Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Little Riders

My girls loved this book, set in Holland during World War II.  The main character is a young girl, Johanna.  The Little Riders of the title refers to small statues found in a clock of a church steeple.  My girls asked me to read this (as opposed to groaning sometimes when I tell them it is chapter book time).  Once in the car Catherine asked me what I thought would happen to the Little Riders, telling me that she was thinking about this book even when we weren't reading it!
Churches in America typically do not have decorative clocks like they do in Europe, so the girls were fascinated at how the entire town loved the "little riders."  Johanna's parents travel to America for a few years, so she must live with her grandparents.  Her grandfather is the caretaker for the church steeple.  Johanna helps her grandfather care for the statues.

The Germans requisition Johanna's bedroom for the duration of the war.  The book does a great job of describing how Johanna has to pack up her bedroom and move into the attic.  The Nazi officer then moves his belongings into her room, which saddened my girls.

The plot then proceeds to Johanna, her grandparents, and the town taking steps to protect the little riders from the Germans, who want to melt them down for bullets.  The girls were intrigued and very curious about what happens to the little riders.  I loved all the suspense the author created - my girls were eager for me to read each chapter to them.

We loved this book and I highly recommend it.  The book does an excellent job of bringing to life an historical time period: of occupied Holland during World War II.  The questions my girls ask me during our reading always tell me how much they understand and grasp what we are reading.  With this book, I got these questions:

How long will the war last?
Why can't they just buy more bullets?
Why did they hate the Germans?
What is rationing?
What is liberation?  Occupation?
Why does Captain Braun do what he does (I'll leave that a secret ...)?

Our discussions remained fairly basic because of my kids' ages, but older kids could really explore a lot of moral dilemmas in this book.  It is an excellent illustration of occupation and liberation and would be a great resource to someone studying World War II.  This book is only 6 chapters, 70 pages. We read it in 3 days.

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