My rationale for choosing this subject is found in the aim of the course itself. World War II, although enduring only four years for Americans, has played a sizable part in the history of American Children's Literature, both in itself and in its preparation and wake. There have been many books written about the war that pertain to the people who were children at the time of siege and about their coping and survival. I myself was a child during the war years and remember quite keenly that at the time my reading habits were being formed and becoming fixed. I thought that there was very little literature then about the war and that most, if not all of it , had been written immediately after and beyond the war itself. However, Jean Wood Garrison's survey shows that over 300 books with war-related themes were published for children during World Wars I and II in England and over 400 in the United States. She categorizes her plots as follows: (a) home front, (b) home front in other countries, (c) evacuation, (d) flying, (e) sea action, (f) spies, (g) land fighting, (h) animals, (i) sabotage, (j) girls in action, (k) training and (l) miscellaneous or undetermined. Garrison found that there is no significant difference in the English and American books. She found very few books of quality and only a few that are now still in print. (Garrison, 1981)
I remember being an avid reader, consuming as it were multitudes of books in all of my spare time, that included my favorite fairy tale author /editor, Andrew Lang. I also remember reading some "romantic novels" during my literacy development, that I preferred to "tuck away" in my fancy as I grew older. This is not to say that I was ashamed of having read so many of them, but rather to hold them in a safe place in my imagination to be able to escape to from time to time. Needless to say, I, as a child during the war, was not bothered, in my quest for literacy, about the crimes and atrocities and the ultimate futility of the waste of human lives. It was not until this fellowship program at Yale that I was made to recall that scurrilous period in my "reading trek."
My choice of topics led me to find out what other authors (different from my early authors) felt about the war through children's literature. My unit, through many studies, reviews and surveys, will show the pervasive influence of World War II on children's literature. Because I was a child during this event, I felt legitimately led to this rationale for my unit.
Marcia Shutze and Dr. Jean Greenlaw (1975) examine twenty-two books in their survey of the trends in juvenile books set during the war. The books they survey were written after the war itself into the 1970s. The authors say that books with World War II settings have increased in number since the late 1950s, beginning then and increasing throughout the 1960s into the 1970s before waning. Jane Yolen, who wrote
The Devil's Arithmetic
, points out that mass media has brought societal conflicts within everyone's immediate sight, including children. The print media has a larger readership today than ever before because more people, including children, are able to read. A change in attitude from the "Peter Pan Principle" has brought more realism to children's literature. Some of the books that I will use could be considered realistic fiction as well as historical fiction. Shutze's and Greenlaw's books are broken down into two subgroups: (1) those published in the late fifties and early sixties, and (2) those published since 1965. Authors in the first subgroup portray war poignantly and realistically, by pointing out war's horrors and tragedies.
Some significant titles in this group are: Meindert DeJong's
The House of Sixty Fathers
(1956), John Tunis'
Silence over Dunkerque (1962),
Hilda Van Stockum's
The Winged Watchman
(1962), James Forman's
The Skies of Crete
(1963), and Margaretha Shemin's
The Little Riders
I Never Saw Another Butterfly
The second subgroup, those published since 1965, make the strongest war statements and do not always end on a happy note. Some titles are: John Tunis'
(1967), Betty Jean Lifton's
Return to Hiroshima
(1970), and James Forman's
Ceremony of Innocence
Betty Jean Lifton's
Return to Hiroshima
(1970) is a nonfiction book showing the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on the city on August 6, 1945. The book contains pictures, so that there is no way to escape the reality of war.
Ceremony of Innocence
(1970) is a work of fiction but based on factual events. Two close friends and all of Munich University's students, during the time of the war, wrote and published
leaflets denouncing Hitler and Nazism.
Some books that do not show the horrors and cruelties of war, by not ending in death and destruction, are: Esther Hautzig's
The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia
(1973), Judith Kerr's
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
(1972), Elliott Arnold's
A Kind of Secret Weapon
(1969). Here, Peter Andersen and his mother escape from the Gestapo in Denmark and begin a new life in Sweden. Erik Haugaard's
The Little Fishes
realistically portrays a picture of a war victim's life.
Shutze and Greenlaw survey other books that show examples of war's maturing effect on all different types of children. James Forman's six novels are cited:
The Skies of Crete
Ring the Judas Bell
Horses of Anger
My Enemy, My Brother
Ceremony of Innocence.
Ring the Judas Bell,
Shutze and Greenlaw tell us that in postwar Greece, Nicholos and Angela, after having lost their mother to Nazi execution and being kidnapped by Andarte, the Communist guerrillas, escape from prison and lead several other youths home.
Horses of Anger
, fifteen-year-old Hans is helping to man an anti-aircraft tower near Munich and wondering how long it will be before he himself will be killed.
, Paul engages in subversive work against the Reich in order to save his town from destruction by the Nazis. Sixteen-year-old Daniel survives a Jewish concentration camp at the end of World War II when the story begins, so for him, childhood has already ended. Two more nationally acclaimed, award-winning books reflecting the maturing effect are Bette Greene's
Summer of My German Soldier
(1973), and Johanna Reiss'
The Upstairs Room
(1972). The latter chronicles the life of Annie, a Jewish child of six, from 1938-1945, war's end. The problems of the terror of hiding are much more vivid when seen through the eyes of a child.
In summarizing their review, Shutze and Greenlaw state that children today have available to them an excellent collection of quality books with World War II settings, which make sensitive statements about the harsh realities of War and what it does to people.
