Tuesday, 3 July 2018

52 Reading Challenge Week 26 - A book you were supposed to read in school but haven’t yet.

Okay, we had a few issues with this one. For one thing, we're a bit light on the ground. Even though we're all quite busy at this time of year (when we're not helping students, we finally have time to work on the dozens of projects that have been waiting for our attention), it's really the best time of year to take off a week or two as leave, so quite a number of our ranks aren't here to review books for us.

The second problem we have with this week's challenge is that it required us to have not read a book that was mandatory reading at some point. We're librarians. We didn't exactly gravitate to this job because we're not into that "reading" thing.

So we only managed to rustle up one naughty kid for this week:

Sharon Bryan read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr.

I can't remember what grade I was in when we were supposed to read this book. It was either Year 8 or Year 9 (as part of a unit where we also read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank). I also can't remember why I didn't read it.

I do remember that, years later, I confessed my sins to my English teacher, and assured her I meant to get around to reading the book at some point... and she conspiratorially whispered in my ear:

"You didn't miss much."

Well, Mrs Macey, I've finally made good on my promise. I have read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (820 KER). And, you know what? I really didn't miss much.

The book is concerned with a family who flee Germany during Hitler's rise to power. As the father of the family is Jewish, affluent and a writer, he realises that Germany isn't a safe place for the family, so they run away to Switzerland, and then migrate to France and England. And nothing much happens.

The (semi-autobiographical) book is told from the perspective of the youngest member of the family, Anna, who is nine years old at the beginning of the book. She is sheltered from most of the events that cause her parents concern, so as far as she is concerned this whole "refugee" thing is a bit of an adventure. Sure, they go from being rich to just scraping by. And she also finds herself struggling with new languages in new countries. But by and large she doesn't really have what you might call a "difficult childhood."

At the end of the book, she even acknowledges this herself:
Could her life since she had left Germany really be described as a difficult childhood? ... No, it was absurd. Some things had been difficult, but it had always been interesting and often funny ... As long as [the family] were together she could never have a difficult childhood. (Kerr 190)
 That said, I kind of liked the book. It wasn't exactly movie material, but not every book about historical events needs to be. It was a nice little story about a nice little girl and her nice little family who were living in difficult times. We have the follow up book in our collection, The Other Way Round, and I'm thinking of following the family to England to see what happens next.

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