Monday, June 24, 2013

MG Book Review: Greenhorn, by Anna Olswanger

General Information
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Year of publication: 2012
# of chapters: no chapters - short illustrated novel
# of pages: 48
Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot summary (from Goodreads):
Anna Olswanger's second book for young readers is an illustrated novel for middle grade readers based on a true story. In Greenhorn, a young Holocaust survivor named Daniel arrives at a Brooklyn yeshiva in the 1940s with only a small box that he won't let out of his sight. His obsessive attachment to the mysterious box excites the curiosity and unkind attention of the other boys.

Positive Points
This short book teaches about the harsh reality of the Holocaust, in a kid-friendly story. It would be a good conversation starter for those interested in Jewish history or on this particular topic. The book comes with a classroom guide and a discussion guide.

Although this book has a historical theme, there is a genuine story in it. I didn't feel like I was being "taught" something, more like I was reading someone's very personal story set in the past.

The suspense about what's in the boy's box kept my attention until the end.

Negative Points
Children ppeared unusually rude and inconsiderate to me throughout the book. There is a lot of bullying, and now I'm wondering if this was typical behavior among Jewish boys in the 1940s. I  understand that children can be harsh with each other sometimes, but in this book, all the boys are like that. I couldn't quite identify with that concept.

It might be a little shocking for young children to find out what's in the box the boy is carrying with him. This book would be suitable to upper MG or YA, to my opinion. Although the story is easy to read, the theme of the Holocaust itself is heavy. Still, I think the author did a good job talking about the horrors of the Holocaust without giving any gruesome details.

What makes this book unique
I haven't read many books about the Jewish culture and history, and in particular about the Holocaust, so this is what made this book unique to me.

Overall Impression
I have mixed feelings about this book. I found it shocking as an adult, so I can imagine how a child might react to it. If read as a group or as a family, with the purpose of learning about this part of history, I think it's a great tool, provided the historical facts are accurate.

My Rating:

Thinking of purchasing this book? I'll make it easy for you:


Rosanne said...

I hadn't heard of this book before so thanks for reviewing it so thoughtfully. I think bullying was much more common and vicious in earlier generations, so that is probably realistic but maybe still not so palatable in a modern book. I'll have to look for this one.

Anonymous said...

This one has become a must read for me. Interesting thoughts and wondering on the bullying aspect.

bfav said...

What an interesting book. It is illustrated and super short yet more appropriate for upper MG. It sounds like a true story Tales of the Beetle Bard. Thanks for your review.

DMS said...

I liked your honest review. As a 5th grade teacher I am curious about this one. I will read it because it is so short and I do a unit on HF at the end of the school year. I would like to see if this is a book that my students might like. Thanks for sharing!

Marcia said...

This sounds intriguing. Yes, in the mid-20th century, what we now call bullying was much more just "the way kids were."

Anonymous said...

Oh, neat! I saw Anna speak on a panel years ago (as an agent), but I didn't know she was a writer, too.

Anonymous said...

This is the second time I'm seeing this book featured on MMGM. I already have it on my list and working my way toward reading it.

Thanks for the review.

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