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When World War II "borrows" the men in seven-year-old Gerda's family, the German government sends them three new men in return: Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert, French prisoners of war who must sleep in an outbuilding and work the farm until the war is over. Gerda knows they are supposed to treat the men as enemies, but it doesn’t seem fair. Can't they invite them into the warm house for one meal? What harm could it do to be friendly?
Writing from her mother’s childhood memories of Germany during World War II, Michelle Barker shares the story of one family’s daring kindness in a time of widespread anger and suspicion. Renné Benoit’s illustrations bring warmth to the era, showing the small ways in which a forbidden friendship bloomed: good food, a much-loved doll, a secret Christmas tree. Family photographs and an Author’s Note give further insight into the life of Gerda, the little girl who proved that it isn’t so far from Feinde (enemies) to Freunde (friends).
Michelle Barker wrote A Year of Borrowed Men from the early childhood memories of her mother, Gerda. A versatile writer, Michelle has published short fiction; nonfiction; a fantasy novel, The Beggar King; and a book of poetry. She has lived and traveled in many places with her husband and four children, settling most recently in Penticton, British Columbia.
Renné Benoit is the award-winning illustrator of more than 15 books for children. She has won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award for Children’s Literature for Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion; the OLA Silver Birch Express Award for The Secret of the Village Fool; and the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize for Fraser Bear and Goodbye to Griffith Street. Big City Bees was nominated for the Governor General’s Award. Renné lives in St. Thomas, Ontario.
Read an Excerpt
I was seven when the French prisoners of war arrived at our house. It was 1944. Mummy told us the government had sent them because all our men were gone to war, and someone needed to keep the farms running. She said we were just borrowing the French men. When the war was over, we would give them back.
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