WWII and the idea that stories have a story behind them.

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The Journey That Saved Curious George introduces children to the Rey's flight from Paris just says before Paris was occupied.

I found the book The Journey that Saved Curious George by Louise Borden at the library, and borrowed it thinking it would be a good way of encouraging the children to think about stories as having authors and authors as having their own stories. It also opened up a way of talking again about World War II.

Margaret and H. A. Rey were both born in Hamburg, Germany to Jewish families. They both traveled to Brazil, acquired Brazilian passports and then moved to France. The book outlines that early history and then zooms in on their adventures trying to leave France. The book touches on fearful topics like fleeing from a city about to be occupied, sleeping in barns and highschool floors, and seeing posters for missing children. Yet the book also manages to keep a light-heartedness about it with real photos interspersed with cartoonish pictures. There’s a humorous mystery involving why the story keeps talking about a monkey called Fifi whose pictures look tremendously familiar.

The story leaves unspoken the relevance of their Jewish heritage to their need to flee.  I like that because I can explain to them that the Jewish people were put in prison camps and killed, but I have no desire to emphasize to my 7 and 4 year old on exactly how badly treated the Jewish people were.

The Adventures of Herge tell about the author of the Tintin series. Unfortunately his life and this comic book based on it are not very childfriendly!

The style of pictures in H.A.Rey’s book reminds me of another book I have by The Adventures of Herge written by Bocquet and Fromental, about the author of Tintin cartoons. It is a comic book about him that I wish I could share with my children but cannot easily, since there are a number of very non-child friendly pages in that book. I have carefully shared with them selective parts of the book, about the role that scouting played in Herge’s life, or how during an early promotional stunt the actor playing Tintin ended up stuck holding someone’s apparently abandoned baby and other such stories. We’ve also talked some about how Herge continued to work during WWII and afterwards was blamed as a collaborator, and about the shortage of paper available for printing during WWII, a difficulty that the Rey’s faced as well.

Then there’s the book Pablo Picasso from the series Lives of the Artists. It isn’t as storiesh as The Journey that Saved Curious George, and its not a cartoon book like The Adventures of Herge, but since my children were introduced to Pablo Picasso in the story Lumpito, my four year old was interested in the Picasso book. I didn’t read it all out loud but we flipped through and looked at the pictures and talked about it. Picasso too lived through WWII. He remained in Paris during the German occupation, so we talked about how when the Rey’s were fleeing Paris, Picasso remained behind.

World War II might seem like a strange topic to talk to young children about but I’m hoping that approaching it through the lives of authors and artists will help the children to place both the people in history, and the war.

There’s another thing I’m hoping to do too. I’m hoping that by sharing with my children the idea that the authors have a time period and story of their own I’m laying the groundwork for talking about how those stories affect them. In the Tintin stories we can see the changes over Herge’s lifetime. In the Curious George stories we can talk about where he got some of his ideas.  I want at some point for them to be able to see that looking at literature can be looking at two time periods at once: the time period the author is writing from and the time period they are writing about.

When I read the Bible or when I read books about the Bible, I know I’m studying two time-periods at once. I’m reading about the time in which the different sections of the Bible was written and about the time they were writing about. There were parts written during the exile about the times before the exile. The time they are writing about is in some ways a projection from the time they were writing from. The meanings can change if we know when the different sections are written, and naturally with a text as old and tremendous as the Bible there’s also the redactors. Is something telling us about the time period it was written about, the time period it was written in, or the time period of the editors?

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9 thoughts on “WWII and the idea that stories have a story behind them.

  1. It is difficult to talk to kids about a war as awful as WW2, but my whole blog is devoted to the kids of books one can use. I loved The Journey that Saved Curious George, but haven’t heard of The Adventures of Hergé but will definitely be on the lookout for it.

    Thanks for this interesting, infomative review.

  2. What an amazing post. Hi, I am Sue. one of the hostesses from the Kid Lit Hop #7. I clicked on yours because I am a fan of Curious George, one of the books I fondly remember from being a kid. (It was only a couple years ago so it is fresh in my mind 😆 ).

    Wow, approaching the subject of war and one that effected everyone on the planet, must be a difficult and bumpy road. I just reviewed a book called The Secret of the Village Fool, which will be released in a few days.

    It is a WWII true story of a man a small village thought was crazy. He talked to animals and plants. Go figure, who hadn’t done that nowadays? The man was only treated with respect by one family, who happened to be Jewish. So when short notice came of a Nazi occupation of Poland and their village, the man suggested a way to keep the family safe in his root cellar. The 6 of them spent more than a year in a small dug out “room” under the ground of the root cellar. It is an amazing story.

    You have a very nice site and I am going to follow you as of today. I would love it if you could check out my site called Kid Lit Reviews at http://kid-lit-reviews.com. Please follow if it interests you. I’d love to have you.

    –Sue

  3. Another great post! WWII should be talked about, in a manner parents see fit. It is important too to ensure that what happened isn’t forgotten in hopes in never happens again. I have said it before, but want to say it again. I really love and appreciate your thought provoking, insightful posts and am so happy I found your blog! Keep up the good work, I will be reading 🙂
    PS- Sue does a wonderful job at Kid Lit Reviews, I just finished reading her current post.

    Paul R. Hewlett

    • Thanks.

      Just after writing that I liked not having to explain the Holocaust to my children… I ended up explaining a bit about it to the seven year old. We were in the car and I had turned the radio on and someone was talking about feeling despair, so I switched it off, but my seven year old said no, he was listening, so I turned it back on and we listened together to a radio show about Victor Frankl.

  4. Hi Christy, Great post as always. Thank you for sharing these books. I had never heard Herge’s story – how interesting! Some children’s books cover such difficult material but unfortunately, life’s like that and our kids need to be introduced to the inhumanity that does occur in the world at some point in their lives. I’m glad you connected with Alex (top comment) – her site is such a great resource for children’s books covering the topic of war.

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop – Happy New Year too! 🙂

  5. Thank you for this great post. The authors of Curious George were rescued from Nazi-occupied Europe by Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the great Holocaust hero, by a Portuguese visa issued on June 20, 1940. See http://sousamendesfoundation.org/rey/ for details. The Sousa Mendes Foundation, of which I am President and co-founder, seeks to educate the world about Sousa Mendes and the people he saved. We have just published a graphic novel that may be of interest to you and your readers, and the Reys are featured inside. See: http://sousamendesfoundation.org/books/. Keep up the great work!

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