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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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1. Eyewitness World War I by Simon Adams, photography by Andy Crawford

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.  I have to be honest and say this I don't really know much about this war except what I learned in school, or from a few books I have read.  And I have always felt that when your knowledge is lacking on a particular topic, begin learning about it by looking at a good overview, then you can look more closely at particular areas that might be interesting to you.

So, when I realized this anniversary was coming up, I decided to begin with one of DK's Eyewitness books.  Eyewitness World War I begins with an introduction to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, explains who the major powers were and well as the major conflicts that created alliances that would prove to be important in 1914 and the beginning of World War I.

The war was a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.  He was shot in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  Bosnia was claimed by Serbia, so naturally Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assignation and declared war on them on July 28, 1014.  Immediately, countries began to chose side - Germany supported Austria-Hungary, Russia supported Serbia, France supported Russia, then Britain declared war on Germany for invading Belgium.  The US didn't enter the war until April 6, 1917.

Each important aspect of the war is cover, usually in two page spreads, with lots of photographs supporting the text.  Readers will learn about how people signed up to fight, the most important battles, the role of women, the use of air power for the first time in a war:

Source: DK Eyewitness 

Other topics included are Life in the Trenches, the War at Sea, and the use of one the worst weapons of this war - the Gas Attack.  I have always been interested in spying and code breaking, so I was happy to see pages devoted to Espionage:

Source: DK Eyewitness

World War I made good use of carrier pigeons, using up to 500,000 of them according to this page of the book, for espionage and often for sending messages from behind enemy lines.

Back matter to Eyewitness World War I includes more facts, a Q&A, a list of important people and places, where to go to find out more, places and websites to visit, a Glossary and in Index.

If you have a young reader developing an interest in war books, Eyewitness World War I would be a good introduction for them.  And if you are a classroom or home schooling teacher, this is one you will definitely want as a resource for students.  I use my Eyewitness World War II book all the time, and kids really like all the photographs of what people and things looked like.  I'll be placing Eyewitness World War I with it for their use, since WWI is on the agenda for the next next year.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was purchased for my personal library

It's Nonfiction Monday, be sure to visit today's Round Up of other nonfiction books for kids and teens


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2. A Time to be Brave by Joan Betty Stuchner

Ever since the Nazis invaded Denmark, David Nathan, 10, and his best friend Elsa Jensen have been hungry, despite the fact that his dad is the best baker in all of Copenhagen.  But the Nazis have been helping themselves to whatever they want since 1940, and that includes anything that they fancy in Nathan's Patisserie

Now, it is September, 1943 and David is looking forward to Rosh Hashanah and his mother's special honey cake all month long.  The Jewish New Year is always a family celebration shared with Elsa's family.   If only he thought his sister might be there, but university studies keep her at school more and more.

Or so David's mother tells him whenever he asks about Rachel.  But on their way home from school one afternoon, Elsa tells David her secret - Rachel and Elsa's cousin Arne are in the Resistance, doing whatever they can to sabotage the Nazis.

That very afternoon, when he arrives at his father's bakery, David is asked to deliver 6 éclairs to Arne's house and to make sure all 6 get there.  But no sooner does David leave the shop, when he is stopped by two Nazi soldiers who insist on seeing what he has in his bakery box.  Seeing the éclairs, each soldier helps himself to one.

Finally, David is able to deliver the remaining four éclairs to Arne, who immediately dips his finger into each, finally pulling out a piece of paper from the last one.  All David can make out is the word train.  A few days later, David's father tells him that a train has been sabotaged by the Resistance, and David proudly realizes he had actually played a role in that.

And at last Rosh Hashanah arrives.  The longed for honey cake has been made, but when David and his father are sitting in the synagogue, the Rabbi announces that the Nazis are planning to round up Denmark's Jews that very night and advises everyone to go home and prepare for their escape.

Well, we know the end of this story because we know that Denmark's citizens did not allow the Nazis to capture most of that nation's Jewish citizens, and so we know that David and his parents escape to Sweden with the help of their friends the Jensens.  But, of course, young readers may not know this.

A Time to be Brave is a nice easy reader chapter book that provides a good introduction to what happened in Denmark in World War II.  It is the perfect book for a young reader who is not quite ready for Number the Stars.

The writing is simple. never condescending, the story is straightforward and the characters well-drawn. There is nice back matter, too, including a map of Denmark and Sweden, a World War II timeline, explanations of who Victor Borge is (yes, he in mentioned in the novel), the Resistance, King Christian X (an important figure to the Danish people during the war), and a recipe for honey cake (that I may have to try making).

If A Time to be Brave sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it was originally published in 2008 under the title Honey Cake.  I suspect it has been reissued under the new title because it now has "updated content that emphasizes Common Core and renewed interest in nonfiction" even though the story is fiction.  It is, however, based on a true story.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was provided by the publisher


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3. Sunday Funnies #17: What the heck are Canadian Whites?

I learned something new this week when I read Jacqueline Guest's novel The Comic Book War.  Canada, as you probably know, entered WWII two years before the United States did.  But wars cost money and in order to conserve Canada's balance of trade with the United States, Parliament passed War Exchange Conservation Act on December 6, 1940.

What this meant for fans of American comic book living north of the 49th Parallel was that there would be no more importation of such comic favorites as Superman, Batman or relative newcomer Captain Marvel.

To make up for this deficit, Canadian publishers scrambled to start producing their own superhero comic books.  In March 1941, Maple Leaf Publishing introduced the first issue of Better Comics and the first Canadian-created superhero Iron Man, created by Vernon Miller, formerly of the Disney Studios.  Iron Man was indestructible, having super strenght and was amphibious to boot.  He had originally lived on an island in the South Pacific, but an earthquake had obliterated all the inhabitants save him.  When the war started, Iron Man decided to throw his lot in with the Allies.  Like Iron Man, all the content in Better Comics was original and the stories were often serialized to keep customers coming back for more, but it seems to have been relatively successful, continuing to publish through the war.

August 1941 saw the publication of Triumph Adventure Comics by Hillborough Studio.  Founded by three artists, Triumph Adventure Comics introduced Canada's first Canadian-created, true Canadian superhero: Nevlana of the Northern Lights.  She was the child of a mortal mother and the King of the Northern Lights, Koliak the Mighty.  Nelvana could fly and travel at the speed of light by riding on a light beam from the Aurora Boralis.  Over time, more powers were written into the stories as they were needed.  It should also be noted that Nelvana arrived on the comic book scene a full four months before her American counterpart Wonder Woman.
Triumph Adventure Comics #1 August 1941; Triumph Comics March 1942
Nelvana continued to appear in Triumph-Adventure Comics until February 1941, for a total of 7 issues.  When her creator, Adrian Dingle, left Hillborough, he went to Bell Features taking Nelvana with him.

Bell Features was a very successful comic book publisher.  They were very Canadian focused and that was what readers really wanted during the war.  Besides Nelvana in Triumph, there was the Penguin in WOW Comics.  Unlike Batman's nemesis by the same name, WOW's Penguin spent his time fighting evil, especially the evil that was the Axis powers.  He was a master spy, a detective, an expert marksman, excellent at hand to hand combat and once you saw his face, you knew you didn't have long for this world.  And his identity was often speculated about but never revealed.

