September 1970: Scott’s mother has recently died and his father gets the crazy idea to move his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott has to learn to live without his mom while adjusting to France. In his seventh grade class there is only Ibrahim who comes from another country. Scott doesn’t even want to play his guitar anymore. Why does his father think that life will be better so far from home?
Scott has no idea that his arrival is also a challenge to Sylvie. While her best friend is excited to have an American boy at school, Sylvie cannot say one word to Scott. She can’t even write good songs in her notebook anymore. Why is life so different since Scott moved to Château Moines?
Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era and told from the perspectives of twelve-year old Scott and Sylvie, this is a story about loss and friendship, music and peace, and also about secrets.
Although this is a work of fiction, the cultural, social, and historical background of the early 1970s in France and the United States inspired the writing. At the end of the book the reader will find a list of the songs, the names of singers, and bands mentioned through the novel as well as some elements about fashion, immigration in France, the Vietnam War, and other cultural, social, and historical facts relevant to the period of time.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Looking for a good book for a middle grade student? Try Chronicles from Chateau Moines. There isn't any foul language or inappropriate situations, only an innocent kiss at the end. It blends cultures together with anti-war and anti-racism themes. Even when there is conflict within the book, the characters aim to restore the peace.
After the death of his mother, Scott Sweet moves to Chateau Moines, France with his sister and father. While there he makes new friends and together they plan a protest for the Vietnam War. Sylvie, on the other hand, has to chose between her friend who likes Scott, or Scott himself. Since it is told through her point of view as well, of course she has to choose the new American boy.
Sylvie is my least favorite character in the book. She was very moody for more than half of the book. She kept fighting her crush of Scott because her friend said she liked him first. When she ditched her friend to meet with Scott, I thought she'd loosen up and become less of a stick in the mud. That didn't happen. Even when around Scott, she doesn't try to get very close to him. At times the reminder of him puts her in a bad mood around her friends and family. The only way she opens up about her feelings is through her writing. Throughout the book, readers see the poems/lyrics she writes.
Scott, on the other hand, is a bit strong willed--after all he won't wear socks until the war is over. He isn't as moody as Sylvie. He is the peacekeeper in the book. He befriends an Arabian boy, Ibrahim, and tries to be friends with Sylvie--if she will let him. Yes, Scott makes a false assumption in the book, but when he learns the truth, he quickly forgets the grudge he had against a certain adult character. He is a good leader.
In the end, the book closes with no loose ends. There is a nice twist that interconnects all of the characters. Astute readers will be able to figure out what this revelation is about half way through the book. It makes for a very happy ending.
Since the setting is in France, author Evelyne Holingue incorporates some French language in the book. Most of the French words/phrases are translated. Those that aren't can easily be deciphered with the context clues. This is one aspect of the book I really enjoyed her including. I'm glad the language wasn't all in English.
The story is told over the course of a school year in 1970-1971. Historical events are brought up in the book. Holingue also incorporates music all throughout. Since Scott plays guitar and Sylvie sings, music from the era is cited. Holingue lists the songs at the end of the book along with the album and year published. You'll definitely want to check it out, but for fun reference, the songs she lists are:
Surfin USA- Beach Boys
Mrs. Robinson- Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
L'Amerique- Joe Dassin
Let it be- the Beatles
The 59th Street Bridge Song- Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
Try just a Little Bit Harder- Janis Joplin
25 or 6 to 4- Chicago
I am a Rock- Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
We Can Work it Out- the Beatles
Gimme Shelter- Rolling Stones
Black Magic Woman- Santana
Bridge Over Troubled Water- Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream- John Denver
Blowin' in the Wind- Bob Dylan
Stop the War Now!- Edwin Starr
Your Song- Elton John
About author Evelyne Holingue:
My first published piece of writing was a poem about a man spending Christmas behind bars. I was eleven years old and wasn’t paid for my work, but I was hooked.
I studied French Literature at the Université de Caen and at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked in a publishing house before moving to California, following my husband.
It was a challenging time in my life as I was leaving my own career, my family, my friends and my beloved Paris behind. But how could I say no to the dreams of the man I love?
Readers enjoy escaping the familiar for the unknown. Being a foreigner is discovering the unknown day after day, not only for the time of a book. However, since most things in life come with a silver lining, I credit this move for giving me the opportunity to write. Through my words, I share my affection for my native and adoptive countries that I love equally.
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