussing on the good rather than that which makes us bitter.
Dear Bunny… written by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Blanca Gómez is a very quiet, gentle way into having that discussion with our kids. Just what does make them happy and what are they grateful for?
A young child’s friend – a stuffed bunny – asks “What’s your favourite thing in the world?“. The girl likes so many things she decides to write them all down, and over the course of the pages that follow we see how even simple delights such as swinging high or splashing in the bath are what make her happy. What gives her the greatest joy, however, is that she has a good friend to share all these moments with – her beloved bunny.
There’s a gentleness and lightness of touch to both text and illustration which ensures this charming book never veers towards the saccharine. It’s a tender, reflective book, ideal for reading at bedtime, a sort of secular prayer. Moments of honesty and innocence inject a dash of humour, bringing the real child back into focus.
Subdued earthy tones in Gómez’s illustrations add to a sense of warmth and peacefulness. An interesting mix of highly patterned detail with much plainer expanses creates a sense of space, perhaps just the sort that is needed to quietly contemplate what brings us joy.
Sometimes it is hard to tell a friend how grateful we are for them – how much easier it is to tell a toy! But this lovely book makes it easier for us all to talk about good and positive things, and a book which spreads happiness is a very good book indeed.
Inspired by the illustration on the book’s front cover the girls and I set about making butterflies. Although it is hard to see it in the image above, the butterflies have gold foil edges to their wings – a delightful detail in the book’s production – and so our butterflies too had to have a brush with gold. Here’s how we made them:
I rather think that a bouquet of butterflies works just as well as a bunch of flowers!
Now seeing as Dear Bunny… is all about our favourite things and what we’re grateful for, here are my seven favourite things in the world (at this precise moment in time):
The way my 10 year wears her happiness on her sleeves.
The way my 7 year old gets cross when I tell her it really IS time to leave for school and she HAS to put down the book she is reading RIGHT NOW!
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Dear Bunny… include:
Creating a gratitude paper chain. If you make paper chains this coming Christmas, why not write on each strip something you’re grateful for, or something which makes you happy. Then you can string happiness all around you!
Once you’ve heard what makes your kids happy, actually going out and doing some of those activities! Stomping through puddles? Throwing piles of autumn leaves? Running as fast as you can down a hill? Go on… you’ll love it!
If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:
That’s Not Mine Written by Anna Kang Illustrated by Christopher Weyant Two Lions 9/01/2015 978-1-4778-2639-3 32 pages Age 4—8 “Two fuzzy creatures both want to sit in the same chair. The trouble is, they can’t agree who it belongs to. “Mine. “Mine. “They get madder and madder, until . . . …
Nightbird. Alice Hoffman. 2015. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
What one word best describes Alice Hoffman's Nightbird? I'd go with atmospheric. Did I enjoy it? Yes, for the most part. It's not a perfect fit for me, I'm not the ideal reader--the ideal match--for this type of book. But I enjoyed it and can easily recommend it to others knowing that they probably will enjoy it even more than I did.
The heroine of Nightbird is a young girl named Twig. (I have to say that I quickly came to love Twig.) Twig's life is a lonely one. For her family has a super-big secret that would endanger them all if it became known. Her mom trusts her to do what is best for the whole family. She can't invite friends over to her house, and, knowing that, she doesn't feel exactly comfortable going over to other people's houses. She knows that any "friendship" she begins would only lead to frustration and disappointment and misunderstandings. But when a new family moves in next door, a new family that isn't exactly "new" to the town, a family with historical roots in the community, Twig takes a chance and makes her first friend. Her mother may not exactly approve, so some discretion is needed, but Twig's life will never be the same...
The less you know about this one, the better, in my opinion.
Best Friend Battle. Lindsay Eyre. Illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2015. Scholastic. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
It was a quick read. Was it a good quick read? For the most part, yes. Though I admit I'm not the target audience for this one. Sylvie, the heroine, is having a hard time sharing her best friend, Miranda, with others. With a few boys, to be exact. And one of the boys she just can't stand. His name is Georgie. And she thinks he's awful. But her friend, Miranda, well, she's friendly with him. She even cheers him on at baseball when he's on the opposing team to Sylvie. How could she, thinks Sylvie!!! Or, perhaps, how DARE she?!?!
When the novel opens, Miranda's birthday is fast approaching, and Sylvie is quite DESPERATE. How can she prove that she is all the best friend Miranda needs, and, that there is no room for Georgie too?! Well, Sylvie's methods are a bit extreme. And the book does get a bit dramatic, more over-the-top comedy than serious drama. And some of this drama is due to Sylvie's twin brothers getting involved in the friendship war...
The beauty of children’s books is that they lend themselves to so many further experiences beyond the reading of the words. These three books contain just the right mix of language and animation to have you and your little ones practicing a few moves of your own. Puddles are for Jumping, Kylie Dunstan (author, […]
Friends are fun to play with. Friends keep you company. Friends comfort you. All this Emily knows.
She also knows a simple balloon can be your friend.
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai is the gentlest of observations about how nothing more than a plain balloon and a little bit of imagination can be the cause great happiness.
Emily receives a balloon and takes it home to play with. Soon she’s sharing everything with her balloon and takes it outside to play house with. One gust of wind, however, and it is stuck in a nearby tree. What will Emily do now? What will console her?