Bell also published Dime Comics and in February 1942, another true Canadian hero made his appearance.  Johnny Canuck was the creation of a 16 year old boy name Leo Bachle.  Johnny Canuck, a captain in the allied Air Force was also endowed with super strength.
Dime Comics February 1942 introducing Johnny Canuck
Last, but not least, we come to Educational Projects of Montreal.  Educational Projects introduced Canadian Heroes into the mixed of superheroes, focusing on real people who were real heroes.  Needless to say, this kind of comic books didn't really go over well with kids who were used to much more daring, dangerous and exciting fare for their heroes.
Canadian Heroes #1 November 1942 and #5, March 1943 introducing Canada Jack
And so Education Projects decided to forgo the real, focus on the fictional and so Canada Jack was created for the March 1943 issue of Canadian Heroes.  Canada Jack was just an ordinary guy without superpowers but he was an expert gymnast at the top of his form.  He actually became popular enough with kids that The Canada Jack Club was formed and kids were encouraged not only to join the club, but to do work to help the war effort.  Then, each month a different member and their war activities were spotlighted in the comic book.

Members spotlighted in Canadian Heroes V. 4 #6 December 1944 
But alas, this golden age of Canadian comic books was not to last beyond the end of the war, when the War Exchange Conservation Act was not longer needed and once again, American comic books flooded the Canadian markets with the kind of glitzy comics that the Canadian publishers just couldn't compete with.

So, what are they called Canadian Whites?  The covers may have looked just like the kind of four color covers you would find on American comics, but that is where the similarity ends.  The stories inside were all done in black and white, as you can see from some of the examples used here.

In 1995, the Canadian Post Office issued a set of 5 stamps commorating comic book heroes.  These included WWII superheroes Superman, Johnny Canuck and Nelvana, as well as Captain Canuck and Fleur de Lys from the 1970s and 1980s.


Source:
Bell, John. Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe.  Toronto: Dundum, 2006.

Most images used are public domain.

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4. I Survived #4: I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941 by Lauren Tarshis

Living in New York City, Danny Crane, 11, and his best friend Finn were always in trouble.  Danny's father had skipped out before he was born, so his mother worked as a nurse by day and cleaned offices at night to support them and was often not home.  There are just too many kids in Finn's family for anyone to keep an eye on him  The two boys skip school, sneak into the movies, and pretty soon, they were hanging out with gangster Earl Gasky.

So, in late1941, Danny's mother takes a nursing job at the hospital at Hickam Air Force base on Oahu, Hawaii.  Danny hasn't been living in Hawaii for very long before he hatches a plan to stowaway on a ship bound for San Francisco on December 7th, and from there, he plans to cross the country riding the rails back to Finn and the life he loves and wants.

On the morning of December 6th, Danny meets his new neighbors when toddler Aki Sudo wanders into the Cranes backyard.  The Sudos are a family of Japanese descent that had been born in Hawaii.  And Aki Sudo may only have been 3 years old, but he knew every plane the Americans had in their Air Force, thanks to the detailed drawings his fisherman father drew for him.

Danny likes the Sudos, but he is still determined to get back to Finn and NYC.  Yet, on the morning of December 7th, Danny is having a hard time getting out of bed and setting his plan in motion.  Thinking about his mother and how she will feel when she discovers him gone, Danny is jolted out of bed by little Aki's cries.  Planes, swarms of them, are coming and they aren't American.  Suddenly, as the two boys are heading to the Sudo home, they hear loud explosions followed by fire and smoke.  Pearl Harbor is under attack.

Returning Aki to his mother, Danny decides he needs to get the Hickam, to find his own mother.  But along the way, there is another round of bombing, and shooting.  Then, Danny meets Mack, a  lieutenant and pilot of a B-17.  Mack likes Mrs. Crane, but Danny was resentful of that.  Now, though, with a bullet wound to his arm, he and Danny try to make their way to Hickam together.

But, will the two be able to survive the rain of bullets and bombs the Japanese pilots are unleashing on all of Pearl Harbor?

I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor is the 4th book in this popular, action packed I Survived series for boys about boys living in different time periods and facing different historical disasters and making them real coming of age stories.  And, like the others, it won't let the reader down.  There is plenty of real historical information couched in the fictional story of Danny and since Danny more or less sees the attack on Pearl Harbor from a distance, the descriptions of it are realistic, but not so graphic they will upset the age appropriate reader.

One of the side issues that Lauren Tarshis addresses in this particular story is how easy it was for boys like Danny to fall into the wrong kind of life.  Danny is at an age when friends can be all important, so the reader sees how he is torn between staying with his mother and his loyalty to his friend and partner in crime Finn.  These two friends were on their way to being in real trouble when Mrs. Crane moved Danny to Hawaii.  Juvenile delinquency was a problem back then because so many parents, like Mrs. Crane, had to work long hours, often at two jobs.  Doing little things for someone like Earl Gasky was just the beginning.  Both boys are at an age when they could have gone either way and I wondered what happened to Finn, left in NYC.  

Since I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor is a work of historical fiction, the author has included lots of back matter for further exploration.  There is a lengthy Q&A about the actual attack, a Pearl Harbor Time Line, Pearl Harbor facts and resources for reading other books about kids caught in the bombing of December 7, 1941.

In addition, the publisher of the I Survived series, Scholastic, has put a Teacher's Guide online that is compatible with Common Core State Standards and it can be downloaded HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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5. The Comic Book War by Jacqueline Guest

It's 1943 and Robert Tourand, 15, misses and worries about his three older brothers who are off fighting in Europe with the Canadian armed forces.   So when he finds a small piece of a meteorite, it becomes a kind of magical charm for him.  Thanks to it, Robert soon, he begins to see and believe a cosmic connection between what his brother write about from the front line in their letters, and the heroes in the comic books he obsessed with.

And so, he pairs brother to comic according the their parallel experiences: favorite brother Patrick is assigned The Maple Leaf Kid, brother James and Sedna of the Sea go together because James could use her wisdom, brother George, a pilot, is paired with flying ace Captain Ice.  Their assignment: to keep his brother's safe.

It all works nicely until his mother finds a pair of torn pants and decides Robert need to be taught a lesson.  Now, she decides, his weekly allowance, his only means of buying the newest editions of the comic book that contain secret messages about his brothers, would be better spent on war stamps.  Now, Robert needs to figure out a new way to make sure he can buy his three favorite comics every month.

And it seems that ever since his found his magical piece of the universe, luck has been with him.  When his teacher announces that the student who collects the most fat for the war effort will win four completely filled books of war stamps, valued at $4.00, Robert thinks he's found the answer to funding his comic addiction.  But despite his best efforts, he didn't expect such stiff competition from Crazy Charlie (Charlene) Donnelly, a girl as much on a mission as Robert.

So, when fat collection doesn't yield the needed money, Robert decides to take a job as a telegram delivery boy.  Trouble is, Crazy Charlie has the same idea.  They are both hired, and as more and more telegrams need to be delivered, Charlie seems to be able to get around Calgary some much faster than Robert on her dilipated second hand bike compared to his sleek newish Raleigh.  Robert is so busy thinking about his comic books, he never bothers to ask Charlie about herself.  Nor does he think about what is in the telegrams he is delivering, until one arrives at his house in Charlie's hands.

At first, I didn't much care for The Comic Book War.  I found Robert to be a very unappealing character, too focused on himself and completely lacking in empathy for anyone else.  Ironically, Robert and Charlie are both loners, outsiders that could have been friends from the start, if Robert had been able to see beyond himself.  But as I continued to read, I began to see Robert in a different light, as a person who could actually have some compassion for the recipients of the telegrams he was delivering.

I also thought that Robert was a little too old to be so obsessed with comic books, even for the WWII time frame.  But this is, after all, a coming of age novel.  I began to think about how kids will use all kinds of ways to cope with fear, loss and trauma.  Robert keeps his fear about his brothers (and about growing up) from overwhelming him using magical thinking (always a good defense mechanism) that his comic book heroes will keep his brothers (and him) safe.

