“I have heard it said that those of us who lived and survived World War II were ordinary people living in extraordinary times.” War in My Town is an incredibly rich historical narrative describing the author’s mother’s experiences during World War II. Readers are fortunate to journey through this true story with Bruna, a young girl living peacefully in an Italian village until the effects of the war slowly trickle into her serenity: first rationing, then the men leave to fight, then the Nazis take over their village. This novel is a delicately human recounting of the realities of war with none of the cinema-style flash youth may be used to, however, the intimacy with which Graziani presents the “enemy” leaves the reader asking, “Would I have done the same? How would I have behaved any differently?”
The ordinariness of Bruna’s days—school, friends, meals, family—juxtaposed with the exceptional circumstances—Nazi occupation, isolation, and Allied bombings, and death —strike to the heart of the issue: retelling these events keeps the people who perished alive. Any history lesson about WWII would be incomplete without a recommendation to read this book.
Classroom Connections: This book is a work of fiction but all of the characters and events are historically accurate. The support of a map and photographs make it a good fit for the History curriculum as well as a springboard for discussions about point of view (Who is the enemy? How do we know?), writing projects on different perspectives (tell the story from the point of view of the Nazi soldier known as the “potato soldier”), war’s effect on civilians’ everyday life (including connections to today’s conflicts), as well as a great novel for a whole-class novel study, literature circles, or an addition to a classroom and/or school library. Reading Comprehension Strategies: asking questions, making connections and transforming.
[Review by Amanda Forbes.]