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  • The first 8 years, while the school grew, I was principal, learning disability teacher and librarian. Library classes were the best part of the week. I spent spare moments here and there, grazing the shelves, getting to know the books, looking for books to read aloud to the different grades. For me, the best read alouds catch me deep in the heart and I have to pause and find the breath to go on. I love the stillness that comes over the older kids as they register the emotion and wait for it to pass wait until I trust my voice enough to read on.
    That day I had chosen The Harmonica to read to grade 5. It is set in Poland just before the war and tells the story of a young boy sent to the camps. Separated from his parents he has only the harmonica his father gave him and memories to connect him with the life he had before. His music sustains those around him. It even reaches the grim and terrible camp commander, who calls for the boy to be brought to him, to play for him. The story has the terrible beauty of love and loss and survival in the midst of suffering beyond measure or comprehension.
    Nike would have been a Hitler Youth poster child. Tall, blonde, tanned, legs like a gazelle, clear eyed, athletic. When I turned the page and showed the picture of the commandant with his SS skull badges and a pair of ferocious German Shepherds at his feet, I read the shame etched on her face.
    I stopped at the end and looked over the class.
    “The Germans bombed London,” said Jason.
    “My grandmother told me the story about when your people marched on Pretoria,” said Candace softly.
    “Yeah,” said Rin Chong to Rei. “Your country invaded mine.”
    “Yeah,” said Rei turning to Justin, “But you guys dropped the bomb on us. Twice.”
    Just your average grade 5 class; German, English, Japanese, Korean, American, Kuwaiti, Italian, Israeli, South African, and a few more besides.
    I told them that through time, we have all been on one side or the other. That we have been invaded and invaders, raiders and raided. The question is, what are they going to choose.
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