Charlie, who was much more in touch with reality, was a good contrast to Robert, despite her own problems in life.  I would have actually liked to have read more about Charlie, who is a story in her own right.

It is always interesting to find a Canadian story about kids in WWII because they have such a distinct perspective.  Canada was still part of the British Commonwealth in 1939, and even though it declared war on the Axis powers independently of Britain, it sent troops overseas to fight with the British Expeditionary Forces and the RAF.

Two nit-picky things did bother me.  Kids did not carry their school books to school in backpacks back them.  They used school bags or carried them in their arms.  And I did wonder about why lights were left on so freely at night.  I thought all of Canada had blackout precautions during the war.  But I could be wrong on these.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was received from the publisher

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6. My Top Blogs Posts (are not what I would have expected)

I was reading Cecelia's Top Ten Blogging Confessions over at her blog The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia when something she wrote made me stop and wonder.  I know Cecelia participates in the  meme Weekly Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads and one of her blogging confessions is that 4 recipe posts are among her top posts.  I enjoy reading Cecelia's book reviews, but I have to confess, she has posted some pretty good recipes and I know because I have tried some of them.  So thank you for both, Cecelia.

But all this did make me wonder what my most popular posts are.  It's not something I usually pay much attention to when I look at my stats.  So this morning I looked and, boy, was I surprised.  Here they are:

1- Going Solo by Roald Dahl, posted September 13, 2010
Roald Dahl recounts his life in Africa as an RAF pilot during the early years of the Second World War.   I was still a novice blogger when I posted this, and it shows.

2- Black History Month - The Double V Campaign: African Americans and World War II by Michael L. Cooper, posted February 7, 2011
This is a very interesting, excellently written book about the Double V Campaign, in which African American men and women were fighting for victory for their country and for equality in the Armed Services.

3- My Brother's Shadow by Monika Schroder, posted January 3, 2012
This is a story about a family at the end of World War I living in Berlin, Germany and their struggles, hardships and their participation in the charged political events of the time.

4- The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, posted July 18, 2011
The story of three children trying to survive while hiding from the Nazis in the rubble of war torn Warsaw, Poland after their parents are arrested and the strange boy with a silver sword connected to their missing parents.

5- I Survived #9: I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 by Lauren Tarshis, posted January 31, 2014
When they accidentally leave the Jewish ghetto Esties, Poland, to pick some raspberries, brother and sister Max and Zena are caught, but manage to escape their Nazi capture and decide to keep running.

6- The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, posted June 15, 2011
When Chas and his friends find a wounded German airman, they befriend him, then force him to repair the machine gun that was attached to his plane.  

7- The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo, posted April 6, 2011
A young boy learns about his grandmother's life in England during WWII when British and American soldiers took over her town to practice for D-Day and about the cat she loved named Tips.

8- Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer with Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck, posted December 13, 2010
Follows the lives of two Germans in WWII and afterwards.  One is an Aryan member of the Hitler Youth who completely believed in Hitler, the other a Jewish woman who escapes to Holland, only to be sent to Auschwitz.  This is a fascinating nonfiction book.

9- Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, posted August 6, 2013
This most famous book recounts the life of Sadako Sasaki as she struggles with A-Bomb disease ten years after the bombing of Hiroshima.  Believing that if she folded 1,000 origami cranes, she thought she would be granted her wish to live.  Unfortunately that didn't happen, but Sadako sparked a peace movement among the children of the world, who still send thousands of paper cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park every year to honor Sakako and the others who perished as a result of the atomic bomb.

10- Weekend Cooking #10: Victory through Carrots, posted May 14, 2011
This was one of my favorite posts to do.  Who knew there was such a thing as a World Carrot Museum?  Well there is and you can visit it online.  This is the museum that inspired my Favorite Funky Museums board on Pinterest.

What are your top ten posts?  

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7. First Dog Fala by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

On Wednesday, I wrote War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus by Kathryn Selbert, detailing the relationship between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his little pet poodle Rufus, his constant companion during WWII.  Well, Rufus wasn't the only dog to have a master who was also a world leader.  American President Franklin D. Roosevelt went through the war years with a little black dog named Fala.

In her dog biography, Elizabeth Van Steenwyk writes that Roosevelt spent much of his time during his first term as president alone at the end of the day.  His children were grown and away, his wife traveled to different parts of the country giving speeches   And so, one day, his cousin Margaret Suckley brought him a little Scottish terrier.  The two took an instant liking to each other.  Roosevelt promptly named his new puppy Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill (Murray was an old Scottish relative of the Roosevelt's), shortened to Fala.

Once trained, it didn't take Fala long to settle in as the first dog, whether he was at the White House, the president's home in Hyde Park, NY or just riding around in the presidential car.  Because Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair do to polio, Fala often has to rely on visitors and cabinet members to throw his toys for him to fetch.

Fala was apparently a somewhat adventurous dog and managed to escape the White House and wander the streets of DC before being brought home by the secret service.  Unfortunately, Steenwyk doesn't tell us how Fala managed to get or if his escape hole was ever discovered.

Not only is this a book about Fala, but it also introduces and gives insight in the kind of man Franklin D. Roosevelt was, and how he conducted a war in Europe and the Pacific without the same kind of mobility other world leaders had.

First Dog Fala proves itself to be a very engaging picture book for older readers.  Each two page spread has a page of text accompanied by a detailed corresponding illustration.  The illustrations, which have somewhat of an Edward Hopper quality to them, are done in oil on canvas and give a warm sense of companionship, but also the darker tones reflect the seriousness of the times.  

While this is a wonderful historical look at the times, it does lack any back matter, such as more information, a time line and sources Steenwyk used.  Still, I would definitely recommend First Dog Fala and I would also pair it with War Dog: Churchill and Rufus.  These are perfect books for dog lovers and/or budding history buffs.

If you ever are in Washington D.C., you might want to visit the relatively new Franklin Delano Memorial where you will find not only the President memorialized, but also his canine companion Fala.


This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the Bank Street School Library

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8. War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus written and illustrated by Kathryn Selbert

It isn't surprising that Winston Churchill was an animal lover, but you would expect he would have a larger dog than a little poodle as one of his beloved pets.  But during the darkest days of World War II, one of his great comforts and his constant companion was his little dog named Rufus, a spunky brown poodle.

War Dogs is written from the point of view of Rufus and introduces readers  Churchill when he was Prime Minister of Britain during World War II from 1940 to 1945.

In this vividly imagines picture of their life together, at times Rufus accompanies his master through the rubble of the bombed out streets of London, or sits nearby as Churchill writes his famous speeches delivered in the House of Commons and over the radio to the British citizens.  Other times, they go out for quiet walks, or spend time in the underground bunker, where Rufus likes to inspect every nook and cranny while Churchill works.

Rufus is privy to all the secret plans for the D-Day landings at Normandy long before most people, and he is by Churchill's side when victory finally comes and the two companions could retire to the country.  As readers go along, they learn not only about the special relationship between this great man and his dog, but also some important preliminary facts about the war and they will be able to read some of the more famous lines of Churchill's speeches scattered along the pages:
Source:Charlesbridge Publishing
The detailed, realistic acrylic and collage illustrations for War Dogs are done in a palate of earth tones,  emphasizing the different moods of the war years and moving the narrative along nicely.  Two of the most effective illustrations are two page spreads of London at night during the blackout where only the faint outlines of buildings, including St. Paul's Cathedral, can be seen and the last two pages showing Churchill and Rufus from the back, the two war dogs, sitting side by side on a grassy knoll, looking over the  tranquil grounds of Churchill's home after the war and a job well done.