I also consulted Joan Stadium Nist's review, "Perspective on World War II" (1981). She reviews six books on World War II for two pages each, stating in her rationale that even though each of the books shares a common theme in the historic events, each author presents his/her own country and each condemns war.
She uses Alki Zei's
She explains that even though this book portrays the war in Greece (a minor theater), Zei shows that no suffering or courage is minor.
In Robert Westall's
, Nist writes that Westall realistically portrays the relationship between an enemy airman and a group of working-class youngsters. She also credits him with going beyond the conflicts of the war into the ageless conflicts between generations. "The Germans cease to be the only enemies. All the adults were a kind of enemy now." (p. 95).
Search Behind the Lines
tells of two young people in Russia, which suffered the highest casualties of any nation during the war, who hide and survive in Robinson-Crusoe-like fashion from the enemy for three years. Nist describes Ryss as a war correspondent who wrote several children's works including "Search," which became a prize-winning film in 1946, in Russia but which was not translated until 1974.
Hans Peter Richter's
, Nist describes as autobiographical. She writes that German authors are haunted by the memory of the war because of the "degradations perpetrated by the Nazi regime." The book has an unnamed, first-person narrator and emphasizes the theme of pervasive helplessness and horror. Richter's historical chronology parallels the Third Reich and the Holocaust.
Summer of My German Soldier
is a book that I intend to use in my curriculum. Nist assesses it as "the story of a young girl seeking close relationships during her struggle to maturity." Greene adds Anti-Semitism to the mix. Patty is a Jew, who comes to be called "Jew Nazi" (p. 160) when she befriends the German prisoner, Anton. Yet the book does not reflect military action.
, by Sheila Burnford, is a book that shows more scenes of the war's devastation and destruction than do the others in Nist's discussion. Bel Ria is a dog which several characters in the book credit for their survival. Burnford shows that throughout the book, he has been an "innocent . . . caught up in man's lethal affairs" (p. 198), sharing the suffering in the desecration of war."
Nist feels that World War II gains deeper dimension and scope when children are able to read stories from their own background as well as those written for children of another country, especially those reflecting that nation's perspective on the conflict.
David L. James (1977) offers a review of recent books on World War II in his survey. He bemoans the fact that so many writers are reluctant to "probe the troublesome, psychological and spiritual questions that war should provoke." Of the fourteen books that he reviews, he chooses two for detailed discussion: Robert Westall's
and Nina Bowden's
Robert Westall says of
The Machine Gunners
that he is preoccupied with the way the violence is kept in check. A group of children salvage a working machine-gun from a crashed Heinkel. With the help of a surviving German airman, whom they are holding hostage, they get it working and use it against a Polish corps which they mistake for German invaders. The battle ruins many adult reputations and the airman is seriously wounded.
James does not feel that Westall has sufficiently shown how people keep their violence in check. He feels that we are being asked to salute physical courage in the book. At the end the two fathers admire their sons' courage.
In Nina Bowden's
, James feels that the author makes a serious comment on violence without really trying. Carrie Willow, the character, is developing an awareness of other people's mystery and misery. He cites two scenes in the book, —— the hay making scene in which Frederick Evans taunts Mr. Johnny and is in turn attacked with a pitchfork, and Carrie's farewell to Mr. Evans who tells her his unhappy love story.
The other books are discussed briefly. In Jill Paton Walsh's
The Dolphin Crossing
, two boys eager to serve the nation defy their parents and assist in Dunkirk's epic evacuation. John Aston, who initially protects Pat Riley from prejudice and insults, has a brother who is a conscientious objector. This further complicates the plot.
In Spite of All Terror
also deals with the retreat from Dunkirk. Jill Paton Walsh's
again deals with two children who escape their parents to accomplish daring deeds. James applauds Walsh's historical recreation, at the children's level, of the London Blitz.
Dawn of Fear
develops the idea of a local squabble between rival groups going on beneath the German bombing of London.
The Year of the Wolves
tells of the end of the war in rural East Prussia. James thinks that it is admirable the way this German novel owns up to its nation's complicity in the extermination of the Jews. "None of us raised our voice in protest. We're glad we're not going there (to the . . . "camps"). Our silence is our sin."
Yuri Suhl's book,
Uncle Mischa's Partisans,
confirms prejudice. The wife of a German officer hypocritically defends her Jew-hating husband, who, as a German officer, has spent his life plundering Jewish homes.
When the Siren Wailed
tells a story of bombing and evacuation, but is steeped in class stereotypes and snobbery. Pygmalion-like.
Dark River, Dark Mountain
takes place in wartime Britain. An aura of mystery and confusion is created when crews are used to change signposts and remove milestones to confound the potential invader. This is a revealing study in national and personal paranoia.
is a story told retrospectively about a brother and sister who substitute the place, Medleycott, for their remote father. Both children run away to a Commanding Officer, whom the father has dismissed earlier. The book ends with Edward, the boy, dying in the Korean War.
book set in the Channel Islands has as its theme the moral issue of collaboration or resistance. There are many instances of heroism. Morgenstein is partly English and hates the leader but feels he must fight for his country anyway. He finds himself with men whose attitudes and opinions are so anti-human that he shudders.
tells about the Danish resistance. The author did a lot of research and uses long historical explanations of the Maginot Line etc. The Danish underground movement is sabotaging Nazi-sponsored industry. There is a lot of action and little sympathy for the enemy.
