Stones in Water

Books about war are never easy to read, and this one about WWII is no exception.

When Roberto goes to a matinee with his friends, German soldiers invade the theater and force him and scores of other Italian teen boys to board trains bound for German Territories. Despite the fact that Italy and Germany were allies in the war, the Germans use the boys as slaves. They are given little to eat, no warm clothing, and must perform hard manual labor. With only his Jewish friend Samuele alongside him, Roberto strives to survive and keep Samuele’s true identity concealed from the soldiers. Their strong bond gives both boys strength to endure the senseless torment. And, the day Polish Jews arrive to be kept in a holding pen, Roberto finds a new sense of purpose, and is all the more determined to stay alive.

Though the book contains violent imagery and profound suffering, it has a powerful thread of hope and an unquenchable spirit of survival. Roberto’s fortitude, sense of honor, and willingness to risk his own life to save another was inspiring. He was in every way an unsung hero. However, knowing my own son, I could not give him this book to read. It is one thing to teach him about Nazi Germany, fascism, and the holocaust. It is another for him to read details of boys being shot in the head, starved, abused, and beaten to death. No, it is not an easy book to read, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read, I’m suggesting a potential reader must be first capable of maturely digesting the content.

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Extended study: link 1, link 2

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