War Dogs is Kathryn Selbert's debut work and it is an excellent beginning for this talented artist.   In addition, Selbert has also included back matter which includes a timeline, information about Churchill and poodles and about Churchill himself.  There are also websites, books and a bibliography for more in-depth information.

This is also an excellent book to use as a teaching aid in the classroom or for home schooling.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was bought for my personal library

The is a wonderful Discussion Guide available for use with War Dogs that can be downloaded HERE

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9. The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (A Maggie Hope Mystery #4) by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is back!  As you may recall, Maggie is a Brit who was raised by her aunt in the U.S. after her parents alleged death in a car accident.  After graduating from Wellesley with a degree in mathematics, Maggie went to England to sell the house she had inherited from a grandmother she didn't know existed.  While there, World War II started and Maggie stayed in England to do her bit for the war.  Oh yes, and she found out her parents were still alive.  Her father, Edmund Hope, is a codebreaker at Bletchley and her mother, Clara Hess, is a Nazi spy.

In this fourth book of the Maggie Hope Mystery series, it's autumn 1941 and Maggie is back from her mission in Berlin, Germany, living in Asisaig, Scotland, training SOE (Special Operations Executive) agents for spying operations in France and Germany, while she tries to heal herself own broken body and spirit.  Maggie Hope has serious PTSD.

Early one morning, after sending her trainees off on a rocky run along the shore, Maggie spots a dead sheep with open, oozing black sores.  Later, when she is in Edinburgh to see her friend Sarah Sanderson in a dance performance, the lead ballerina collapses and dies on the stage, with the same kind of black sores that the sheep had.  Soon, another dancer and her friend Sarah are also hospitalized, deathly ill and with the same sores.  Jolted out of her depression, Maggie determines to get to the bottom of what is causing this.  The case is solved quickly enough, but Maggie is none too happy when she discovers in the course of her investigation that the government is experimenting is some unusual secret weapons.

At the same time, Maggie's mother is a prisoner in the Tower of London and has been sentenced to execution on December 7th at 12 noon.  Clara possesses lots of knowledge about Nazi Germany that the British would like to have, but she will not give it up until Maggie or Maggie's father  agree to visit her, something both have refused to do.  And time is running out for Clara.

Meanwhile, Churchill is fervently hoping the Americans will enter the war before it's too late for Britain to survive.  Though Roosevelt is adamant about not wanting to get involved he is willing to send help to Britain in the shape of what Churchill calls "all of their oldest destroyers, held together with tape and taffy.  They're keeping their best at Pearl Harbor…" (pg 125).

And speaking of Pearl Harbor, the Americans seem to ignore every indication they have received that an attack by Japan is imminent, despite having already cracked the Japanese code.  This was perhaps the most exciting part of the novel, reading the build up to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, knowing it was inevitable and reading about who knew what and what they did or didn't do with whatever knowledge they possessed.

Although I really enjoyed reading The Prime Minister's Secret Agent, it is a somewhat different novel than the previous three Maggie Hope mysteries.  As I said, the mystery was solved more easily and quickly than usual, but there is still more happening.  The focus switches from what is going on with Maggie, with Clara Hess, with Churchill, with important American officials, including J Edgar Hoover, and with important Japanese representatives and there is even a nice cameo appearance by Ian Fleming. It may sound a bit confusing, but it actually works quite well.

I have to admit that when I was reading the bits about Clara Hess, I did think to myself "oh dear, Susan has jumped the shark."  But no, I read on and it all made sense.  She is good at what she does.

While The Prime Minister's Secret Agent lacks some of the action of the previous novels, it does deal with some moral issues around fighting a clean or dirty war, particularly with regard to the idea of intelligence and whether to withhold it or share it, and the development and ethical use of chemical and biological weapons because of how they can impact innocent civilians.

MacNeal has, once again, done some great research for this novel and I urge you to read her Historical Notes at the back of the book.  There's lots of good stuff there that will enlarge on your appreciation of The Prime Minister's Secret Agent.

I think for fans of Maggie Hope, you won't be disappointed by this novel.  For those who aren't familiar with Maggie, this is a fine stand alone novel, enough background is provided so you won't feel lost or confused.  In fact, you may even be enticed to read the previous mysteries.

Here's a bit of good luck - there's another Maggie Hope Mystery in the works.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an E-ARC from NetGalley

This is book 3 of my 2014 Crusin' Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge hosted by Socrates' Book Review
This is book book 10 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
 

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10. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Ever since the 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch in which her father sacrificed his life to save Adolf Hitler from the bullet meant to kill him, Gretchen Müller and her family have enjoyed a special place in Hitler's world.  But now, in 1931, Gretchen, 17, has had the seeds of doubt about her father's sacrifice planted in her mind by none other than a Jewish reporter for the Munich Post, Daniel Cohen.  Handsome and not much older that Gretchen, Daniel claims that Herr Müller's death was intentional and not only that, but was done by a fellow Nazi Party member.

And it looks like Daniel Cohen may be right - the powder burns and bullet hole on the back of her father's shirt certainly seem to support the idea that Herr Müller was shot in the back.  But who and why would someone do such a thing to a man who was always so loyal to Hitler?

That's the mystery that Gretchen needs to solve and the only one who can help her is Daniel Cohen. Now Gretchen must overcome her ingrained aversion to Jews.  She had always believed Hitler when he said that Jews were subhuman, but Daniel seems to be anything but.

Solving the mystery of her father's death won't be easy for Gretchen.  First, there is her older brother Reinhard, a psychopath who has found an outlet for his sadistic behavior as one of Hitler's Brownshirts.   Reinhard loves nothing more than going out "Jew hunting" and delights in torturing his sister.  When Reinhard makes her pay for snooping in his room, Gretchen soon discovers that she has no one she can turn to.  Her mother is terrified of Reinhard, yet lives in a state of denial about what he is.  Then there are Gretchen's best friends, Eva Braun and Hitler's half niece Geli (Angela) Raubel,  both appearing to be as loyal to Hitler as everyone else that surrounds him and neither willing to interfere on Gretchen's behalf.  When even Uncle Dolf, as she has always called Hitler, also turns his back on her, Gretchen begins to question everything she has always believed.

As Gretchen comes to rely on and trust Daniel Cohen, and as Daniel begins to see the real young woman behind the Nazi facade that Gretchen must wear in public, they find themselves attracted more and more to each other.   But Gretchen and Daniel also discover just how ruthless Hitler's quest for power is and why solving the mystery of Herr Müller's death may become a question of life or death for  both of them.

I have been of two minds about Prisoner of Night and Fog ever since I finished it.  It is a tension filled novel, that at times had my heart pounding.  The last days of the Weimar Republic were filled with hunger, inflation, unemployment, and political violence as communists and SA clashes increased.  Anne Blankman spares not punches when it comes to describing this aspect of in the book.  Reinhard and the other Brownshirts who appear in this story are probably the most true to life characters in term of their actions and Blankman even throws in the real-life figure of Ernst Röhm, leader of the SA, and every bit as zealous in going after Hitler's enemies as Reinhard.  But…

I found the plot to be weak and unfocused at times, and too often I felt like I was reading a history book instead of a novel.  It was slow going a lot, followed by what should have been nail-biting tension if only I had cared more about Gretchen.

Gretchen has everything going for her as a character.  She is a strong young woman, somewhat independent, or as much as one could be as part of Hitler's inner circle of admirers, and open to changing her ideas about things even if reluctantly at times, but somehow she just is cut it.

So, maybe I didn't care about her or anyone else in the book because I felt the characters didn't have much dimension.  It was like I was told admirable or deplorable things about the characters, but I just never felt them to really be there.  Even Hitler spoke more in slogans that dialogue.  It was like a cardboard cutout was substituted for the real character.  Even that fact that he also came across as lusting for Gretchen, Eva Braun and Geli Raubel didn't feel real.  Maybe because most scholars believe he was asexual.  Reinhard was a good picture of a Brownshirts, but also completely lacks depth and personality.