In Mara Kay's
an English girl smuggles a Jewish family out of Nazi Germany. She finds that her friend Eleonore is really a Nazi agent who betrays her own Jewish mother. The last episode is the final car journey taking concealed Jews to freedom in Switzerland. Kay's method of conveying the political background by long lectures on the economic position of Germany and her attitude toward Jews is subtly done.
Betsy Hearne (1980) gives an overview of United States children's literature. She feels that since the United States was neither an occupied country nor a battleground during World War II, the flavor of the fiction published here is different. There are almost twice as many nonfiction books describing military, political and social events as there are fiction books about individual experiences.
She mentions that
Fly Away Home
The Diary of Anne Frank
, and others have been absorbed into United States Literature. Other sources of first-hand experience on the war front come from refugees who escaped to America and have written of their ordeals. Authentic stories of personally known situations are:
which chronicles the deaths of all but one Dutch Jewish family, and
On the Other Side of the Gate,
which tells of Jewish resistance to persecution in Poland. Hearne says that these are not necessarily autobiographical, but carefully researched war-time situations.
There are also stories of the non-immigrant Americans' experience of World War II; soldiers at the battle front and those who waited and worked on the home front.
Alan and Naomi
The Summer of My German Soldier
focus on the victims of the war, but none so poignantly as Uchida's
Journey to Topaz
which tells of the United States government's mistreatment of Japanese Americans in internment camps. Most of the home front stories feature the war as a backdrop. Such books as
Make Me a
Hut School and the War Time Home-Front Heroes
reveal in varied degrees the involvement and understanding of American youth at that time.
Hearne says that few children's books have glorified the war but there seem to be three kinds of juvenile literature written about World War II. The first is written by people who have experienced some phase of it, but are not skilled in writing about it. The second is written by people who have no first-hand experience about the war but know how to write a story. The third is written by a person with first-hand experience and knowledge of how to craft a story. The last kind brings the war waged half-way around the world painfully close to home. Hearne also says that it is extremely important that children experience the human cost of war through literature. Each classroom history assignment should include not just names and events but the reality of separation, death, and the destruction that disfigures the true face of war. "Students drawn by tanks, airplanes and battle strategies can realize through some of these books, the difference between toy history and personal tragedy." Hearne feels that that understanding is crucial to those who hold future peace in their hands.
In 1979 and 1980, the journal
published a series of brief essays under the general title "World War II Reflected in Children's Books" (Kaminski, et al., 1979 and 1980): Kaminski (1979) writes that there is a considerable amount of literature for young people informing them about World War II. She has included books that by their narrative have influenced the reader; books that give the impression that when the Germans had to flee, the misery then began. Her selection of books came about because she felt moved to include them, not only because they met her standards but also because they should still be available.
Lucia Binder (1979) says that reading materials for Austrian children have always been influenced by the German book market. In 1938 when Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich, a change came about. Two characteristic books of the time aimed at winning over young people for Hitler are
Quex and Austrian Girl
. Binder says that not even first graders were spared from propaganda. Binder tells of her own experience of having won a photo book as a prize and visiting Hitler in Bavaria and giving him a kiss. She remembers being the envy of the entire class.
The first Austrian book of the war was set in Japan —
The Day of the Bomb
. Then a number of books from other countries came to Austria. She says the first book about the war set in Austria did not appear until 1965 (
The Net of Shadows
by Kathe Recheis). It dealt with the dissolution of the Austrian concentration camp for Jews. Binder feels that Austrian books have made the contribution of "arousing reader interest and making them knowledgeable" about the war.
Sheila Ray (1979) looks at British books that were written forty years after the beginning of the war and are still available today and also books that were written from 1939-1945. She lists several books already mentioned: Streatfield's
The Children of
(1941); (1967-1973) Walsh's
The Dolphin Crossing
Spite of Terror
(1968); and Turner's
(1973). Ray says that much of her understanding of the real war issues came from the "Chalet" books (
Chalet School in Exile
The Chalet School Goes to It
). She writes of the objectivity of Westall's
(1975) and Nina Bowden's
(1973). She feels that British writers of the 1960s and 1970s have set their stories during World War II because (1) they can vividly recall what it was like to be a child during that period, (2) "it" provides a useful catalyst for an interesting story and (3) they want to show today's children the realities of war, both its issues and its horrors.
Genevieve Humbert (1980) attempts an analysis of the abundant war material for young French people. She discusses in detail a few books and lists their goals in a three-fold category: (1) they aim to acquaint the youth of today with a part of the national history so that they can better understand the present-day situation (2) these books describe the war's atrocities without overly dramatizing them (3) they can teach the reader what the German Philosopher Ernst Bloch called the "Prinzip Hoffnung," hope.
Yoshiko Kogochi (1980) breaks his books down into these categories: A) Early works (4 books), produced fifteen years after the war:
Harp of Burma
Yuri and the Little People
which gives a picture of a group of boys who had to tackle life on their own at that time; B) The Atomic Bomb and the Air Raids (11 books); C) Evacuation of Children and Other Themes (6 books).
Journey to Topaz
, one of these six books, tells the story of Yuki, a Japanese-American citizen of California who is sent to a concentration camp when war breaks out between the United States and Japan. (p. 13).
Mary Jean Laubenfels' 1975 dissertation was "A Study of the Theme of War in Selected Literature for Junior High Readers (1940-1975)." The main purpose of her study was to examine juvenile books on the theme of war. "If war is to be rejected as an unthinkable reaction to group conflicts, then it is vital that the present generation of school children be informed as to the vast tragedy and suffering it has caused." She finds that early adolescence, grades seven to nine, is optimum for studying social concepts such as war and peace and contemporary literature on the theme of war. Her dissertation is six chapters long.
