Monday, August 6, 2012

Broken Memory- Elisabeth Combres

Broken Memory: A Story of Rwanda
Broken Memory
Combres, Elisabeth
ISBN-13  9780888998934
ISBN-10  0888998937
Publisher:  Groundwood Books, 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: 890 Lexile
Interest Age: 11-18

Reader's Annotation:
Her mother is murdered and she cannot remember. Even her mother's face is a mystery to her. Can she regain the memory of her mother?

Plot Summary:
In the killings of 1994, Emma's mother was brutally murdered while she hid behind the couch. The last thing she remembers of her mother is the words "You must not die, Emma." Because of this, when the murderers leave, Emma runs. She finds a home with an elderly woman who takes her in and protects her. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Emma has terrible nightmares of that night. She cannot see her mother's face in these dreams which concerns her.

Another child survivor Ndoli begins to befriend Emma, she begins to wonder if she can ever remember her mother's face. Ndoli introduces her to an elderly gentleman who offers to help open her memory. With therapy, will she be able to move past the tragedy that changed her life forever?

Critical Evaluation:
Combres wrote this short books with just enough descriptions that the reader can feel for Emma, but not enough where they feel like they are Emma. The story starts with sudden tragedy which reflects the surprise the people experienced when they were raided. The reader feels connected to Emma from the start and wishes for her safety. This connection sticks through the rest of the book. The amount of emotion Combres evokes with few words is talent.

The theme is that resilience is possible if one chooses to forgive and move forward. This theme is shown when Emma helps Ndoli and when she decides to go see the doctor. Ndoli was forced to kill some of his own to save his life. This is another reality that many children faced in this time. He was able to move forward and forgive himself after years of help.

About the Author:
Elisabeth Combres was a journalist for years before she began writing books. She has written many children's non fiction books and Broken Memory is her only novel. She worked as a reporter in France, Latin America and Africa. She really enjoyed learning about the different stories and began writing for children after being the editor of Mikado.

Combres did a lot of research in order to write this book. She started collecting stories from children and adolescent survivors, psychologists and humanitarian aids in 2004. It took her 5 years to research, write and publish this book because she wanted it to be accurate. This book was originally published in French and won the Prix NRP award.

Broken Memory back flap.

Curriculum Ties:
War and world history.

Book Talking:
Watch Hotel Rwanda and compare stories.

Challenging Issues:
If this book were to be challenged, I would go through the selection process with the challenger as well as explain the rationale for the book. There are many good qualities in this book that could be reason to have it in a collection.

Why Read this Book:
This book is small but powerful. Days after finishing it the reader will still find themselves thinking about this book. It shines light on a tragedy that is not talked about enough. This book is a mere 132 pages, but well worth the read. 

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