Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review of Honey Cake by Joan Betty Stuchner

Honey CakeHoney Cake by Joan Betty Stuchner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews Even though this 88 page chapter book was meant for 8-11 year olds, I read it with great interest since I knew next to nothing about WW2 in Denmark and because this book has won literary prizes in Canada like the Red Cedar Award, chosen by children themselves. It takes a profoundly subtle and skilled writer to achieve a balance between (extra-Grimm) content, (WW2 Europe)context, vocabulary and interest level appropriate for this age group. Stuchner delineates the ever-present fear of adults who try their utmost to maintain cheerful normality so that their children will enjoy some semblance of carefree childhood and yet not jeopardize their own lives. I empathized with the longing of a nine year old boy for a toy train set for his tenth birthday and cheer on the clandestine bravery of a sister barely out of her teens active as a member of the Danish Resistance movement. I was very moved by the dignified bravery of King Christian X in the face of the Nazi invaders and the unusual solidarity of Christians and Jews in Denmark...and the helping hand of Sweden, who accepted many Jewish refugees, especially because my Dutch mother lived through WW2 as a teenager and has horrific stories of neighbours betraying neighbours to the Nazis. The lives of two caged budgies are deftly woven into the novella as a telling metaphor and the droll black and white drawings by award-winning illustrator Cynthia Nugent enhance the 'not so childish' tone and content of the book. Highly recommended. One of those books that children, teens (like my 18 year old niece who read it at one sitting and enjoyed it) and adults can all read and relate to.

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