Read A Year of Borrowed Men by Michelle Barker Renné Benoit Online


When World War II borrows the men in six-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 warmWhen World War II borrows the men in six-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. Renne 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)."...

Title : A Year of Borrowed Men
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781927485835
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 40 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Year of Borrowed Men Reviews

  • Julie (Manga Maniac Cafe)
    2019-01-22 15:45

    3.75 starsI didn't know that the Germans forced POWs to work on farms during WWII. Based on family history, the author shares her mother's memories of the year when her family was forced to take on three French prisoners. They weren't allowed to treat them as anything but prisoners, but the family grew attached to them and ran into trouble with the authorities after the neighbors tattled on them. Interesting read that brought the past to life.

  • Josiah
    2019-01-27 10:26

    Please note: I received this book for no charge as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.So many tremendous stories came out of the horror of World War II. Stories of courage and the conviction to do what's right not only in the heat of battle, but also on the homefront, ordinary citizens defying national rhetoric to offer their hand in peace to the enemy while bullets were flying only miles away, lives being lost to the barbarous conquest of dictatorial regimes who would not surrender shy of their goal to take over the world. Stories of World War II compassion, selflessness, and amity occurred not only in nations such as the United States and Canada, an ocean away from the bloody tempest of combat in mainland Europe, but countries much closer to the fighting: Hungary, France, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, and even Germany, where the epicenter of Nazi fascism spread to devastate the world's economy and psyche with a death toll that rapidly mounted into the tens of millions. A Year of Borrowed Men by Michelle Barker is just such a tale set in the German countryside, the true experience of a girl and her family trying to ignore the war their leaders waged and maintain the family farm in the eye of the storm. Young Gerda and her family weren't stirred by the Führer's bellicosity to hatred against men of other ethnicities; in the heart of Nazi rule they held on to their empathy, and were richly blessed by the fruit of their actions.Gerda is seven years old when World War II hits. Her family is adversely affected by the conflict less than many other Germans, but with five kids to be taken care of and a father already conscripted into Adolf Hitler's army, their large farm is hard to maintain without additional help. So the government issues three French prisoners of war—Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert—to work on the farm and keep quarters in the pig kitchen away from the main house. Gerda is distressed to have the dapper gentlemen living in such a dirty, smelly place, but the rules aren't open for debate. Any undue fraternization with the prisoners, including bringing them into the house to sleep or receive meals, could land the head of the household in prison. Gerda's family takes caution not to ruffle bureaucratic feathers by overtly showing hospitality to the prisoners, but neither do they let their guests languish in the unclean pig kitchen without proper care. The Frenchmen treat Gerda like a favored niece, always kindly and with a playful spirit, and Gerda and her siblings include Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert in the family Christmas celebration, though they can't risk bringing them into the house for even a minute or two. The borrowed French farmhands may strongly oppose the Third Reich in the exchange of ballistics going on elsewhere, but here in quiet, rural Germany they are houseguests and friends, and will be treated as such regardless of government protocol.World War II will end and the charming French legionnaires be freed, but the trio of prisoners are more than a temporary workforce to Gerda. They're a borrowed family, three hardworking, good-spirited uncles to fill her father's absence on the farm as he fights the Führer's battle in regions unknown. For the weeks and months Gerda has Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert, she feels a little safer and less lonesome, and her desire for worldwide peace manifests itself in her family's humane treatment of the borrowed Frenchmen. Gerda's family wouldn't think of treating them like slaves or prisoners, but as fine, respectable people, friends who are making the best of a bad situation just as Gerda and so many other Germans are doing these days. Wherever Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert go after the war is through, their friendship will always connect them to Gerda's family, and that's a beacon of hope not to be ignored during the murky tragedy of war. As long as people hold on to their humanity when threatened with violence, oppression, and death, we can always win whatever struggle we face. Michelle Barker's writing is straightforward, sweet, and honest, and Renné Benoit's watercolor-and-pastel artwork is phenomenal, striking the perfect tone for this hopeful story. I love the illustrations in A Year of Borrowed Men; they mean as much to the book as the text, an equal collaboration of writing and artistic energies, and make the reading experience oh so pleasant. I for sure give A Year of Borrowed Men two and a half stars, and it's hard to imagine a more upbeat introduction to this troubled era in world history. Thank you for the free copy, Michelle Barker, and thank you and Renné Benoit for creating this book.

  • Alex Baugh
    2019-01-22 08:16

    I think that we sometimes think that if a person was German in the 1930s and early 1940s that automatically makes them Nazis. But the truth is that there were plenty of decent people who were not Nazis, didn't support Hitler and his Third Reich, and were just struggling to survive like anyone caught in a war.A Year of Borrowed Men is just such a book. This fictionalized story that takes place during the last year of the war is based on the author's mother's actual experiences as she related them to her children. Farms and the food they produced were just as important to Germany during the war as they were everywhere else, but with all the men off fighting for the Führer, many farms were struggling to survive.For Gerda Schlottke, 7, and her family living on a farm in a rural part of Germany, taking care of all the farm chores was getting difficult with her father off fighting in the Germany army. They had a good sized farm consisting of cows, pigs, 150 chickens and 6 horses that needed to be cared for everyday, as well as field work to be done and only 5 young children. To assist families like the Schlottkes, the German government decided to use POWs to help with the farm work. The German government sent them three French POWs - gentle Gabriel, prickly Fermaine, and cheerful Albert. The men lived in the cold, bear pig kitchen, next to where the animals slept. Families were not supposed to be kind to them, or to feed them or treat they like a member of the family, but for some people that was hard not to do.One cold day, Gerda's mother invited the men into their warm kitchen to eat with the family. The next day, there was a knock on the door and Frau Schlottke was taken to police headquarters by a formerly kind neighbor who had joined the Nazis and warned not never to be kind to her workers again or she would find herself in prison.Over the year that they 'borrowed' the French POWs, the Schlottke family found ways to counter the admonishment they were given regarding the treatment of Nazi Germany's enemies. For example, at Christmas, the men were allowed a tree, but no decorations, they were allowed to receive parcels, but no food from the Gerda's family, and yet they managed to find a way around that. It is interesting to see just how they could make the time somewhat bearable for Gabriel, Fermaine, and Albert and A Year of Borrowed Men is a nice reminder that there were at least a few pockets of humanity still to be found in what was an otherwise brutal regime.At the end of the European war in the spring of 1945, the men left the farm and eventually returned to France. Meanwhile, the Russian army arrived, "liberating" all the farm animals, including those of the Schlottkes.A Year of Borrowed Men is a gentle story, poignant in its hopeful perspective, perhaps because it is narrated by 7 year old Gerda, and Michelle Barker is able to retain all the the innocence of a child in her writing. A cruel, hateful regime and war, after all, doesn't mean one needs to sacrifice their humanity, as so many did living under Hitler and during WWII. Although the story covers the year the POWs were at the Schlottke's farm, because of the number of pages devoted to Christmas, it makes a nice holiday story, as well. There may not have been Peace of Earth at that time, but at least on one farm there was Goodwill towards men.Renné Benoit's watercolor, pencil and pastel illustrations has a gentle, almost folk art feeling to them, done in a palette of warms browns, greens, and ochre earthtones that seems to create a haven in the midst of war.This book is recommended for readers 6+This book was borrowed from the NYPLThis review was originally posted on The Children's War

  • Bookishrealm
    2019-01-20 11:28

    This was a decent picture book that focused on the historical aspects of world war II. I loved the artwork and the true aspect of the story. It covered how French soldiers were forced to help on farms to keep them running as prisoners of war. I had no idea that this happened so this was new information for. I'll be looking for books related to this topic.

  • Barbara
    2019-01-23 12:45

    This picture book covers a unique experience not typically explored in picture books for children. The author's mother Gerda lived in Germany during World War II, and hosted three French prisoners of war who were sent there to work on their large farm. Although their neighbors kept a watchful eye on the prisoners and how Gerda's family treated them, Gerda feels sorry for them and wants to treat them compassionately. When the family shares a meal with them at their kitchen table, there are repercussions, and the family must keep its kindness hidden. Still, they find a way to treat their enemies as friends, and Gerda even makes them some Christmas tree ornaments from catalog pages. The watercolor, colored pencil, and pastel illustrations are filled with warmth and depict simple acts of kindness that must have made all the difference in the world to these men. An afterword with actual photographs of the farm and Gerda's family adds even more poignancy to this story, first published in Canada. These "borrowed men" brought some joy to the life of Gerda and her siblings while making sure their farm was producing the resources needed by others. Sadly, the family lost two of its own borrowed men to the war machine, Gerda's father and her brother. This book would be a wonderful addition to a classroom collection of war books as well as one devoted to compassion and the small acts that can make a difference. It might be interesting to pair it with Lita Judge's One Thousand Tracings.

  • Pam Mooney
    2019-02-11 07:36

    Stunningly beautiful in content and illustration. A genuine treasure. This story brought tears to my eyes as I read it to my 7 year old neighbor. I love that it is based on a true story and the true love of an innocent child. I love the lessons learned and the genuine goodness that came from caring about the people around her. 10 stars out of 5 - a good read!

  • Nikki Vogel
    2019-01-27 14:21

    I highly recommend this lovely book. The fact that the author's personal family history is connected to the story gives it extra depth and heart, and it's easy to see why the illustrator has won awards.

  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    2019-01-27 07:45

    Cybils nominee for Best Fiction Picture Book 2o16.

  • Claudia
    2019-01-31 15:29

    An Awesome Story!!!! I loved how the author included the actual pictures from the past in this book! Definitely a great children's book!

  • Susan
    2019-02-09 08:36

    Beautiful picture book based on the author's mother's experience living in Germany and housing French prisoners of war.

  • Eva
    2019-01-31 12:39

    I liked the perspective of the little German girl during WWII. It was so nice to read about a kind German family treating prisoners of war as best as they were allowed too.

  • Sara
    2019-01-22 07:33

    A unique glimpse of WWII, and a good book for younger audiences who are studying that time period.

  • Cassidy Wells
    2019-02-19 11:33

    This book was a kind story describing some of the people's lives in Germany during World War II. I thought it was nice to get this story from the point of view of a child who lived through the war. Picture Book.

  • Paula Hollohan
    2019-02-08 15:25

    An interesting point of view for a picture book in that it recounts the memory of having French POWs help on German farms during WWII. I'm not sure where to use it in elementary school but the story does have appeal.

  • Stephanie Tournas
    2019-02-20 13:41

    In Germany during World War II, Gerda's family is given three French prisoners to work with them on their farm. Gerda's mother is kind to the men, although they are required to sleep in an outbuilding . When a neighbor spies the three prisoners eating with Gerda and her family in the family's kitchen, police take her mother away for the day to question her. Still, the family and the prisoners become friends, even though they don't understand each other's languages beyond a few words. Gerda shows the prisoners her new doll. When the doll gets too close to the stove and its hands melt, the prisoners bandage it up. This act of compassion remains in Gerda's thoughts. The story is based on the wartime memories of the authors' mother. Watercolor, colored pencil and pastel illustrations are rendered in muted tones with a sepia background, emphasizing the historical nature of the story. A simple story which can teach young children to see the humanity of people at war. Author's note with photographs at end.

  • Amy Lafleur
    2019-02-06 12:23

    Seven year old Gerda recounts the story of when several French POWs were sent to work on their farm in Germany during WWII. Mummy explains that these are "borrowed men" who will help with the farm work through the war but who will eventually have to go back. Gerda and her family consider the men to be like family. There's "gentle Gabriel, prickly Fermaine, and cheerful Albert, who loved games." They try to be kind to the men and Gerda communicates with them through a combination of hand motions and pictures. Still the family must be careful not to get to close to them, for fear of being sent to prison. We find out at the end that it was based on a true story of Michelle Barker's mom's childhood experiences with POW farm workers. This story was very sweet with a good message of trying to understand the other side even in war. It made it even more touching with the 1st person child's perspective.

  • Thea Henderson
    2019-02-17 07:32

    Grade: 2-4Genre: Historical FictionReview: "A Year of Borrowed Men" has been added to my favorites list because it is an absolutely beautiful introduction for children into a devastating period of history. Taking place during the WWII, this book follows the true story of one family who is sent three French prisoners of war to tend to their farm in Germany. With real black and white photos tucked within it's pages, "A Year of Borrowed Men" will captivate young readers and spark important discussions of right and wrong. I must also mention that the illustrations in this book are absolutely incredible. What stand out the most however are the facial features of each character on every page. Students will gain a lot of knowledge on the plot of this story by simply turning pages and reading the facial expressions of each person. This book would be a great choice for "I see, I think, I wonder" readings with students.

  • Barbra
    2019-02-03 15:33

    A Year of Borrowed MenBy Michelle Barker, Illustrated By Renne Benoit (Pajama Press, 32 pages)This book, based on true events, takes a look at a German family during WWII who is given French soldiers on loan to help with their farm. Seven-year-old Gerda cannot understand why they must be treated like enemies and when they are shown kindness, her mother is threatened with prison. This story reminds us that war affects all families and friendship has no borders. Beautiful soft watercolor drawings and original photographs make this a great book to share with youngster’s age’s six to nine. I love this book because it shows the German side of suffering that took place. Told in text a young child could follow and understand it is the perfect opportunity to talk to children about the war.

  • Chelsea
    2019-02-16 10:35

    I was unsure what to expect from this book, but through reading it, I found that I became captivated by the fictional story. This story was based upon a true story and I feel that the author and illustrator complemented each other very nicely. While it is not known what actually happened to the French prisoners who worked on the farm, I appreciated that the author provided an overview of information about what happened during that time period; even though it may not have been completely realistic in the end. I also appreciated the additional information provided within the back of the back about what truly happened, or what was not known. The three photographs provided were also lovely to see.

  • Evan
    2019-01-21 09:21

    During World War II, Gerda's family is sent three French prisoners of war to help them on their farm. The war has borrowed their father and they need the assistance to tend to the animals and all of the other chores that their large farm requires. They are under strict orders to treat the men like prisoners, which means no acts of kindness or special treatment. The family is still determined to be kind and they form a friendship with their borrowed men. This is a great peek into some of the smaller details of wartime and the more imperceptible effects on people and relationships, and as the book is based on a true story, there is some information about the family and a few photographs at the end. This could be a great addition to even an elementary age unit on WWII.

  • Chris
    2019-02-08 12:34

    This WWII picture book for older kids was not told from the "usual" point of view. How often do we consider what it was like for the average German family during that time? Based on a true story, Gerta's family take on three French prisoners-of-war to work their large farm while her father is away fighting in the German army. The Frenchmen must stay in the "pig kitchen" and Greta's mother will be taken to jail if they treat them in any un-prisoner-like way. However, Greta makes friends with them, finding them kind. It's a great story to show still another point-of-view during wartime, one not too often told.

  • Clarissa
    2019-01-31 07:29

    This was a lovely true story. The author's mother grew up on a farm in Germany during WWII. During that time like most other able bodied German men her father and brother and other farm workers were soldiers. In order to provide help on the farm the German government sent French prisoners of war to live on the farm and do the work. There were strict orders that the men were to be treated as prisoners and not to take meals with the family, but Gerda's mother was determined to feed the men well, and be as kind as it was safe for the family to be.

  • Trish
    2019-02-19 13:44

    A beautifully rendered picture-book memoir of a girlhood on a farm in Germany during World War II. When Gerda's family "borrows" three French Prisoners of War while her father and brother serve in the army, they become friends even though it is strictly against German orders. Based on the author's mother's childhood memories, the book includes family photographs and an authors note at the back.

  • Karen Upper
    2019-02-16 13:40

    A wonderful book where the definition of 'borrowed' takes on many different meanings. Enjoyed how the author incorporated the photos of her family during World War II. During an often horrific and tumultuous time,,this beautifully illustrated book, is a story that highlights how the innocence and compassion of a young girl who touched those around her in the past, still has the ability to reach out and touch us today!Highly Recommended! For Remembrance Day read alouds!Five Stars!

  • Kate Puleo Unger
    2019-02-14 11:39

    This story is like a German Little House on the Prairie. It tells of a young girl in Germany at the end of WWII. Her father is away fighting and her family is housing French prisoners who work the farm. She befriends them and discusses the day to day events of her life during that year. It's an interesting story.Ages 6-10

  • Sherrie
    2019-01-30 14:31

    I enjoyed this book which introduces young readers to some of the lesser known facts of World War II. Prior to reading this book I wasn't aware that German families were instructed to bring French prisoners of war in to their homes but with the expectation that they would treat them as such and not try to befriend them. A Year of Borrowed is based on a true story and is an example of humanity at its best. Lovely illustrations help make this special story an even richer experience.

  • Samantha
    2019-01-31 09:16

    A WWII story about a German family living with three French prisoners of war told from the collected memories of the author's mother.The emphasis is on friendship and the kindess Gerda and her family tried to extend to the Frenchmen even though the reason they were brought together wasn't set up to foster such kinds of familiar ties. An author's note and family photographs follow the text. Watercolor, colored pencil, and pastel illustrations. Gr. 3-5.

  • Meredith
    2019-02-13 11:45

    Based on her mother's own childhood experience, this is a heartwarming tale of how "enemies" showed humanity to each other during WWII. Three French POWs are assigned to Gerda's farm in Germany. Although her family is supposed to treat them as prisoners, a friendship soon develops between them.

  • Marie
    2019-02-12 10:30

    A Golden Oak nominee for 2017. Interesting first person narrated picture book based on a "true" story. A German family, in WW2, is "obliged" to take in French POWs. Everyone is benevolent and kind, except the German military infrastructure which put the French POWs on the farm.

  • Edward Sullivan
    2019-01-25 07:39

    A young German girl recounts how French prisoners of war were "borrowed" to work on their farm during World War II. A poignant, unusual story from a unique perspective based upon the real-life experiences of the author's mother.