Mr. Schu: What would you like anyone booktalking His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg to mention?
Louise Borden: I believe that one person can make a difference in the world. Kids are often told this in various ways - by their parents or teachers. I wanted to contribute to that conversation by writing about Raoul, who is unknown to many Americans. His actions and his moral compass can shine a light on the unknown roads ahead of all of us. There are very few books written about RW for children. I felt that my style of line breaks and white space would help readers navigate the terrain of unfamiliar geography and historical events.
What if RW had never gone to Budapest in July, 1944?
How would the story of Budapest's Jewish families have played out?
Did his years as a student in America help to shape Raoul's outlook on life?
Did his travels have an impact on his world view?
I tried to include interesting details to draw kids in. . .Raoul's childhood, his schooling, his travels, etc.
When I was writing the book, I was never really thinking about the booktalking that would occur after RW was published. But your question, John, has led me to new thinking. Many terrific questions can arise in discussing the book with students.
And of course, writing about the mystery of Raoul's disappearance was very difficult. I was so immersed for years in the research and then the writing. It took me almost two years to complete the text (after the research). When I was almost finished with the text, I returned to Stockholm, and shared the manuscript with Nina and Gunnar. "I'm almost there. . .but I still need to write the two ending chapters," I said, and Gunnar looked at me and smiled and replied, "You have the hardest part of the book still ahead of you. . . " Wise words from this wonderful friend. The ending was indeed the hardest to write.
Intentions by Deborah Heilgman. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012.