Today I am delighted to share with you Karen Hendriks’s recent picture book Home as part of a Books On Tour promotion.
Home, published by Daisy Lane Publishing, is a story of hope for a brighter future.
I previously introduced Karen to you when we explored how creativity was celebrated in her picture book Go Away, Foxy, Foxy. I am also pleased to say that, in some way, Karen and I are writing buddies. We both have stories in last year’s anthology Tell ‘em They’re Dreaming as well as in this year’s anthology to be released next week Once Upon a Whoops!
About Karen Hendriks
Karen Hendriks is a children’s author who lives in a small seaside village in Shellharbour, New South Wales. Picture books are her favourite kind of books. Karen adores how words and pictures join together to create story magic in picture books. Karen is very passionate about writing quality stories for children.
About Home — the blub
War ends, yet its dark shadow remains.
A family is forced to flee their home.
As they journey through hunger, long cold nights, and homelessness,
a heart locket whispers words of hope.
And a country that’s far away,
calls for those that are no longer wanted.
It offers new beginnings and a precious place, once more to call home.
As explained in an interview with Romi Sharp on the Just Kids’ Lit blog, the book was inspired by a journey taken by Hendriks’s own family after the Second World War. It is a slice of history of which many are unaware.
Between 1945 and 1946, three million Sudeten Germans were expelled from the Sudeten Mountains to Germany, Austria and the Soviet Zone. It was the largest forced refugee movement of a single population in the 20th century. I always felt the deep sadness inside my Oma about the loss of her family home. This pulled at me to write about losing home. When researching for Home I discovered that my Mum, Oma and great Oma and Opa were Sudeten Germans. My Mum was a baby when they were forced to leave their mountain village called Wunschendorf, in Czech. It is now known as Srbska. My great Opa was in still in a concentration camp for opposing Hitler. So it was my Mum as a baby, Oma and Great Oma and they walked from their village to East Germany. This story is so important to me because the plight of the Sudeten Germans is not really known and their story is my story, too.
You can read more about Hendriks’s family and the illustrator in this post on Just Write for Kids.
What I like about Home
I was surprised at how quickly I was drawn into the heart of Hendriks’s story and the plight of her characters. The serenity of ‘a snowy mountain village [where her] family had lived peacefully for hundreds of years’ was shattered when the soldiers came to their door, and everything changed in an instant.
While the actions are told in simple statements, the emotions leap from the page, both through Hendriks’s carefully chosen words and the sombre illustrations of Alisa Knatko. I could not but feel for the plight of the girl and her family forced from their home, herded onto a train and into a refugee camp.
Stitched into a pocket, the girl has a heart locket that whispers words of encouragement to her, words that reflect her needs and the changing situation; words like ‘Be brave, Stay together, Be strong.’
While the situation is harsh, the girl and her family and other families find strength in their love, realising that ‘Home is within’. Even on the darkest of days, when the locket whispers to ‘Have hope’, they do, celebrating their togetherness.
Finally, their hopes are fulfilled when they find happiness and freedom in a new home with new friends across the sea.
Her own family’s story may have inspired Hendriks’s story, but the journey in this book is inspiring too. While it deals with harsh situations in which some could find themselves drawn into despair, the overriding feelings are of hope, courage and strength of spirit, of knowing that better days are ahead, and that accepting change is a necessary part of finding happiness and freedom.
This is a story of Hendriks’s family, and of other families like hers, but it is also a story of hope for everyone. Adversity can be overcome, especially when you know that ‘Home is within’ and that better days are ahead.
Another thing I appreciate about the book is that the author has included some brief historical notes and a map in the back of the book. This is a piece of history about a group of people of which I was unaware. The thought of the village no longer existing must be heartbreaking for the families who lived there. It is a stark reminder of what is so easily lost, and lost to far too many.
Home is a beautiful book, a book for our times. I have no reservations in recommending it to you. It is definitely a story with heart.
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