Eleanor's Story

Eleanor's Story: An American Girl in Hitler's Germany
Eleanor Ramrath Garner
Peachtree Publishers, 1999

This is a striking, intriguing, and moving read. Eleanor is the American daughter of German parents. Her extended family still lives in Germany, and right before WWII breaks out her father decides to take advantage of a prosperous job opportunity and move the family from New Jersey to Berlin. War breaks out during their ocean crossing, and they find themselves stuck in Germany. At first, things aren't too bad and War seems like a bit of an adventure to Eleanor, her older brother Frank, and their new friends. But anyone familiar with the history of WWII knows that things get serious, and the story Eleanor tells is a unique perspective of the chaos and destruction.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't think of many accounts of WWII from a child's perspective - Diary of Anne Frank comes to mind, obviously, but other than that the titles I think of are historical fiction written after the fact by an unattached author. Eleanor's Story is different - it's the remembered experiences of a real-life American girl who found herself essentially trapped in Germany for the horror and aftermath of WWII. For me, this was a new reading experience - but a very 'enlightening' one. Eleanor's naivety and childish interpretations of what global War means ring true, and as she grows up - and the War is still going strong - her growth in understanding is also believable. Some of the stories -- I just can't even imagine. Most of the WWII books I've read have tended to focus on either the Holocaust aspect or the lives (and loves) of American forces...Eleanor let me see a different side: that of the German civilian and, in her case, the added danger of being an American - and thus a potential threat. At times it's a rough read, but it's a rough time in human history too, and I would be less inclined to give a "roses-and-puppies"-account of WWII Germany credit.

Eleanor's Story extends beyond the official end of WWII, which also offered a neat perspective, and includes two sections of pictures of Eleanor and family. All in all, it's an eye-opening read that offers a different look at things for someone who has some background knowledge/experience of WWII, but also is a really neat introduction for students. I think seeing the story of someone they are close to in age can help explain some of the trickier aspects of WWII, whether it's in a classroom setting or some other form of reading.

Book provided by publisher for review.

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