West of the West Wind by Nils Johan Jørgensen and Illustrated by Michael Avery

This is an amazing book with three intriguing stories and beautiful illustrations. “The Library,” is about a boy saving books from being burned by Nazis and those who save him. “Wolves,” is about dogs, wolves, adults, and children coming together during a terrible time.  “The Silence of the Sail,” is about a young man’s life and his voyage to America.  I was floored by this book – it is simultaneously devastating and uplifting.  Reading West of the West Wind feels like being given a priceless gift every time I read it.

Ages 9 – 12.  Book Guild Ltd. March 2014. 49 pages. ISBN: 978-1909716223. Fiction.

Where to Get it:

  • Your local library: Worldcat.org (Ask your library for it.)
  • Or on (affiliate link): Amazon.com (And if you read this book, in this format, you’ll enjoy the irony.)

Why You Should Read this Book:

  • The stories draw you in immediately.  They all struck me as very important stories to experience.
  • It is a staggeringly compulsive read.
  • It shows people behaving admirably and with integrity in very difficult times.
  • It is so well written that I would reread passages simply because the words are so beautifully put together.
  • The illustrations are beautiful and intriguing.
  • You know how a lot of people complain that children’s literature has been dumbed down?  That’s not a problem here.  I wish more books were written at this level.
  • It’s devastating. Which might not seem like a reason to read a book, but it is important to read an emotionally difficult books — especially when it comes to war.
  • This book is a genuine gift.  It may be fiction, but it is very honest.

How My Three-and-a Half-Year-Old Son Responded to this Book:

This book is not intended for a three-year-old child.  It’s really for older children, young adults, and adults.  And yet, the story, “Wolves,” is so well written and so beautiful and magical that my son adores it.  It has a few beautiful illustrations, but it isn’t saturated with imagery on every page.  He has to sit and listen to it – using nothing but his imagination for long stretches of the story.  I wasn’t sure if this would be a challenge for him, but it wasn’t a problem at all.  He listened intently and then immediately asked me to reread it.  He has asked me to read, “Wolves,” to him over and over again on many different occasions.

He had a small breakdown when he thought that I was going to return this book to the library.  I had to reassure him several times that this is our book and it isn’t going anywhere.

I tried to read the first story,”The Library,” to him, but he stopped me.  He did not like the idea of books being burned.  Fair enough, kiddo, you’re three — we don’t have to talk about this just yet.  I don’t think I’m ready anyway.  “Wolves,” was challenge enough.  (Though, I did not read the very end of the story to him; I’m just not ready.)

The vocabulary is at a much higher level than I usually read to my son, but he would just ask what a word means and we’d read on.  By about the sixth time we read the story, he didn’t have any problems with it.  Truly, this is less a testament to my son’s comprehension and more so to how well the story is written.  Really, it is wonderful.

I really wish there were more books like this in the world. I love this book dearly.  I was completely unprepared for how it would make me feel.  I wasn’t ready to have such conflicting emotions or read about such topics when I received this children’s book for review.  Are there more books like this?  Is this what the children “across the pond” are reading?  I’d like more please.

I also feel like Jørgensen wrote these books because he has something important to say.  Most books I read for children definitely seem written to entertain and amuse — which is important — but it is refreshing to read a children’s book with so much depth.  It’s inspiring.

I will definitely get Jørgensen’s other books.  I’m very interested in hearing what else he has to say.

Author/Illustrator Websites:

Other Reviews of West of the West Wind:

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher.  No other compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

5 comments

  1. Great review. On occasion, my six-year-old twins bring home books from the library dealing with similarly heavy themes (like Patricia Polacco’s The Butterfly). I also have a 3-year-old, who listens to these books, but she usually doesn’t understand what is so devastating about the subject matter. I’ll keep my eye out for this book!

    Like

    • I’m constantly surprised what children understand and what they don’t.

      Thank you for the comment. I think I need to go check out some more Patricia Pollaco — we haven’t read anything by her in awhile and we’re definitely due.

      Like

      • Of Polacco’s books, I’ve only read “The Butterfly,” which was great. It was difficult to explain the Nazi occupation of France to my six-year-old, though (I discussed our experience on my blog on Oct. 18, 2013).

        Thanks for recommending West of the West Wind!

        Like

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