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A Year of Borrowed Men

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About the Author

Michelle Barker wrote A Year of Borrowed Men from the early childhood memories of her mother, Gerda. A versatile writer, Michelle has published short fiction; nonfiction; a fantasy novel, The Beggar King; and a book of poetry. She has lived and traveled in many places with her husband and four children, settling most recently in Penticton, British Columbia. Renne Benoit is the award-winning illustrator of more than 15 books for children. She has won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award for Children's Literature for Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion; the OLA Silver Birch Express Award for The Secret of the Village Fool; and the Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize for Fraser Bear and Goodbye to Griffith Street. Big City Bees was nominated for the Governor General's Award. Renne lives in St. Thomas, Ontario.


Based on a true story, this precious gem evokes compassion in a way that is sure to resonate with young audiences... Photos preceding and following the text document what Gerda, her family, and the farm looked like. Illustrations done in watercolor and colored pencil, with a touch of pastel, create a beautiful backdrop that darkens and lightens with the tone of the narrative. VERDICT Purchase where nuanced portrayals of family during World War II are needed. Keep the tissues close by! School Library Journal Benoit's watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations...combine precise details...with a softness and warmth that convey the tenderness of memory. She strikes a tone of gentle sweetness...that, like the text, is never sappy. Children will find many things to notice, and the book raises some interesting questions, such as the complicated idea of who is an 'enemy.' The Horn Book Magazine A tender memoir of human decency during wartime...The addition of old family photos from that time is poignant. This heartfelt picture book helps readers appreciate wartime's toll. Kirkus Reviews The story, it turns out, is not about prisoners or the ravages of war so much as it is about kindness and humanity - a powerful message equally relevant today...[A]t its heart, this family tale is a tender evocation of empathy, bravery, and friendship Quill & Quire Benoit's realistic watercolour, coloured pencil, and pastel illustrations employ an earthy palette that brings this heartfelt story to life... [T]he overarching theme of kindness in a time of mistrust and suspicion gives the story a universal appeal that will likely spur many thoughtful discussions. Highly Recommended. CM Magazine Based on her mother's childhood memories of Germany during World War II, Michelle Barker's book is a poignant account of one family's brave acts of kindness in an atmosphere thick with fear and distrust...Renne Benoit's watercolour, coloured pencil and pastel illustrations convey a pastoral environment imbued with the bleakness of war. Canadian Children's BookNews A fine story of 'borrowed men' and their effects evolves in a story seldom told for this age range. Midwest Book Review A Year of Borrowed Men contributes positively and significantly to our understanding of the compassion of some of the German populace who placed themselves in an almost untenable psychological and ideological situation. Resource Links This story reminds us that friendship has no borders. Beautiful watercolour drawings and original photographs make this a great book for youngsters. Calgary Herald Ontario artist Renne Benoit's gentle paintings help show compassion is possible even in times of war. The Winnipeg Free Press If you like books that inspire lots of questions from your kids, this is a good one. Victoria Times Colonist This story shares that no matter the situation, kindness and friendship can be shown to those around you...Recommended. School Library Connection A simple story which can teach young children to see the humanity of people at war. Youth Services Book Reviews A beautiful, poignant story that subtly introduces humanity during times of war. Books for the Curious Child Read this brave, kindhearted story with children ages 4 and up. Warm, homey illustrations strike a gentle tone throughout. An Author's Note tells more about the harrowing war experiences of the author's mother. Orange Marmalade Books This story of kindness, friendship, and a loving family is illustrated realistically with watercolor, colored pencils, and pastel to evoke the warmth of the situation at a time when there was little hope for many. The addition of family photos and an author's note add clarity. This is a story to be a Remembrance Day Service...or at Christmas, a time of giving and for being kind and thankful. Sal's Fiction Addiction Although the story covers the year the POWs were at the Schlottke's farm, because of the number of pages devoted to Christmas, it makes a nice holiday story, as well. There may not have been Peace of Earth at that time, but at least on one farm there was Goodwill towards men. The Children's War [T]his book is a very human look at hard times in European history. Full of tender and sweet moments and the harsh realities of suspicion sand cruelties of war. There's a Book For That

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