Blankman introduces us to something called Cell G, a kind of early Nazi death squad.  I have never heard of Cell G before, but it was apparently the subject of an exposé that appeared in the real Munich Post in April 1932.  In fact, she seems to have relied heavily on a book by Ron Rosenbaum called Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil published in 1998, especially for information about Cell G.  In her Author's Note, Blankman refers her readers to this book, and even includes a pretty good bibliography.

But the thing that really annoyed me was the term night and fog.'  On pages 175-181, it seems to be equated with the idea of Jewish extermination.  But the term has nothing to do with the fate of German Jews and I thought this too misleading to ignore.  It came into use in 1941 with the passage of the Night and Fog Decree.  Its purpose was the disappearance without a trace of any resisters or saboteurs in the occupied countries.  Blankman is, however, correct in associating the term night and fog with the poem "Der Erlkönig" by Goethe.

Deapite all this, at the end of the day, I would still recommend this book to anyone who really likes historical fiction, if for no other reason than because there are not many books written about these last days of what was called the Kampfzeit, or the Nazi time of struggle to gain power.  You do get a sense of what it was like in 1931 and Blankman includes a number of figures like Rudolf Hess and Ernst Hanfstaengl who really were part of the Hitler entourage.  Nazi headquarters really was in the Braunes Haus, where Gretchen worked for Hanfstaengle.

Braunes Haus
This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was borrowed from a friend




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11. Seeds of Rebellion: The First French and Indian War by Teresa Irvin

It's 1755 and life is difficult enough living on a farm, but for Josh Bedford, 13, life is made even more difficult with an older brother, Matt, who tortures him and a father he never seems to be able to please.  But then, Matt lets him take the blame for forgetting to lock the barn door and letting the cow get loose.  The cow ends up butchered and Josh ends up getting lashes from his father.

Still in the throes of anger, it's not surprisingly that when his adventuresome hero, Uncle Harry, shows up shortly afterwards, Josh decides to run away.  Josh stows away on the wagon his uncle is driving and eventually ends of at Fort Cumberland, where British Redcoats, rag-tag colonists and Native Americans have gathered as they prepare for war against French and other Native Americans.

Sneaking away from his uncle who is still unaware that he has run away, Josh changes his name to Jed and ends up finding work with Daniel Boone after almost getting them both killed by a bear.  But Josh/Jed also makes a friend in Oliver Cunningham, a 15 year old from Cork, Ireland who's a fifer for the British.

After Daniel Boone is sent to Winchester, VA to get supplies, Josh/Jed finds himself working as a groom for Captain George Washington until Boone returns.  All the while he must watch out for his uncle, knowing Harry would be forced to take him back home.

Hanging around camp is good, but eventually they must pull out and while on the move, war catches up with them when they are attacked by the French and Native American soldiers.  From his vantage point, Josh/Jed witnesses the massacre that follows.  Suddenly Uncle Harry's adventurous life doesn't look so appealing to this young boy.

Josh learns some valuable lessons in the 2 1/2 months he lives with the men involved in what came to be known as the first French and Indian War.  His father had always accused Josh of being unreliable at a time when it was often of life and death importance, but from Boone and Washington, he learns the valuable of being reliable and the satisfaction of a job well done.  From Oliver, Josh learns the true meaning of friendship and the importance of forgiveness.

But the war, the slaughter of people he knew and walked among, leaves Josh a very different young man than the child who ran away.

Teresa Irvin's Seed of Rebellion has its roots in a letter written by her 4X great grandmother describing some of the hardships she was facing on the family farm while her husband was away at Fort Cumberland with Captain Washington.  As a result, she  has written an historical coming of age novel that for all its quiet narrative style really packs a wallop.  She pulls no punches in her detailed descriptions, so be prepared.  

But that authenticity makes this a very interesting book to read because, let's face it, the French and Indian Wars a/k/a the Seven Years War, is a unit that is really brushed over in social studies classes and most of us don't remember much more than the name.  Given that, Seeds of Rebellion makes a wonderful supplement for any history class that is studying this period of American history.

Josh is a great coming of age protagonist.  Full of anger and self-pity that he isn't the favored son, he has lots to learn when he ventures out into a wartime world.  Yet despite the time and setting of the story, what Josh learns about the world is not so different than what all kids hopefully learn.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an E-Book bought for my personal library

This is my French and Indian War book for my 2014 War Challenge with a Twist hosted by War Through the Generations

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12. Best Friends Fovever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt

I love to look at scrapbooks.  They tell so much in the words and pictures the person keeping the scrapbook chooses to use.  I always had scrapbooks for school, camp, and family when I was growing up.  The 1940s was also a time when scrapbooks were a  popular way of remembering important people, events and other things.

Louise Krueger, 14, begins her scrapbook on April 24, 1942, the day her best friend Dottie Masuaka has just left their Seattle neighborhood with her family to be ?relocated" along with everyone else who is Japanese or Japanese American until the world war is over.   But no one knows what relocation mean and where it is.

Through pictures, journal entries, newspaper clippings, and various mementos that Louise pastes into her scrapbook, the reader learns about how the Japanese were forced to sell homes, furniture, businesses and cars they had worked so hard to get for a fraction of their worth on very short notice;  the kinds of appalling living conditions in slapped together huts or horse stalls they were put into and the attitude of many Americans towards anyone who was Japanese.

But the reader also gets a picture of what life was like for kids during those first few months of war.  New wartime restrictions quickly go into effect: rationing gas and a rubber shortage (tires were impossible to get) means trips are only taken when absolutely necessary; mixing yellow coloring into the white oleo to make it look like butter, the flyer from a Japanese Exclusion meeting about "keeping America for Americans."

Louise also keeps all of Dottie's letters which talk about camp life, her grandfather's difficulty with what has happened, and many of them contain drawing she makes of camp life.  Louise also keeps the program from the May Day Performance and her confirmation, two events she and Dottie had been looking for.  And there's lots of realia - ribbons, notes from friends, flowers, movie stubs.

And, of course, there is talk of boys.  Louise meet a young man who lied about his age to join the Army and ended up in a hospital; Dottie is surprised that a boy they had thought annoying has matured in the camp and the possibility of a camp romance is hinted at.

But then suddenly in September 1942 the letters stop.  And no one is more surprised than Louise and Dottie when they discover why.

This is an interesting way to look at the war.  Anyone of Japanese ancestry was sent to an internment camp aftg\er the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7, 1941.  Though the story is fiction, Beverly Patt got her idea for Best Friends Forever from a story her mother told her as a child and got the details of what it was like for Japanese Americans sent to the internment camps from a couple name Dave and Margaret Masuoka.  The Masuokas gave Patt lots of details that helped her create and give depth and a sense of authenticity to the character of Dottie.  You can read more about how Patt researched and created the scrapbook Louise keeps in an interview at Discover Nikkei.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the back of the book where Patt gives more background information for writing Best Friends Forever.  And she includes an interesting Bibliography for anyone who might want more information about the internment of the Japanese during WWII.

