Monday, November 23, 2009

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

All kinds of emotions are present both in this book and in me when I think about this book. Personally, I have never read any books specifically about war. They just aren't really my genre because when I read I want to have drama but more in a things-are-bad-but-not-in-a-life-and-death-kinda-way. That does not mean though that I didn't enjoy this book. Well, maybe enjoy isn't the right word. To me "enjoy" would seem to imply that this was a happy book, if that makes any sense. And even though it had its moments, by and large, this book wasn't about happy. It was about hope and the human spirit and condition. It was about family and surviving all obstacles together. Some parts of this were just painful to read. I know that it is something that came up in discussion a lot and it was mentioned in nearly every ones blog, but the part where the baby was thrown out the window of the train. Okay. It isn't that I don't understand why this was done, they couldn't leave the body behind for all kinds of reasons. It feels though like this is one scene in particular that outlines the true horrors of war. In a very literal sense, everything that is true and pure about the world, like a child, is thrown out the window during war. The other children in this story are another example of this though as well, they don't have to die to be horribly scarred by the events of war. This is something that is evident in every war ever fought, right up to today. It is always the people and the children, the civilians, who are hurt most by war. Despite all of the hardship that Yoko and her family endure, I am glad that there was a semi-happy ending when her brother comes and meets up with them. Honestly, it reminded me of seeing my brother for the first time after he came back fighting in Iraq.

This kind of paired text set is a wonderful idea and I would certainly consider using it in my classroom. I might even use it for some other kind of lesson besides history. These books are particularly good though because they focus on an aspect of history that is not discussed very often. It might also be interesting to do a paired text set dealing with the Holocaust. One book from the point of view of a Jewish child and one from the view point of a German child. Or a German soldier and an American or English soldier. This kind of thing really helps students to understand that there are two sides to every story.

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