Chapter I describes the junior novel as an effective vehicle for relaying human relations concepts to adolescents. Research shows that students' attitudes toward social problems are affected by reading.
Chapter II surveys the results of more than thirty years of research on students' attitudes toward war and peace and their knowledge in this area. There was found to be little correlation between the two.
Chapter III examines attitudes of earlier writers toward war and discusses the changes occurring in adult war fiction.
Chapters IV and V compare junior novels of recent conflict with novels of the World War II theme. The appendix contains annotated bibliography of over two hundred war books recommended for adolescent readers.
Chapter VI concludes with three recommendations: 1) Schools should emphasize study of the cause and effect of war and alternative solutions at the junior high level; 2) Junior novel literature is important in fostering international understanding at that level; 3) There is need for further research into the effects that literature dealing with current social problems can have on the attitudes and behavior of students at this age.
This Fellowship program has enhanced my curriculum immensely. I will now be able to introduce much more literature to my students. Those who are non-readers and those who are super-readers will all benefit from the prose, stories, novels, and films. I have done a lot of research and have found many authors, both American and foreign, who use World War II as a background for their books. The research will help me to teach subjects across the curriculum. My unit, however, will focus primarily on the American books which I have included in my bibliography.
Since I teach Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies every day, I will have the opportunity to use many books. My students will be able to critique such books. They will be able to orate. They will learn the essence of story-writing; the how and the why stories are written. They will also learn about author's styles. They will be introduced to some classic literature within the genre.
I cannot think of a better subject to use in order to teach my students. I have often told them that from kindergarten to third grade "
they learn to read
and from fourth grade on,
they read to learn
." There is no more effective or more appropriate tool to use in order to bring them into the realm of beautiful literature. It could be an easy and delightful task to use Historical Fiction, and the many cultures that Multicultural/International literature offer, especially, to teach Social Studies. Traditional Literature (including the Classics), Modern Fantasy, Realistic Fiction and Non-Fiction also offer a plethora of learning opportunities and enjoyment. Even Music and Art could be intertwined with Children's Literature. I have studied Children's Literature before and will welcome the chance to develop and use this curriculum unit in my classroom.
I intend to use all of the books in my bibliography, eventually. Some are stories of actual war experiences and some are well written fabrications. I have chosen four books to critique here, fully, and to use simultaneously with the videos that I have been able to secure. Two of the books take place in Europe, one totally in the United States and one in the Dutch West Indies.
Stepping on the Cracks
by Mary Downing Hahn takes place in the United States. Lois Lowry's
Number the Stars
, and Jane Yolen's
The Devil's Arithmetic
take place in Europe, and Theodore Taylor's
takes place in the Dutch West Indies. These are all stories that are happening because of and during the war. Some of my objectives will be to provide students not only with bibliography, videos, maps, and tapes, but also with study guides with easy-to-follow lessons on mediation skills and realistic cases that they can mediate; creative problem solving activities; and reproducible pages with activities to accompany the selections on peace. The value of my unit will be seen in the achievement of my objectives.
Students will study some of the reasons for the war, its outcomes and the fallout. They will write book reports, reenact battles, and talk of legislative controls and the governments involved. They will research the way that things might have been changed or had different results. Some of the fun ideas will be learning of and discovering the fashions, foods, temperaments, and economics of the time.
The study of World War II can be used, as I said, across the curriculum. In doing so, students will have the opportunity to study technology. My research has provided ample material for them to do so. There are more than enough resources. Even if used broadly, it will probably take years to completely finish the unit. My critiques follow.
Stepping on the Cracks
(1991), is an autobiographical, historical novel by Mary Downing Hahn. In 20 chapters, Hahn relates what she remembers about the war time when she is only a child, in first-person narration. The book opens with Margaret Baker and her best friend trying to fend off a bully, Gordy Smith. Gordy is constantly taunting them. He seems not to care that they are girls. It is during the war time and both heroines have a brother in the service. Even though American children have not been directly exposed to war, Hahn parallels the "war" with Gordy with the real event, happening at that time.
The girls are constantly thinking of ways to outdo Gordy and ways in which to make him keep his distance. Gordy's story starts to unfold when they follow him into the woods one day and find that he is visiting Stuart, his older brother who is supposedly in the army. Hahn portrays him as a conscientious objector, who runs away from the armed services because of his belief. He is hiding in the woods, apparently afraid to return home to a tyrannical father. They discover too, that Gordy probably behaves the way that he does because of the father. The father is always drinking and abusive to the mother, children and pet.
Gordy, fiercely loyal to his brother, is helping to hide him and has been visiting him as often as he can. The situation probably would have gone on for a much longer period of time if Stuart had not become ill. The girls begin to feel a little pity for Gordy after seeing how poorly his father treats him. They try to help with Stuart, but as he seems to be getting worse, they decide to tell an adult and get some real help. Stuart goes to Barbara's for a while, and there he mends. Her parents do not know that he is AWOL. Barbara decides not to tell them. Elizabeth's father is a policeman and the girls want him to know how Mr. Smith is so that he can arrest him. Mrs. Baker tells her daughter Margaret, our story teller, that only Mrs. Smith can have Mr. Smith arrested. She does when Stuart returns home and is almost beaten to death by his father.
