Serendipity. This book has a long list of publication dates, publishers, cover art, translators, since the original Dutch one in 1955. The copy highlighted here was discovered among our school library shelves just last week. Intrigued by the artwork and title, I decided to read it during the Christmas holidays. The vision of mounds of snow was appealing -despite the ominous artwork – since we are experiencing 60° plus temperatures.
Please read the summary of the story here, as it is to the point and well written. I like this book and will recommend it to my fourth & fifth grade students. I do this not only because it is a good adventure story, but rather for reasons of the heart. Firstly, the plethora of nationalities represented in the 219 pages is astounding – Baumgartner, Altschwank, Rananjärvi, Kastopoulos, Hutamäki, Taureggi, and Rähmi which represent Swiss, Austrian, German, Finn, Greek, Italian, & Turkish. It is a movable United Nations as they go from village to village rescuing anyone in need. Secondly, and most importantly, the story centers on refugees. Timely in our early 21st century, global world. The boys of the Pestalozzi Village are orphans – war orphans.
“Paolo stared at him for a moment, staggered. Then tears of rage rushed into his eyes. ‘You beastly prig of a village boy,’ he shouted. ‘You think you know everything, don’t you? You’ve never slept in a ditch by the roadside or seen a man shot dead. Your village has never been bombed. You haven’t got a granny like mine! I was the only one she was able to save – do you understand that? All the rest were killed. In the war. The war that you silly, pampered fools didn’t have here…’ ” (198).
This 50 year-old publication – a children’s book from 1955 – may evoke in my young students, who may very well relate to Hans the village boy, empathy. It may offer a sense of what it means to be a refugee. For this and more, I offer it to my students this winter of 2015.
Rutgers van der Loeff, A. and Gustave Schrotter, illus. Avalanche! New York: William Morrow & Company, 1966. Print.