A Different Boy by Paul Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Paul Jennings has done it again. This carefully crafted book has emotional resonance, complexity in narrative, and is wrapped in an engaging and approachable narrative that would suit ages 8 and up. It is a simple story, but adds complexity with alternating points of view. Anton the orphan runs away, somewhat inadvertently, and finds himself a stowaway on a ship to the “New Land”. There he meets Max, a boy who is has his own struggles – with learning and reading and life in general. Max’s mother cares for Anton, planning to adopt him as her own when they arrive at their destination. Then a near-tragedy changes everything. I don’t want to give away anything because I like to be spoiler free, but there will definitely be tugging on the heartstrings as this tale reveals its secrets to the reader.
Absolutely recommended and a lovely companion to the earlier A Different Dog by the same author.
Broken Memory: A Story of Rwanda by Elisabeth Combres
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
April 1994. Rwanda is at war with itself. The Hutus and the Tutsi’s. On April 6th, after the assassination of the Rwandan president, the Rawandan army begins massacring the Tutsi population. Almost one million Tutsi citizens are killed. Emma’s mother is one of them.
Emma is five years old when her mother is brutally murdered by Hutu rebels. When they arrive at her house, Emma’s mother hides her behind the sofa telling her “you must not die, Emma!” These last words stay in Emma’s mind and make her determined to survive, no matter what the odds. After her mother’s death she finds herself swept along in a sea of refugees – ending up at the door of an old woman who takes her in.
Mukecuru becomes Emma’s substitute grandmother and gives her a sense of family. Slowly Emma begins to reach out to others, especially a boy named Ndoli, who has also lost everything and was horribly injured during the massacre. Ndoli befriends and old man and eventually so does Emma. The Old Man is someone who has been sent to Rwanda to help refugee children return home and begin healing the injuries of the past.
After a long time, he takes Emma home, where she sifts through what is left of her burned down house. As she sifts through the rubble, she picks up some of her mother’s possessions and turns them over in her hands. This triggers memories from her past that had been buried for a long time. She begins to remember her mother’s face, which had faded in her mind, and she breaks down amongst the rubble. This is a turning point for Emma. Her life will never be the same.
Recommended for ages 12 and up