I also read the Man Booker Prize winner this week. The Man Booker Prize is for great literature in the United Kingdom and they made a big deal this year that the winner was Australian and not English (apparently they even considered some American literature, even though we aren't part of the UK, but it didn't make the cut). The book that won is called "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Richard Flanagan. This is DEFINITELY an adult book and it was really good. It's the story of a man named Dorrigo Evans who grew up in Australia, became a doctor, went to war during World War 2, was sent to a prison camp in Burma and forced to help build a railroad there, fell in love, got married and had a family. The story is not told consecutively so it's a little confusing about where exactly you are in his life sometimes but the story telling is amazing. The imagery is rich and vivid (sometimes you wish he'd back off a bit!) and it was hard to put down.
The last one I read this week was not an award winner but it should have been. I also maybe shouldn't have read this one right after I finished the "Narrow Road" because it was sort of surprising how similar they were. This one is called "Between Shades of Gray" by Ruta Septys. (NOT 50 Shades of Gray, please). I got to hear Ruta Septys speak at the International Reading Association conference in New Orleans in May. I'd never heard of her book until then, but it sounded compelling. It's based on her dad's experiences as a young man who escaped from Lithuania and ended up in America. So I finally found the book at my library this week and wow, was it great. It's about a 16 year old girl named Lina who lives with her parents and younger brother in Lithuania in the 1940s. They have up until this point lived a fairly privileged life... Lina dreams of becoming an artist when the Russians come and take her and the rest of her family to a work camp in Russia. The train ride there is arduous. Her dad is separated from the rest of the family but they have hope that he is still ok. Life in the camp is very hard and they are expected to do farm work and other manual labor to earn their keep. Starvation and malnutrition are rampant in the camp because the Russians believe that the Lithuanians are inferior to them and they don't have to treat them like people, they are animals, which was exactly the sentiment expressed in "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by the Japanese. I really liked this story because it gave a different point of view to World War 2. "Between Shades of Gray" would make a great mentor text because in addition to the historical part, it also talks about using art to show things rather than telling them. Using the art pieces mentioned in the story as well as other art work about war experiences would be a great connection. Here's a video where she tells about how she got the idea for the book.