OnceMorris Gleitzman has presented a fresh perspective of wartime Europe in his novel Once. The darkness of the holocaust is thinly veiled behind the narrative voice of the young Jewish boy Felix Salinger. Events spiral out of control in Felix’s life and the reader is forced to confront their own fears and presumptions about hate and revenge.







The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Pyjamas_060103092851541_wideweb__300x439“Berlin 1942. When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.”

John Boyne has created a beautiful and haunting depiction of a child’s life during World War II. As a young boy, the protagonist’s limited understanding of such a horrific event provides unexpected insight into the Holocaust and extreme racial persecution. It poignantly questions what makes us human, explores the nature of innocence and reveals the senselessness of prejudice.



The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank - Anne Frank, edited by Otto Frank

Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 and died while imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen three months short of her sixteenth birthday. “Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the horrors of Nazi occupation, hid in the back of an Amsterdam warehouse for two years. She was thirteen when the family went into the Secret Annex, and in these pages she grows to be a young woman and wise observer of human nature. With unusual insight, she reveals the relations between eight people living under extraordinary conditions, facing hunger, the ever-present threat of discovery, and death, complete estrangement from the outside world, and above all, the boredom, the petty misunderstanding, and the frustrations of living under such unbearable strain, in such confined quarters.”

My mum bought me this book when I was about Anne’s age, fourteen or fifteen maybe. I don’t think I fully appreciated Anne’s story then, but no wonder it was been one of the most admired autobiographies of all time. Her entries are raw and detailed, giving a close and unfettered look into life as a teenage girl. “In the midst of death we are in life” and so Anne’s teenage struggles are as real and jarring as any of ours, only set against an extraordinary background. Tragic and insightful and heart-breaking and inspiring.

Recommended for any high school reader, perhaps ages 14 and up. 4 stars.