This post contains affiliate links.
I realized that it has been almost a year since I’ve written a book review! I have been reading. I promise. I’ve also been listening to audio books! I have a whole list of things I read and listened to in 2020 and I promise I will get back to writing the reviews. As a mom, I rely heavily on reviews before making decisions when it comes to movies, books, games, etc. At the rate my children read and consume books, I just don’t have the time to pre-read everything. It is nice to be able to see what other people have thought, observed, etc. through reading or watching. So… if I can offer any kind of help to other people in my same boat, I will try!!!
White Bird is a beautiful graphic novel by R.J. Palacio, author of the book Wonder. The book is part of the Wonder storyline in that it follows one of the characters, Julian, as he reaches out to his grandmother (Grandmere) to learn about her story as young Jewish girl hidden away by a family in Nazi- occupied France during World War 2.
“In these dark times, it’s those small acts of kindness that keep us alive, after all. They remind us of our humanity.”
I love that quote. I love things that remind us of our humanity… especially in these times where we are masked and afraid all the time. I think the pandemic has stripped us of so much humanity… of the little acts of kindness… opening doors for each other, small talk in the grocery store, browsing at the library, playing together at the playground, cheering for your kids and their friends as they play sports. As things drag on, I am noticing so much compassion fatigue and unwillingness to offer kindness to those around us.
That was a bit of a tangent! Ok.. back to the book.
My oldest daughter loves graphic novels. These books are gaining in popularity and are becoming more and more available. I used to refer to graphic novels as “junk food” books. They are ok in moderation, but really you should be getting your meat and vegetables from other books… real books. I can no longer use that analogy in a broad manner of speaking because several books have come out in the past few years that really deal with hard topics and provide solid content. White Bird is definitely one of those books. It addresses the Holocaust in a manner that is appropriate for middle grades. It provides history with a personal connection. This could easily be any child’s grandmother telling the story of her history. Hopefully this encourages children to seek out their grandparents and listen as they tell their own stories.
One aspect I really appreciate in White Bird is the glossary at the back of the book. It contains terms and places mentioned in the book. Older kids who may want to do some more research or learn more about World War 2 and its history have a good place to start.
Julian (from Wonder) has a homework assignment, and reaches out to his grandmother (Sara) for help. The book is all about her story as a teenage Jewish girl in Nazi occupied France. She is separated from her parents when the Nazis come to her school to round up Jewish children. She escapes thanks to a boy with polio, whom until this point, she has mostly ignored. The boy and his family hide her for well over a year. Rather than focusing on anger and bitterness, White Bird does a great job of highlighting compassion, courage, and kindness.
The one thing I did not like about White Bird is towards the end when the author uses the story to compare the holocaust to the current border situation. I can understand the dehumanizing aspect of it. Certainly what is happening in our world today is not right and not loving and very confusing. However… to compare it to the purposeful rounding up and extermination of six million Jews and their sympathizers … not to mention the experiements and torture people were put through… and the destruction of property and war torn lands… well… there is no comparison. The author lost me at that point.
I think the subject matter of White Bird can be a little heavy for younger readers. I would recommend this book for middle grades and up. It opens to the door to some great conversations and would be a great stand alone read or a perfect companion to a World War 2 study. It is a quick read with engaging story and illustrations.
Just in case it needs to be said, I am by no means a professional book reviewer or book critic. I just like to read and share what I have learned. I am also an affiliate with Amazon. If you click through and purchase through links on this blog, our family will receive a small percentage from the purchase. Thank you.