Tuesday, March 06, 2007

We're stuck in World War II

But we wouldn't have it any other way.

My plans are always bigger than my capabilities. Last summer, I said we would delve into World Wars I and II, and also dip into the medieval period (can one really "dip into" any time period? It's usually just too fascinating to take a dip and then leave.) The girls and I have been immersed in World War II all year long.

Here's a quick review of a recent novel we read. I'll be back later to write about some great picture books we've just finished.

My Friend, the Enemy, by J.B. Cheaney revolves around 12-year-old Hazel Anderson, who lives with her family in the Pacific northwest. Hazel lives in a fantasy world, playing "spy" every chance she gets, hoping to catch "the enemy." But when she meets a real, live Japanese boy her world is changed. 15-year-old Sogoji is in hiding, to avoid being sent to an internment camp.

The plot kept my girls interested, and there were some twists and unknowns that kept them guessing, but overall, this one was not as compelling as the other novels of the time period that we've covered. The prejudice in which Hazel is entrenched at the beginning of the novel is portrayed in a rather heavy-handed way, and the same point could have been made more subtly. And, Hazel's transformation from stereotypical bigotry to open-minded acceptance may have happened a little too quickly. Still, it was worth our time, particularly in terms of the discussion it provoked about racial slurs, prejudicial assumptions and bigotry in general.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with Anne-with-an-e, when she was about three or four years old. We had watched "The Jungle Book" and she was talking about Mowgli.

"Mommy," she said, "Mowgli's skin is kind of brown, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, "it is."

She was quiet for a moment, and I wondered what had prompted the observation. I asked her, "Do you think it's important ... what color our skin is?"

"No," she said. "It's not weally important. Skin is just something that God sticked on our faces."


Jennifer said...

Our daughters sound so much alike - or maybe it is more you and I and the way WE approach these things. I tried to explain it once and gave up thinking her 'Stephen-Colbert-I-don't-see-color' attitude can persist a few more years.
I love the way you approach history. I hope to emulate your lesson immersion next year.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, Jennifer. Do you know yet what period you'll be immersed in next year?

Our girls do sound alike ... that "I don't see color" attitude *does* persist, delightfully. :-) When my oldest catches current news, she is quite disgusted that everyone is making such a big deal of the race of a potential presidential candidate.