This is a wonderful book for introducing this aspect of WWII history to young readers and to help that, you will find a very useful Teacher's Guide HERE.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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13. Movie Matinee #5: The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

"I want to go on living even after my death"
 4 April 1944

Yesterday was Anne Frank's 85th birthday and so I thought I would take a look at the 2009 BBC/Masterpiece Theatre production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

There have been a number of film and stage adaptations of Anne Frank's famous diary, chronicling the over two years spent in hiding from the Nazis.  I have seen the 1959 adaptation starring Millie Perkins, whose portrayal of Anne as a wide-eyed waifish looking girl was, a little to flat and unrealistic.  I think the movie reviewer said it best in his 1959 NY Times review: "there does not surge out of her [Perkins] frail person a sense of indestructible life, of innocence and trust that show no shadows, of a spirit that will not die.  She does not rise  in the drama as a pillar of perceptible faith in man.  She is reedy..."

Year later, in 1997, I saw Natalie Portman in a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank, which I liked very much.  I thought Portman did a very creditable job of portraying Anne and Linda Lavin was a truly wonderful Mrs. Van Daan.  But the play closed early because it had been struggling to fill seats at every performance and when it didn't win any Tony awards, the produced decided to cut their losses.

L. Millie Perkins as Anne R. Natalie Portman as Anne
In 2010, a new production of The Diary of Anne Frank aired on television in England and the United States.  I had watched it when it first aired on Masterpiece Theatre and watched it again last night.  I realized that the thing that I found to be so powerful in this production was that it captured exactly was was missing from the 1959 movie.  Anne was played by Ellie Kendrick, a young English actress who you may recognize from her role as Meera Reed in the Game of Thrones TV series.  Ellie was actually 17 years old at the time she was playing 13 year old Anne, but I thought she brought Anne to life in a way that hasn't been done before.

Here, at last, is a robust Anne that resembles a real 13 year old girl.  She is self-absorbed, moody, impulsive, kind, fresh, loving, angry, flirty and curious.  And she is fearful, as are all the occupants of that very cramped Secret Annex, their hiding place above her father Otto Frank's place of business, a pectin and spice company.   Kendrick's portrayal of Anne is almost perfection as she brings all these mixed emotions and feelings out with perfect timing, and a wonderful flounce when she is obviously angry but silent.  And we never lose the sense of "a spirit that will not die."

FYI: Kendrick's version of Anne also finally talks about more intimate things like getting her period, her painful, messy, but sweet secret, and being curious about her changing body and budding sexuality - passages that were edited out of the her diary by her father when it was originally published.  Anne's burgeoning sexuality was finally put back into the diary when the definitive edition was published in 1995.  I think this makes Anne more of a person that a symbol and I am rather glad that when she adapted the diary for this production, Deborah Moggach included it in her well done screenplay.

Kendrick with Iain Glen as Otto Frank and Tamsin Greig as Edith Frank
The film is done with a lot of voice over using the content of the diary, and just enough dialogue to move time along.  Additionally, the tension among the residents of the attic as time went by, as food shortages increased and the abject fear they felt each time there were noises near the attic door that they were about to be discovered by armed Nazis is simply payable and will set your heart racing.

But knowing the ultimate outcome of all the lives in the attic makes this beautifully done film so very difficult to watch.  But do watch it, nevertheless, especially if you haven't seen it yet.

You can watch an OK version of the entire film on YouTube, but the film is also available at the library, or you can purchase a copy, and PBS occasionally reruns it.

You can download an excellent, extensive Teacher's Guide for this version of The Diary of Anne Frank from PBS Masterpiece Classic

Did you know that on March 28, 1944, Anne was inspired to rewrite her diary after hearing a radio speech by Dutch Cabinet Minister Gerritt Bolkestein who said:
"History cannot be written on the basis of official decisions and documents alone.  If out descendants are to understand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during these years, then what we really need are ordinary documents - a diary, letters from a worker in Germany, a collection of sermons given by a parson or priest.  Not until we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everyday material will the picture of out struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory."
Anne had almost finished revising her diary when the Nazis arrived on August 4, 1944.  Anne wanted to make a difference with her writing and on 1 April 1944, she wrote:
"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to G-d for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.  I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.  But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?"
Poignant words from a writer whose diary has touched so many people.

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14. Gaijin: American Prisoner of War written and illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Koji Miyamoto, 13, his American mom and Japanese dad have been living a quiet life in San Francisco.  But when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 all that changes immediately.  Koji secretly fears his father may have been part of the attack since he was in Japan when it happened taking care of his sick father.  At school, he is picked on by a group of bullies, the trolley operator won't let him on the board and the government has taken away the family radio, insinuating that all Japanese are spies.

Finally, Koji's mom receives a letter saying that he is to be sent to a "relocation camp" which is nothing more than the Alameda Downs, a former racetrack.  His mother decides to go with him, but because she is white, not Japanese, she and the camp commander become friends.  Koji, who is called Gaijin (outsider) by the other Japanese boys finds himself getting bullied by them.  After getting caught fighting, an elderly old family friend man, Yoshi Asai,  takes Koji under his wing.  But after the two create a Victory Garden, the bullies go after it night after night.

Koji finds himself getting more and more angry as the days go by, at the government for putting them in horse stables and then treating them like they are all criminals; at the bullies for making him feel like he doesn't belong anywhere.  Pretty soon a rift develops between Koji and his mom, fueled by the bullies repeatedly calling her the camp floozy.

The bullies set up all kinds of dangerous tasks for Koji to do with the promise of belonging as his reward.  As the tasks get riskier, Koji faces the possibility of being sent to a very unpleasant correction facility alone.  Is his desire to belong or his anger so great that his is willing to risk that fate?  Or can the gentle elderly Mr. Yoshi Asai help keep Koji from getting into more trouble?

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War is based on a true story from author/illustrator Matt Faulkner's family, as he explains at the end of the story, making it personal and affecting.  Using the graphic novel format, allows the reader to see the anger, confusion, fear, all the understandable feelings of a young man forced to live the way the Miyamoto's were, and being treated like an enemy alien because of his race, not his citizenship.

The illustrations are done using watercolor and gouache in rich vibrant colors very reminiscent of the early 1940s.  Gouache is the perfect medium for this graphic novel, with its large bold energetic  images, sometimes only one to a pages, other times as many as five.  Much of the story comes through the illustrations, with little text but together they really capture every humiliating element of the internment of the Japanese in WWII.

The more I read graphic novels, the more I appreciate them.  When they are done well, as Gaijin is, they can be a way of introducing difficult topics to young readers and may serve as a way to interest reluctant readers.  

Another excellent book about this still not widely known about part of American history.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was bought for my personal library

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15. D-Day: The Invasion od Normandy, 1944 by Rick Atkinson

Today is the 70th Anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, the event that ultimately turned the tide of World War II in favor of the Allied forces and began the liberation of occupied Europe from the hands of the Third Reich.  What better day than today to review a book about D-Day, all the more so, since I have to be honest and say that, from a military standpoint, I don't know much about the actual invasion.  I have read some books about it, but most were fiction and they were more about the protagonist that the invasion.  In truth, when I look at a photo like this one of Omaha Beach on D-Day, the dyslexic in me sees so much chaos, I don't know how the invasion succeeded.


But now, Rich Atkinson has adapted his adult book The Guns at Last Light for younger readers, focusing on the plan. the preparation, the invasion on June 6, 1944 and what happened in the days that followed.  Atkinson begins by taking the reader into the closed door meeting at St.Paul's School in London where admirals, generals, field marshals, logisticians and staff, as well as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Dwight Eisenhower and even George VI, the King of England, had gathered for a final review of the D-Day plan.

And what a plan it was.  It wasn't just a question of hitting the beaches and then pushing back the Germans.  All kinds of necessities that you might not realize were needed had to be considered and obtained: things like 301,000 vehicles, 1,800 train locomotives, 300,000 telephone poles, 60,000,000 K rations and a lot of chewing gum, to name just a fraction.  Even the number of crosses that would be used on the headstones of the casualties had to be thought about.

