Open Wide the World


Open Wide the World Through Books: November 2018 Edition

Our family has spent 2018 reading books aloud that transport us to times, places, cultures and events from throughout history and from around the world. After reading a book, we're following inspiration wherever it takes us: a charitable donation (July), a 17th Century baking activity (September) or a Native American map study (last month).


Read all about the origin of this series here or jump right in with our November pick for "Open Wide the World through Books!"

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Genevieve’s War

by Patricia Reilly Giff

This historical fiction book takes place in German-occupied Alsace, France, during World War II.

The publisher says:

Thirteen-year-old American girl Genevieve has spent the summer of 1939 at her grandmother’s (Mémé) farm in Alsace, France. Then she makes an impulsive choice: to stay in France. It proves to be a dangerous decision. World War II erupts. The Nazis conquer Alsace and deport the Jews and others. A frightening German officer commandeers a room in Mémé’s farmhouse. And when Genevieve’s friend Remi commits an act of sabotage, Genevieve is forced to hide him in the attic—right above the Nazi officer’s head.

Genevieve’s War is a gripping story that brings the war in occupied France vividly to life.

We say:

Julie (mom): Another book that we didn’t want to end; we loved it! The characters were so relatable, despite the fact that our lives and theirs are nothing alike. This was a great introduction to some of the realities of war, without going into distressing detail; perfect for a tween (and mom).

Homer (dad): Homer didn’t join us this month; Mag and I read the book aloud together ourselves.

Mag (10 y/o): I loved this book! It had adventure and history. The characters all had big parts, like being in the Resistance and helping people avoid concentration camps.

I learned that people tend to feel stronger, but also lie more, when they’re in hard situations, like war.

Our rating (on a scale of 1-10): 10

Only about a quarter into the book, Mag already mentioned how she’d be sad when this book ended, and I agreed. That sentiment did not change for the rest of the book. The author did a phenomenal job of endearing Genevieve to her readers; we were totally engrossed in her daily life during WWII on the French-German border.

There isn’t a single hesitation or caveat I’d give in recommending this book.

Extension Activity

This month, our extension activity occurred organically in the course of an evening, no pre-planning required.

The cold weather here in Chicagoland inspired me to suggest making tea one afternoon. Without missing a beat, Mag suggested that we make “tea without tea,” something that occurred in several scenes of this book.

The first mentioning of “tea without tea” in the book gave Mag a glimpse into the changes to daily routines that happen during war. Subsequent mentions began to endear us to the characters, such that Mag wanted to participate in their cold weather ritual “with” them. A very unexpected moment of engaging with history!

Has your family read an historical eye-opening book?

Share your recommendations in the comments!