The story ends happily, with Barbara and Stuart getting married and Mr. Smith being arrested. Despite all of the nuances, when Hahn weaves in bits and pieces of the war, the girls call Stuart a "deserter." Mrs. Baker cannot believe that Margaret would help a deserter, while her brother is fighting for our country and ultimately gives his life for it. Hahn keeps the war at a distance in her story. That is the way she sees it, as a child. She has a way of weaving in domestic problems; Gordy's bullying others, Mrs. Smith being a battered wife, poor whites in a middle-class neighborhood. The war seems to be the thread tying the book together. The death of the heroine's brother is as close as the harshness of the war ever comes. The town is still concerned with its domestic problems; the children at school, etc. The interweaving of the war into the lives of the townspeople is subtly done. In this way, the almost perfect balance of this fictional town is never upset. The war is seen through the eyes of a child, (our narrator).
In the Newbery Award winning book,
Number the Stars
(1989), Lois Lowry tells of a family in occupied Denmark who help their Jewish friends escape to Sweden and safety. Annemarie Johansen and Ellen Rosen are best friends during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. The Germans are "relocating" Jews and the war is brought home to the children in the book when Jews start disappearing. When Ellen's mother and father disappear, she is told that they have gone away for a while and she has to stay with the Johansen's. As it turns out, each member of the Johansen family plays a part in the Danish Resistance movement which helps the Rosens escape to Sweden and safety. Annemarie's family hide Ellen "in plain sight" as one of their children, when the Nazis come to check for Jews. It is not revealed until the end of the book that the older Johansen sister has also been a member of the Resistance.
Annemarie and her mother go to visit Annemarie's uncle. Suddenly, people gather as if at a wake, for an aunt which Annemarie has never heard of. Mother has made a basket of lunch for her fisherman brother, who is sailing Jews to freedom. It is very exciting and informative to find out that hidden in the lunch basket are hankies, doused with a chemical that dulls the senses of the German police dogs, so that they can not sniff out the Jews hidden in the fishing fleet waiting to sail to freedom.
The family is right in the middle of the war. We see it through the eyes of the children. It is Annemarie who goes through the forest at night, risking being caught and found out by the Nazis. Her mother has sprained her ankle on the trip back from her brother's fishing boat. When almost at the clearing leading to the boat where her uncle awaits, Annemarie is stopped by three Germans and her basket searched. The fact that she does not know that she is carrying contraband is probably significant in her success. The Germans who stop her have dogs. They take each item out of her basket and either offer it or actually feed it to the dogs. When they come to the hankies, which Annemarie's mother has wrapped in a napkin, they make a joke about the uncle throwing them back into the basket. She leaves the discarded items with the dogs or on the ground and runs on to give her uncle the basket, just in time before he sets sail. There are enough drug-soaked hankies for all the other fishing boats.
Lowry treats the war in her book in a very dignified fashion. There are no atrocities seen. As Shutze and Greenlaw (1975) say, the further away we move from the war, the less it is written about. However, Lowry's coverage is realistic. I think that "Number" fits into Shutze and Greenlaw's subgroup number two.
by Theodore Taylor is a nineteen-chapter book of fiction that deals with the war in the Dutch West Indies. The book won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award when it was published in 1969. It can be considered realistic fiction of Shutze and Greenlaw's subgroup number two. The story takes place in February, 1942. It starts on the island of Curacao, the largest of the Dutch islands just off the coast of Venezuela, where Phillip, our narrator lives. Phillip is an eleven-year-old boy, whose father works in a refinery for lake oil tankers. When the big British Tanker, S.S. Empire Tern, is torpedoed, Phillip's mother, Grace, decides to take him home to the United States (Norfolk, VA). They leave the patriotic father behind and sail for home on the S.S.Hato, a small Dutch freighter. Two days after leaving Panama, they are torpedoed. Something happens to the life boats and Phillip and Grace find themselves in the water. They are near each other but Phillip loses consciousness when a heavy piece of debris hits him on the head. When he awakens, he finds himself on a raft with only one other person, a huge Negro, named Timothy, and a cat. Timothy tells him, in his West Indian accent, that he thinks that Phillip's mother is probably safe on a raft like theirs. After a couple of days, Phillip goes blind, having had a delayed reaction to the bump on the head when the ship had sunk. Timothy takes care of him and Stew Cat until they sight land and drift into the cay, a small island with no inhabitants. Here Phillip, Timothy and Stew Cat survive for several weeks. Timothy teaches Phillip how to take care of himself. They build a shelter and lay white rocks out on the beach so that they might be rescued. They store berries and fish. Timothy has taught Phillip how to fish and to keep time by dropping a pebble in a can, daily. A couple of times airplanes fly over the cay but do not see their "H E L P" sign. They go on with their daily routines until a furious hurricane kills Timothy and slashes away most of their home. Phillip manages to survive (after having been saved by Timothy), clumsily, until he and Stew Cat are rescued. He has survived, even though blind, from April until late August. The war, after the torpedoing of the ship, seemingly has no connection to them, although it is probably the reason that they are not picked up sooner. This is realistic fiction at its best, but with the war being seen through the eyes of an eleven-year-old and old Timothy. At the end of the war, Phillip's father, not being needed anymore at the Royal Dutch Shell Company, takes the family (mother and son) away from Curacao. Phillip has three operations on his eyes and although he has to wear glasses, he is grateful for having regained his sight. He vows to revisit the cays to try to find the lonely little cay where Timothy is buried.
