Thursday, January 22, 2015

Are You Looking for Books About the Role of Children and YAs in History?

            Once again we owe a debt of gratitude to author Phillip Hoose for bringing us another true story about young people’s role in history. First there was his book We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History, a book that provides the missing stories of children’s role throughout American history. What a terrific asset for anyone trying to include more diverse stories into “the grand narrative” of U.S. history. Then there was Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice, the story of the young black teenager who refused to give up her seat on the bus well before the memorable actions of Rosa Parks. And she did more than that, too. Through Colvin’s story we learn that civil rights movement is much larger than we might have once thought. It embraces many, many more stories that are continuing to come to light.

            Now we have Hoose’s latest book, The Churchill Club: Knud Pedersen and the Boys Who Challenged Hitler. In this book, we learn how young Knud Pederson, his brother, and some of his schoolmates resisted the German occupation of Denmark during the early years of World War II by performing dangerous acts of resistance. At a time when the Danish government willingly turned over their country to Nazi occupation, the Churchill Club refused to accept Nazi control. If ever a story raised questions about moral behavior, this is it. Was it right to steal guns belonging to Nazi soldiers? Was it right to destroy cars and buildings used by Nazi occupiers? These kids ended up in jail. They suffered terribly. Yet, their actions sparked a larger resistance effort in Denmark.  If ever a book narrated history focused on the actions of kids, this is it. In fact, Hoose interviewed Knud Pederson when writing this book and many quotes from Pederson are included throughout the book.

            The Common Core State Standards ask us to pay attention to how an author’s point of view or purpose shapes content. Clearly, Hoose’s purpose in writing has influenced his books. Readers can discuss how. In the process, they will learn about the craft and structure of writing. How did Hoose give voice to the members of the Churchill Club? It's an interesting question to pursue.

          The Churchill Club is also ideal for adding to a text-set on World War II, a text-set on children throughout history, or a text-set based on the many books of Phillip Hoose (science and history). Or, it’s good to read just on its own.


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