And then, the soldiers had to be trained before the invasion.  For months, all over England, different kinds of military maneuvers were practiced over and over again.

The planning logistics are interesting, but most poignant of all is the actual invasion.  Atkinson makes it clear that the decision to go ahead with the plan was been a very difficult decision for the Allied leaders to make right up to the last minutes, particularly given that weather conditions weren't ideal.  Eisenhower had doubts and fears right up to the night before, even writing a note taking for responsibility should the invasion fail.

But the invasion didn't and Atkinson does an excellent job of breaking this very complicated event and making it comprehensible for younger readers, and me.  Certainly, the Normandy Invasion went off with plenty of hitches, but reading about what these brave men managed to accomplish despite that and despite their own fears is what makes the story of D-Day so incredible.

There are plenty of photographs and maps throughout the book and Atkinson provides lots of interesting front matter such as lists of countries involved, both Allied and Axis; a WWII timeline; and an extensive who was who.  Included back matter has lists of fascinating facts that aren't usually found in histories of D-Day: like the kinds weapons carried by troops; information on carrier pigeons, which were used extensively throughout the war; on Operation Fortitude: the Inflatable Army; how the wounded were cared for; equipment carried by new GIs and more. These are exactly the kinds of concrete details that appeal to many readers.  My favorite: what K Rations consisted of.

Now when I look at the picture above, I don't see just chaos, but an as-well-as-humanly-possible-well-orchestrated plan of attack.  D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 is an excellent overview of this important wartime event and should appeal to any young reader with an interest in history, WWII and/or military matters.   And in the end, when I see the row upon row of headstones for the soldiers in the different Normandy cemeteries, it really gives me a whole new appreciation for the meaning of the words The Greatest Generation.

American Cemetery and Memorial, Normandy, France
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an E-ARC from NetGalley

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16. The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry written and illustrated by Peter Sis


Last year was the 70th anniversary of the publication of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and in honor of that The Morgan Library in NYC had a special exhibition exploring the origins of this most famous of stories.  Having such an exhibit in NYC seems only fitting, since The Little Prince was written in New York while Saint-Exupéry was living here.  He had left his beloved France after it had fallen to the Nazis in June 1940.

While the exhibit was still running (unfortunately, it has ended), I went to hear Peter Sis speak about his new biography, The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  Sis begins this biography with information about Saint-Exuépry's early life and the beginnings of his passion for planes and flying.  Saint-Exupéry was born around the same time that flying was just getting off the ground - he was only three years old when the Wright brothers flew for the first time in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  A passion for planes and flying stayed with Saint-Exupéry and when he was 21, his mother finally agreed to pay for him to take flying lessons.

Sis follows Saint-Exupéry's career as a pioneer air mail pilot, delivering mail in Europe, West Africa and eventually South America, charting various routes for other pilots to follow, sometimes living on airfields in complete solitude, other times negotiating ransoms for pilots who had been shot down hostile nomads.  Those early days of aviation weren't easy.  Pilots had to battle through wind, rain, and storms, but aviation remained Saint-Exupéry's passion.

In 1936, Sis recounts, while trying to break a flying record, Saint-Exupéry and his mechanic crashed and almost died in the desert.  You may recall that the narrator of The Little Prince was a pilot who had also lived in solitude and then crashed in the Sahara Desert and it seems likely that the origins of The Little Prince come from this experience.  Not surprisingly, Saint-Exupéry had already began publishing his aviation stories as early as 1926.

When France went to war against Germany in September 1939, Saint-Exupéry naturally signed on to be as a pilot.  After France fell to the Germans, he and his wife traveled to the United States, which is when  Saint-Exupéry wrote the little prince while living in a lovely home on Long Island.  But after the tides of the war began to turn, he returned to Europe and began to fly missions out of North Africa, his last one was on July 31, 1944, when his plane disappeared into the sea near Corsica.

When Peter Sis creates a picture book, it is a feast for the eyes as well as the mind.  He has a way of telling a story using basically short, simple declarative sentences, which are sometime wrapped around an illustrations within an illustrations, and by the end of the story, you have been given so much more than you had expected.  And, I am happy to say, The Pilot and the Little Prince is no exception.

The book is designed so that the straightforward text is on the bottom of the page, as though it is earth-bound, while the stuff of dreams and passions reside in the skies above the earth bound narration:

And as you explore the various illustrations depicting Saint-Exupéry's life on each page, you will no doubt recognize the references to The Little Prince - they may be subtle but they are definitely there.
About a third of the book is devoted to the war in Europe and I think this double spread of Saint-Exupéry's beloved France burning/bleeding from the invading Germans is one of the most poignant of Sis's illustrations.  You can almost feel how wounded and hurt Saint-Exupéry must have felt to see France fall into the hands of the enemy:


There are several other double page spreads that are just are incredible.  Like this one showing the lights in the submarine infested ocean that form a U-Boat as Saint Exupery and wife sail to New York, so simple, yet so eloquent:

Or the one of stars forming the head of the little prince as a homesick Saint-Exupéry looks across the ocean towards France:


As always, Sis's illustrations are all just so spot on and exquisitely expressive.

The Little Prince is one of my earliest reading memories and while I know that The Pilot and the Little Prince is not a WWII book per se, it is too hard to resist reviewing here.  And Peter Sis has always been a favorite author of mine, so really I consider this book to be a marriage made in heaven:  It is a beautiful tribute to a beloved author by a beloved author.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was purchased for my personal library

A Teaching Guide to all of Peter Sis's books, including The Pilot and the Little Prince, is available as a PDF HERE

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17. 2014 Book Bloggers Conference

This post was originally published on Randomly Reading, but I'm just too tired to come up with another post about the same day so I am repeating it here for different readers. 

I was off at BEA in NYC this week, but I feel like I have been gone from here since forever (and now you all know I don't schedule posts ahead of time, which is really surprising for someone a little on the OCD side).  Today is the official last day, and I was really hoping to be there, but it turns our that yesterday was my last day.

What did I do at BEA for three days, besides stand on long, long lines?


On Wednesday, I went to the Book Blogger Conference, which was more a lot more useful this year.  I met up with my friend Elizabeth from Silver's Reviews and she introduced me to Laura, a blogger from Library of Clean Reads and a senior coordinator at iRead Book Tours.  It's always nice to see old friends and meet new ones.

The day began with opening speaker was Maureen Johnson, YA author of 10 novel and contributor to two short story collections.  She was very funny, has an adorable new puppy named Zelda after Zelda Fitzgerald, and told us that book bloggers have and use their ability to shake up conventional reviews that tell us not to read a particular book and counter denouncements such as today's YA literature is too dark (Maureen started the YA Saves Campaign back in 2011 - read her article about UA in the Guardian HERE).  In short, bloggers can and should shake up the status quo.

After Maureen's keynote speech, we broke up into different sessions.  The first one I went to was Design 201 - Taking your Blog to the Next Level with Hafsah Faizal of Icey Designs and David Piakowski of BookLikes.  The basics of a great design were covered and include:

1- Color - use color to match your blog's theme: use dark colors, if your blog is dark; light if your blog is light.  But always use hues that you really love and don't limit yourself to one color.  Hafsah recommends using kuler.adobe.com

2- Branding - this defines your blog.  Make sure to have a nice square logo that encompasses your blog and you, and be sure to include your blog's name in it and don't keep changing your logo.

3- Layout - make sure you have a responsive design which is a layout that accommodates all screen sizes: desktop, tablet, phone or any other device.

4- Themes - if your blog is on Wordpress, you can find themes at themeforest.net, starting at about $3.00, or at creative market.com.  I don't recall anything being recommended for Blogger.