This is truly a poignant story, which happens because of World War II. Once the war events are set in the Dutch West Indies, we are no longer concerned about it except for an occasional reference to it by Phillip's parents and friends. He has grown up on the island while trying to stay alive. I agree with Shutze and Greenlaw when they say that the war has a maturing effect on children who live through it. This is a realistic experience that Phillip has to go through away from his family. While they have their own problems, we are not told that they are survivors until the very end of the book.
This is a delightful book to read. I think that fifth grade students will have a lot to identify with even though most of them have not had to live through a war. Phillip also brings a lot of cultural "baggage" with him. Society has already taught him to look, even at his tender age, disdainfully on Timothy, whom he immediately assigns to the same class of people that he has seen hanging around the docks at home. His scorn is short-lived, however, when he realizes that he has to depend on this person for his very survival. He, slowly at first, tries to scoff at Timothy and "puts him down" with every phrase and thought. But Taylor weaves these two lives together so tightly, that Phillip begins to depend on Timothy as he has his own father. As we read, we feel, vicariously, that these two are becoming closer and closer. The war is only a distant background. I recommend this book as a brilliantly-written piece of historical as well as realistic fiction. It certainly will be one of my curriculum items next year.
The Devil's Arithmetic
, a novel by Jane Yolen, was published in 1988 by Viking Kestrel. As a piece of realistic and historical fiction, it falls into the Shutze, Greenlaw subgroup number two. The book depicts the Holocaust, time travel and fantasy. Hannah, a twelve-year-old Jew, resents all of the ceremony attached to the traditional Passover feast and celebration. At one of the holiday gatherings when she is selected to symbolically open the door for the prophet Elijah's entrance, she finds herself transported back in time to another place. She is in Nazi-occupied Poland, known by another name (Chaya) and very uncomfortable. While she is attending the wedding of a member of her new "time" family, Germans herd the entire wedding party, guests and others into box cars, which have no windows or any other kind of ventilation, and take them to concentration camps. There, unspeakable horrors and atrocities are done to them. The war is an everyday experience for this young girl. They are branded. The stronger ones of the group try to support the frailer ones. They are starved and brutalized. The children are allowed to survive by one German officer, if they agree to run into the rotted, sloppy garbage dump and hide in the muck, while Jews are being chosen for extermination. The situation of course, reminds me of the biblical Jews in Egypt, who are also scathed and mistreated. Pharaoh, having been given every message and chance to mend his ways, refuses them all, while still chastising the Jews. They are tattooed, for life, not only physically, but mentally as well. The scars never heal.
Hannah and her family do not realize at first, what is happening. It gradually comes to them when they are let out of the box cars, and herded together behind barbed-wire fences and given one piece of clothing apiece with no shoes, that they have been abducted and placed in "camps." They are all cold and hungry. Yolen exemplifies that spirit which the war seems to develop in them, that helps them to survive. Her little village of people are prime examples of the victims of the Holocaust. After several months, Chaya (Hannah) finally escapes from the camp and the "time warp" to return to contemporary time and home, now a person full of respect for the traditions of her race. Even though there are many heart-rending events in the book and the war is recounted on practically every page, it is an interesting study in courage. I think that this will be an excellent book to have my fifth grade class read and study. It should lead to some very active research on World War II.
Yolen, who gave her children English names as well as Hebrew ones, wants them always to remember the Holocaust. She feels that she comes from a typical "blended" American family, which means that they are a product of dis-memorification, which they prize so highly, but she states that some things should not be forgotten. The Holocaust is one of them.
The book list in my bibliography is long and I will have enough material for more than one curriculum, but doing a thorough job will not only stretch out the curriculum, but also have a more lasting effect.
There are several videos and films, described below, that I will use in my unit. The fifteen
Crucial Turning points of World War II
are highlighted in detail in three Reader's Digest films; five on land, five by sea and five by air.
The Diary of Anne Frank
are movies starring famous actors.
Sink the Bismarck
Survivors of the Holocaust
are documentaries that I found and am sure will be of great value.
: Five crucial turning points in the war
l) Hitler was trying to take the Kremlin and the Volga at the same time. Russia had learned not to defend exposed places. Hitler's determination to take both at once gave Russia time to regroup. When Hitler was ready, so was Russia. The Russian winter set in and the Germans were put on the defensive for the rest of the war.
2) If the Guadalcanal airstrip was successfully taken by the Japanese, Australia would be vulnerable to attack by Japan. The allies chased the Japanese away and took over the airstrip. The Japanese, however, came back to fight at Iron Bottom Sound. While allies unloaded their supplies, the Japanese had time to regroup. Luckily, the marines had an early warning system by Australian and native coast watchers, so they were able, if only barely, to get away. Henderson Field was the crucial prize. Six thousand Japanese were again turned back by the allies.
Admiral Bull Halsey was appointed to crush Japanese naval support. November 12-15, 1942 was the fiercest battle. Halsey crushed the Japanese navy and won the island of Guadalcanal. Five thousand Japanese tried again in their last ditch effort to regain the island but were annihilated by American airmen.
Had we not taken Guadalcanal, the Japanese could have extended their domination of the Pacific to Australia and the United States might never have been able to push them back.
3) In North Africa, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, was appointed to seal off the Mediterranean from the allies. Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia were Hitler's. The British had Egypt and nearby Gibraltar. General Dwight D. Eisenhower led our invasion, called "Operation Torch." It was successful. British General Bernard Law Montgomery (Monty to his men) was appointed by Winston Churchill. The success of the invasion gained us needed experience and opened the back door to Hitler's Europe. Rommel's illness gave Montgomery a good chance to win El Alamein. This was the pivot point of the North African war campaign.