The innocence and lucidity of this story gives it charm that is utterly captivating. It celebrates a sense of wonder that we sometimes lose as we grow older, but which we’re only too happy to be reminded of. Emily’s natural openness, her ability to imagine and indeed truly see her balloon as a friend – to show such a easy leap of faith – will warm all but the coldest of hearts.
Sakai’s illustrations have a quiet magic about them, capturing Emily’s body language like poetry; in a way that seems so right, so simple and yet still startling in its accuracy. Minimal use of colour and lots of wide open white space create a sense of meditative timelessness. All in all a peaceful, lyrical picture book with the hallmarks of a classic.
We batted it about, we took it outside, we played “chicken” letting it float away and then catching it before it flew out of grasp!
We tied a spoon to the string and found the “balance point” – using blutack we added and removed tiny weights until the balloon with the spoon floated mysteriously in mid-air, neither touching the ground, nor flying up to the ceiling.
This turned into a science lesson the next day when we saw how how the helium appeared to become less effective at lifting the balloon (this is actually due to helium leaking out of the balloon, through the relatively porous latex) and we had to reduce the weight of the spoon to re-find the balance point.
Whilst playing with our balloon we listened to:
It Only Takes One Night to Make a Balloon Your Friend by Lunch Money (this really is a GORGEOUS song)
Dory and the Real True Friend. Abby Hanlon. 2015. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: My name is Dory, but everyone calls me Rascal.
Did I enjoy Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon? Yes, definitely. Did I enjoy it more than the first book in the series? I'm not sure. Not that a second book has to be more enjoyable than the first book. Not so long as it is at least as enjoyable as the first book.
So essentially, the premise of this one is: CAN DORY MAKE A REAL BEST FRIEND? That is the challenge given to her by her older siblings. They are confident the answer is no. That their sister is just WEIRD and DIFFERENT. Who would WANT to spend time with her...as she is?! Can she do it?! Read and see for yourself!
First, I do love Dory. I still love Dory. She's pretty much the same Dory we got to know oh-so-well in the first book. That being said, if readers haven't read the first book, I don't think they'd have any problem at all just picking up the second book. It won't take long for Dory to make an impression on readers.
Second, I do love her family for the most part. Do they always "get" Dory? No, not really. Dory surprises them in this one, I must say! They "thought" they knew her so well, that they could tell the difference between reality and Dory's fantastic imagination.
Third, I really appreciate that so much of this one was set at school. Part of me wishes it had been clear what grade--if any--Dory was in. We do know that this is her second year. That could mean two years of preschool, or, one year of preschool and kindergarten, or even kindergarten and first grade. (Though Dory doesn't seem like a first grader to me.) It doesn't really matter. Dory is DORY even at school. Whether Dory is purposely bringing her imaginary best friends with her to school or not. She can't turn her imagination off. Everyone KNOWS that Dory will never make a "true" "real" friend if she keeps hanging out with her imaginary ones, right?!
Fourth, I do love the illustrations. They really add to the overall Dory experience. And these two books are to be experienced make no mistake.
When the Germans arrive in June 1941, life changed for the Jews living in Prużany, a small town in Belarus. For 17 year-old Zlatka Sznaiderhauz and her family - mother, father, younger brothers Iser and Lázaro, younger sister Necha - life became more and more difficult. Restrictions meant no freedoms, no school, no jobs, little food and eventually life in a Nazi-created ghetto. Before long, daily lists began to be posted for transports to Auschwitz-Birkenau. On the third day, the Sznaiderhauz family was on the list.
Separated from her father and brothers, when they arrive at Auschwitz, Zlatka and Necha are sent to the right of the selection, her mother and brother Lázaro to the left and immediate death.
As Zlaka's story unfolds, so does Fania's in alternate chapters. Fania, 18, is sent away from her home in Bialystok by her family to Augustów in the hope of saving her life since she looked the most Aryan. Fania is quickly arrested for being Jewish and sent first to Lomża Prison, later to Stuffhof, where she learns that the Bialystok Ghetto has been liquidated. Heartbroken, Fania realizes she has lost her entire family. Eventually, Fania, and the three friends she made in Lomża are transported to Auschwitz.
Finding themselves in the same barracks, at first Zlatka shuns Fania's offer of friendship, but after Necha's death, it is Fania who pulls Zlaka out of what could have been a fatal depression. The two become friends and family to each other, determined to survive the brutal treatment they are subjected to in Auschwitz.
For Fania's 20th birthday, Zlatka decides to make her an origami birthday heart, an act of defiance that could cost them their lives. Zlatka does whatever she needs to - stealing, bartering, swapping - to get the materials for the heart. When it was done, it was passed to every girl at their work table, 15 in all, to sign and add their wishes for Fania. Even those girls who didn't speak Polish understand the importance of signing the heart.
Fania, Zlatka and the birthday heart survived Auschwitz, survived the death marches they were sent on at the end of the war, and survived the war.
Paper Hearts is a novel based on a true story. It is written in free verse and I feel that the
form and content of the story coalesce so beautifully that the reader can almost feel as though they are travelling side by side with Zlattka and Fania through everything.
Meg Wiviott got the idea for this novel after seeing a 2010 documentary film called A Heart in Auschwitz. The film chronicles the filmmakers quest to find Zlatka and Fania and bring them together again. Intrigued, Wiviott began her own research, which included hearing Zlatka and Fania's Shoah testimonies (Zlatka's in Spanish, Fania's in Yiddish( and a visit to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre to see the actual heart, which is on display there.
This is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of friendship, hope and love in the midst of so much brutality, death and hate.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL