Monday, September 19, 2011

Summer Book Club Wk 1 - How Huge The Night

I decided to start the Summer Book Club with How Huge the Night because it shows kids what they can do to help others even though they are considered "too young" by the adults in their lives. Julien our "hero" learns to stand up for what's right even though his peers try to stop him, try to put him down and finally, try to stop him.

by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn
Published by: Kregel Publications
ISBN-10: 082543310X
ISBN-13: 978-0825433108
309 pages, Young Adult (age 13+) 
Purchase $10.19 on Amazon

Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier is angry, frustrated, and itching to do something. After his family relocates to southern France to outrun Hitler's menace, they open their home to a Jewish boy needing refuge. Then Julien meets Nina, a young Austrian who has fled her home by her father's dying command. Nina's situation is grave and Julien suddenly realizes the enormity of having someone's life or death depend on him.

My thoughts:
How Huge the Night is easily one of my favorite books this year. The historical aspect of the story is amazing and the book was very engrossing from the very first page on. The book itself was written for 14-17 year olds but definitely goes beyond that age group.

Julien is a 15 year old boy, uprooted from his home and forced to share his family with an "outsider". Benjamin is Jewish, stand-offish, smart, rich and not friendly. The boys of the village Julien's family has moved to are unfriendly, consider HIM an outsider (even though his family had lived in that region for generations) and not only that Julien's father is a teacher at his new school and planning on opening a new Christian school the following year which Julien blames for the move. You see the anger filling Julien and he has a choice - is it going to consume him or is he going to sweep it away?

The main story is about how Julien learns about prejudice and how he can support and encourage those being treated wrongly and stand up to the community for what is right. It begins with Julien learning how his own family escaped from persecution and helps to build this town they are know living in and continues with a challenge: his Grandfather challenges him to pray that God would show him what He wants Julien to do. In return his Grandfather would pray that the boys at school would "see the light".

Julien accepts this challenge and you begin to see Julien slowly change, his eyes are opened to what Benjamin must be feeling ~ his loneliness and anger to what is happening to his people. He sees France fall to Hitler and you see Julien's prayer change "that God would show him the road he wants him to go on". And then Julien begins to pray that God will help him learn to "love and forgive" his enemies. He learns to pray and speak with out pride and hate.

Parent's I strongly encourage you to read this book with your teens. Extremely well written, engrossing and challenging ~ This book will open the gates to conversation about prejudice and persecution giving you the opportunity to teach your children to stand up for what's right:

"...resist with the weapons of the Spirit; without fear, without pride, and without hate."

How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens (and their parents!) turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.

What do you think?
Tell me, have your children commented about another kid in their school who is being picked on? Perhaps they are developmentally challenged, or have ears that stick out, or one of their parents are in prison. How did you or how do you wish you had taught them about prejudice, persecution and standing up for what's right even if that means they are then treated badly?

More Discussion Questions
Read an excerpt (click on download)
Read a press release

Heather Munn and Lydia Munn are a mother-daughter team who wrote the book together. Heather grew up in France and lived there from the age of 2 to 17. She knows first hand the people, the countryside and the history of this country and the personality of it's people. The story itself is based on events that occurred during WWII and even though the town of Tanieux doesn't exist the town is based off another French town.

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