The next book that I finished for the Canadian Book Challenge was The Greenies by Myra Paperny. I picked this up at the Grande Bibliothèque last week when I went to register for a library card. It really was a blind pick along with another book since I essentially did a search for “jeunesse” and “canada” in the OPAC. I like historical fiction and since this one is post-WWII I thought it might be interesting.
The Greenies tells the story of Jewish orphans after the war and their attempts at coming to Canada to live. The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre has a virtual museum dealing with the War Orphans Project. Some moving biographies and photos there.
So the war is over and these kids have no family – what next? There are thousands of them, but only the completely healthy are allowed to immigrate to Canada. The story is from the perspective of three characters – two of the orphans, Danny and Lilli, and a Canadian girl. Danny and Lilli make it to Vancouver and have been placed with Jewish families. Danny lucks out with a great family, though the woman goes too far in asking him to call her “mom” (she quickly sees her error and they settle on Auntie Bess). Danny makes quick progress and soon leaves school to work full time, hoping to return to school when he’s more independent and feeling like he fits in with the Canadians.
Lilli isn’t so lucky. She gets stuck with a sort of snobbish family that have never had children and really don’t know the first thing about teenage girls! Lilli appears rebellious to the woman in that household, so she sends her away. Lilli is put in with another family, but they use her as a personal babysitter and control her every moment.
Marilyn’s family was supposed to get a boy orphan, but there just weren’t enough with this shipment, so they don’t get any. Marilyn is the typical teenager – she’s got her clique at school – they all wear the latest fashions, go to parties, etc. She just doesn’t understand why the new kids, the ‘greenies’, aren’t even trying to fit in! Yet she shows a little more compassion than some of her classmates.
It takes Marilyn being suspended from school (for wearing trousers when it snowed!) for the girls to rally together. The Canadian girls and the girl orphans join together to all wear trousers to school! Of course they all get suspended, but hey, they made their point.
Of course there are some more dramatic moments in the novel, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. So this is my ninth entry for the Canadian Book Challenge. See I may very well complete it on time! Oh and based on my helping questions for rating books: yes, I’d read another book by Paperny and of course I’d watch the movie should it exist. (Sometimes I worry about writing that and confusing people)