A Year of Borrowed Men by Michelle Barker, illustrated by Renne Benoit

Published by Pajama Press

 

Summary: In 1944, when Greta was 7 years old, she and her family were told by the German government that they were getting three French prisoners of war to live on their farm. They were “borrowed men”, only there for the duration of the war, which Greta likened to the way her father has been “borrowed” to serve in the war. The men had to live in the barn with the pigs; when Greta invited them in for dinner one night, her mother was called into town and threatened with imprisonment. But despite the difficult living situation and the lack of a common language, the family and the prisoners became friends. Greta found a way to help them decorate their tiny Christmas tree, and they helped her when she accidentally melted the hands and feet of her new Christmas doll. A year later, the war ended and the prisoners were liberated, but the memory of the friendship continued on. An author’s note gives more information about her mother, Greta. 40 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros: A gentle and touching introduction to World War II. Although a few wartime atrocities are alluded to, all the characters in this story are kind, wanting to help each other despite being on different sides.

Cons: Kids will need some historical context before reading or hearing the story.

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