Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Paper Faces by Rachel Anderson

I keep reading about school libraries where fiction collections are being heavily culled and yes we have done this at my school but I do worry about little treasures like this one - Paper Faces.  This book has been in our school library for 12 years but it was first published in 1991.  Our copy is printed on great paper and shows no signs of yellowing and the cover is in good shape too. I am glad it has not been culled.  Perhaps by writing about it here it will be saved into the future.

I recommended this book to a young student the other day and then when it was returned I thought I should re-read this book which I remembered enjoying many years ago.  I sat down, read and read and lifted my head when I reached the last page.  This is such a terrific book set in London just as the war ends.

This story is told through the eyes and with the voice of six year old Dorothy (Dot).  She is living with her mum in the basement of a boarding house.  Her father has not returned from the war.  To Dot he seems to be a strange and frightening figure.

As the story opens Dot and her mum are celebrating the end of the war.  On this day they break their daily routine and do not visit the hospital to see Dot's baby brother. A few weeks later the baby dies and Dot thinks this is because they missed their visit - really it is due to pneumonia.  Gloria takes Dot to the country to visit the home where they were evacuated at the beginning of the war.  Dot has no memory of the earlier visit.  It is in this home that Dot finds genuine warmth and love and some really good food.  Back in London she has only been fed twice a day on stale bread and dripping. Dot becomes ill and after a short stay in hospital, which she finds terrifying, she is sent back to the aptly named Mrs Hollidaye.  It is only Mrs Hollidaye who actually speaks to Dot and who tries to answer her questions.  Gloria is so preoccupied with her own life.

Food is such a comfort in this book.  Mrs Hollidaye offers Dot a delicious breakfast on her first morning :

"On the table was a vase of flowers, a square honeycomb oozing liquid honey from its wax holes onto the dish, three jars of jam, each one a different colour of dark red and a jug with a muslin cloth over the top."

Here is the Kirkus review. Paper Faces won the Guardian Children's book Award in 1992.

I would follow this book by reading Vinnie's War and The war that saved my life.

Take a look at all the different covers for this book.

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