Rommel asked Hitler for fresh troops, but Hitler's distraction with Russia made him deny Rommel. This was a mistake and a third turning point of the war. As German officers surrendered, America prepared to enter the war. "Operation Torch" was America's North African theatre (Algiers, French Morocco near Casablanca and Iran). The American army approached from the north and the British army from the south. If successful, they could squeeze the German army out of North Africa. We lost, however, and the Germans broke through Kasserine, but their troops and supplies were depleted. They withdrew. Now Germany had a two-front war to fight.
4) General Eisenhower led "Operation Overlord," which culminated on June 6, 1944, D-Day! The British had its Armada. America was creating, each month, one hundred forty ships, two thousand five hundred tanks, fifteen thousand jeeps, and eight thousand airplanes. With all of this, the success lay in keeping the Germans guessing. General George Patton's "Operation Fortitude" was the hoax that led the Germans to believe that the invasion would take place at Pas de Calais, the narrowest part of the Channel. Patton kept himself visible. Dummy tanks and trucks were placed throughout England to complete the deception. The invasion took place on the five beaches of Normandy; Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha, and Utah. Hitler, convinced that the invasion would be at Calais, delayed his decision to move for seven hours. This was a pivotal point in the war.
5) Iwo Jima was General Douglas MacArthur's and Admiral Chester Nimitz's war theatre. Mount Suribachi was strategic to Tokyo.The Japanese army, led by General Tatabishi Kuribayashi, entrenched itself inside the mountain. After only four days of battle, Old Glory was raised. The Japanese were prepared to fight to the death, but flame throwers were used. More than five thousand marines were lost in thirty-six days of battle, but of twenty-two thousand Japanese, only one thousand survived. Kuribayashi's body was never found.
Sea: Five crucial turning points in the war
1) England's fleet had to have one million tons of supplies by ship each month.
German U-Boats plagued the fleet. During the Battle of the Atlantic, Merchant Marines brought fifty-five million tons of their yearly supplies to Britain. The Graf Spee hunted allied ships and was successful until it was attacked off the coast of Uruguay by four small British ships. Captain Hans Leinsdorf scuttled the ship and killed himself.
Admiral Karl Dernitz asked for extra U-Boats. Hitler refused, so Dernitz used what he had. Forty-one British supply ships were sunk by German mines and U-Boats. Hitler was building ships in France. British supplies were cut off, so they started sailing in convoy to avoid detection. U-Boats then hunted the seas in wolf-packs. Churchill asked Roosevelt for help. The Lend-lease act was born. Through the Atlantic Charter, Great Britain and America protected the Atlantic together. Two hundred forty-nine of the three hundred U-Boats that Dernitz had originally asked for were made. America was turning out three ships a day. Fifteen hundred in all were made. American ships were being made faster than the Germans could sink them. Ninety-two ships were sunk off the coasts of Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., and Miami. Twenty-five ships were sunk off the coast of Florida because residents fearing that their tourist trade would be hurt, refused to turn off their lights. The war had actually been brought to our shores. This is a little-known fact.
Finally, in 1942, "Enigma," the German code, was broken. Sonar enabled us to pinpoint German U-Boats. Airships destroyed U-Boats with two depth charges called "Hedgehogs" and "Squibbs." Some German captains surrendered their U-Boats rather than risk capture. The German Kriegsmarine had been beaten.
2) The Battle of the Coral Sea introduced "Carrier" warfare. Moresby Port had to be captured by the Japanese if the United States was to be stopped from using Australia as an ally. United States' intelligence broke the Japanese code. This was a turning point in the war. The Lexington and Yorktown carriers were used. The Japanese used dive bombers, fighters and torpedo planes. In the battle, the Lexington was sunk, but the Yorktown was saved. After that the Japanese called off the attack. No battleship salvoes were fired.
3) The film shows our and the Japanese Imperial Navy's power at Midway. Admirals Nimitz, Spruance and Fletcher were used on their carriers, Hornet, Enterprise and Yorktown. Because the United States had broken the Japanese code, Americans were ready for the attack. The Japanese, however, mistakenly launched a second attack. This mistake was a turning point in the war. American carriers sank three Japanese carriers. The Yorktown was unfortunate this time and sank. The last Japanese carrier, Hiryu, was sunk, but Admiral Izaroku Yamamoto's defeat was hidden from the Japanese people. At Midway the Americans avenged Pearl Harbor.
4) General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz fought in the Philippines at Leyte Gulf. If the Japanese lost the Philippines, they would also lose their oil supply in the Dutch East Indies. They used decoys, but America launched its battle on Leyte in October. Our aircraft shot down one third of the inexperienced Japanese pilots. The Princetown was sunk, but so was a Japanese battleship. Japanese Admiral Kurita called off the attack and fled, fearing that he was headed for a trap. MacArthur had, as he had promised, come back.
5) The Japanese Kamikazes fought in the battle of Okinawa. Under General Mitsuru Ushijima, they engaged the United States carriers Intrepid, Franklin, and Wasp. General Buckner was asked to call off the attack to save our threatened supplies. Japanese General Isamu Cho, assistant to Ushijima, as a last ditch effort, asked Ushijima to counter attack to regain lost ground. This mistake was a turning point of the war. Japanese aircraft ran out. Cho's attack had left the battleships unprotected and exposed to our artillery fire. Okinawa was the last battle. Ushijima committed harakiri.
Air: Five crucial turning points in the war
1) The German Luftwaffe air force fought the Battle of Britain. The RAF was in top condition. General Hermann Goering had the fast Messerschmitts. The British Hawker Hurricane and the Spitfire were slower than the Messerschmitts. British radar, however, could locate the Germans before they could attack. The British won the first battle. The RAF destroyed the German air force two to one. An accidental bombing of London on August 24, 1940, was a pivotal point in the war. The RAF in turn bombed Berlin. Churchill was goading Hitler into attacking London so that the RAF could have time to regroup. The Blitz was a success. The RAF had refreshed, repaired and regrouped. Well-rested RAF Spitfire pilots engaged Messerschmitts over London and won. The invasion was canceled because the Germans could not launch an attack before the Channel became impassable by winter.
2) The point of Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle's Raid was to use a carrier to launch bombers. It was thought that the carrier runway would be too short. He and Admiral Mark Mitcher, commander of the Hornet, used the Hornet and Yorktown to get near Japan. However, surprise was destroyed so the bombers were launched five hundred miles earlier than planned. Sixteen bombers led the attack. They landed in China. This was one turning point of the war.
3) The battle for the sky over Europe was fought by the United States B-17's, the Flying Fortress and Germany's speedy Focke-Wulf. Production of the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang was stepped up. These gave the allied bombers protection and shot down more than four hundred German fighter planes. Allied control of the air led to control on the ground.
4) Carrier war waged. "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" was the name given to the battle that American airmen won near Japan. The B-29's could carry more payloads, but an airstrip was needed near Japan. Admiral Mark Mitcher had an armada of fifteen aircraft carriers. They landed at Saipan. Japanese Admiral Jisaburu Ozawa said, "The fate of the empire rests with us." Inexperienced Japanese pilots were put in the air. The Mitsubishi Zero was outdated. United States pilots commanded the sky with the Hellcat fighter planes. Dozens of Japanese planes were downed in minutes. Admiral Ozawa launched his third and fourth wave of planes into the meat grinder, believing that the first and second waves had gone on to refuel. That mistake was the pivotal point of the battle. Two Japanese carriers were also sunk. Only twenty United States airplanes were shot down. Eighty more ran out of fuel and were ditched. The capture of the Marianas was a turning point.
5) Roosevelt died three weeks before the collapse of Nazi Germany, with the Atomic Bomb secret. Now Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Marianas could be used to launch B-29s to crush Japanese industry and morale. The allied invasion was launched. Japan knew that she could not win the war but she would not give up. Children were used as human bombs and women were given sharpened bamboo sticks to ward off allies. At Oak Ridge, under Brigadier General Leslie Grove, Americans were working on "The Manhattan Project," creating the bomb. The bomb, called "Fat Man," was detonated in New Mexico for practice. The Japanese rejected the "Potsdam Agreement."
Colonel Paul Tibbets, in the "Enola Gay," dropped "little boy" on Hiroshima. Japan still did not surrender. The second target was Kokura, but since it was obscured by clouds, Nagasaki was chosen. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. On September 8, 1945, General MacArthur presided over the surrender.
The Diary of Anne Frank
is a movie that was produced by George Stevens in 1959. It was an academy award winning film in black and white, in two parts that ran for 170 minutes. A thirteen-year-old girl chronicles the lives of two Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in a cramped, tiny attic in Amsterdam. She and seven others struggle to survive for two years with Hitler's sirens in the streets below as a constant reminder that his army is always waiting. Anne's inquisitive mind and unceasing belief in the future transcend their tragic confinement. The film is a profound presentation of the human spirit. It has been a moving and uplifting movie for generations. It is one that I will be able to adapt easily to my unit.
is a Steven Spielberg movie also in two parts. It is a more recent presentation of the Holocaust that took place during World War II. It is a black and white film with some color segments. It runs for three hours and seventeen minutes. It was made in 1993 and presents the indelible , true story of the enigmatic Oskar Schindler. Schindler is a member of the Nazi Party, a womanizer and war profiteer who manages to save more than eleven hundred Jews during the Holocaust. It is the triumph of one man who made a difference and the drama of those who survived one of the darkest periods in human history because of what he did.
Sink the Bismarck
is a documentary that I viewed recently on television. The Bismarck was a huge German Battleship that plagued the Atlantic, sinking as many British ships as it could. So successful was this "seemingly" unsinkable craft in its devastation on the high seas that the battle cry became, "Sink the Bismarck!" The ship ruled the Atlantic in early 1941. When it was sunk in May, only one hundred fifteen crewmen out of more than two thousand survived. Thinking that they were going to be attacked again, the British ship that was taking on the prisoners left over eight hundred in the ocean to drown while they sailed to safety. The British captain, Hood, finally felt avenged when the Bismarck went down. The sinking was the beginning of the end of "battleship war." Air battle power took over and aircraft carriers became the demons of the sea.
Survivors of the Holocaust
is an historic documentary which chronicles the events of Shoah (Holocaust) as witnessed by those who survived. The program weaves together archival footage and an original music score with survivors' personal testimonies and photographs, chronicling life in prewar Europe, the devastating impact of Nazism, the liberation of the concentration camps, and life fifty years later. As survivors relive their stories on camera, many for the first time, those who watch can not come away without being deeply affected.
It was the profound impact of the survivors' stories that prompted Steven Spielberg to establish "Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation," a non-profit effort to videotape tens of thousands of these precious accounts and make them available for education around the world.
The video contains an additional segment, hosted by Ben Kingsley, which takes the viewer behind the scenes at "Survivors." Footage of Spielberg is included discussing and describing this ambitious project. This is a very fitting document for my unit.