5- Design - it's all about you and how your readers feel while visiting your blog.

Some more pointers from Hafsah:
1- Do make your content area 1000px
2- Do place icons for all your social networks in a visible location
3- Do make sure you have easy to follow navigation
4- Do add a search function to your site
5- Do make sure your site loads easily
6- Do ensure your graphics across social networks match your blog
7- Do use web fonts to spruce up your content
8- Don't clutter your sidebar with too many gifs and worse, animated gifs
9- Don't have annoying pop up messages

We were give 5 tips and tricks:
     1- Use gifs, you can find some at giphy.com
     2- Be social - interact with your readers
     3- Have a proper photo of yourself
     4- Show what you read - put a bookshelf on your site
     5- Introduce yourself on your sidebar (longer intro goes on your about page)

The next session was on Software 101, Best Blogging Tools with Thea James of Book Smugglers, Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Stephanie Sinclair from Cuddlebuggery Book Blog, and Becca Brennan from Mad Mimi.  The panelists talked about histing, RSS feeds, scheduling posts, plugins and things that again mostly pertained to Wordpress, includingAkismet for spam control, Jetpack and  Co-Scheduler and sucuri.net for male ware control, which gives you a free scan but the rests cost $$$.

Next was Blogging and the Law with Amanda Brice, Allison Leotta and Katie Sunstrom

The gist of the session was to know what is copyrightable and make sure you have a copyright on your blog.  You can register your blog with the United States Copyright Office and of course, there is Creative Commons.  Be sure to display your copyright on your blog.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a lot of information, including a Legal Guide for Bloggers which might be very helpful if you aren't sure of something.  If you think someone is stealing your stuff from your blog, you can find some help at PlagarismToday

Finally, the last session was called The Publishing Process: How Bloggers Have Changed the Game with Merrilee Heifetz, Senior VP, Writers House Literary Agency, Emily Meehan, Editorial Director, Hyperion Teen, Alexandra Bracken, author of The Darkest Mind series, Christine Riccio of Poland Bananas and Andrew Sansome, online Marketing Manager, Disney Publishing.

Apparently they didn't get the memo about the session topic.  It was all about YouTube blogging, which nobody in the audience was interested in.  Alexandra Braken was part of a vlogging video to promote her book, and that was OK, she was interesting to hear and we got free copies of The Darkest Mind, but the message we got from the rest of the panel was that vlogging was better that blogging.   People walked out!

The day ended with lots of giveaways, music from Tiger Beat and a free beer or soda.

It was a busy day, and for the most part productive.

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18. Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothée de Fombelle

Born in 1915 and raised on by a nanny simply known as Mademoiselle, Vango has no idea who he is or where he came from.  He and Mademoiselle were rescued from the sea by the strange Mazzetta when Vango was only 3 and they remained on Salina, one of the Aeolian island off the coast of Sicily.  At 10 Vango discovers a hidden monastery on another island called Arkudah and befriends its founder, Father Zefiro.

The story begins in April 1934 just as Vango, now 19, is ready to take his vows, following Father Zefire into the priesthood.  Lying prostrate in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with others about to be ordained, a shot directed at Vango suddenly is heard.  Within seconds, Vango finds himself on the run, a wanted man, for a crime or crimes of which he is completely innocent.

Eluding the very Inspector Clouseau-like Superintendent Augusta Boulard of the Paris police, as well as unknown, but the just as persistent sinister pursuers from Stalinist Russia, and Gestapo from the newly created Nazi Germany, Vango does find aid from old friends.

First with the elderly anti-Nazi German commander of the Graf Zeppelin, Hugo Eckener and second, with young, beautiful Ethel, 16, who witnessed the shooting at Notre Dame.  Since the death of their parents, Ethel and her older brother Paul have lived in the family's Everland  Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland.  Paul is in the RAF, and Ethel skillfully drives a speedy Railton automobile all over Europe looking for Vango.

As Vango remains on the run, a master of disguise and escape, he begins to wonder who he really is and why he is the focus of such an intense international manhunt.  The reader, of course, has been wondering this all along.  Is the mystery solved by the end of the novel?  Well, remember, there is a second book.

What an exciting adventure reading Vango is.  I began it one night after dinner and by the next afternoon I had finished reading this 432 page whirlwind of a novel.  Timothée de Fombelle has brought together such a varied cast of characters, some real figures from history, others completely imagined, all excellent at the part they play in Vango's story.

Though there is a lot of back story throughout the novel, the central story runs from April 1933 to Christmas Eve 1935, and both the settings and time frame are pivotal points of the interwar years.  Politically, Hitler has just seized power in Germany, Stalin had just been re-elected in Russia (thanks to the assassination of his political rival, the anti-Communist Sergi Kerov) and both dictators were beginning to tighten their grip in their respective countries through the use of secret police.

The Zeppelin had been in use since before World War I and during the war was actually used for bombing raids over England.  By 1934, the Nazis had insisted that a swastika be painted in the right fin of the Graf Zeppelin (in the novel, Eckener has trouble with the Gestapo after painting over the swastika), a real nail-biter scene.  Commander Eckener and Captain Ernst Lehmann of the Graf Zeppelin are two more characters taken from real life that populate Vango.

Vango was seamlessly translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone.  I can't think of one awkward sentence in the whole book and I think she has really captured the feel, the flavor and the style of the storytelling, which reminded me very much of novels written during that period of time.  And as epic as  Vango is nothing is superfluous.  Everything is there for a reason.

All this results in a very exciting and interesting Zeitgeschichte.  But the mystery remains - who is Vango and why does someone want his arrested or even dead?  And what is the meaning of the Latin words "How many kingdoms know us not" that are embroidered on the handkerchief Vango is almost never without?  I have not idea!

I don't any of the answers to the mystery raised in the story, but I can't wait to read the second book: Vango: A Prince Without a Kingdom.  Maybe the answers to all the question raised in Vango: Between Sky and Earth will be answered.  One thing I do know is that this is historical fiction at its best!

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This was an EARC received from Net Galley

This book will be available in the U.S. October 14, 2014 and normally I wouldn't post about a book so far in advance, but...

FYI: If Vango sounds like a book you might like to read and you will be at BEA 2014, galleys will be handed out by Candlewick Press at some point, according to Publisher's Weekly (but remember, that is all subject to change)

AND Walker Books Australia has posted a very useful teaching guide for Vango that can be found HERE

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19. The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro

It's 1943 and Denmark has been occupied by the Nazis since 1940.  One morning, when young Anett comes downstairs, her mother tells her that there are 'new friends' in the basement.  Anett isn't the least bit surprised to hear this and simply goes downstairs to the secret room to bring breakfast to young Carl and his mother, Danish Jews waiting for a fishing boat that will take them to the safety of Sweden.

The nights are foggy and cloudy, and the new friends can't leave right away.  Each day, Anett stops to pick up things they need - extra bread from the bakery, extra eggs from the farmer, extra books from the library for Carl to read.  And at each stop, Anett whispers to the baker, the farmer, the librarian that there are new friends who need these extras.

But each day, on her way home, Anett sees the Nazi soldiers knocking on doors, looking for hidden Jews and with orders to arrest everyone in the house if any are found.  Then one day, Anett sees the Nazi soldiers heading for her house.  She hurries around to the back door, but when she enters, the house is empty.

When the Nazi soldiers knock, Anett tells them there are no Jews in the house, and though they go away, the solders do so with threats.  Later, it becomes clear to her parents that they can't wait any longer.  But how to get Carl and his mother to the harbor in a dark, cloudy, foggy night?

Well, young Anett has a solution.  That night, as Carl and his mother leave the hidden room in the basement, all over the village there are whispers of "This way."

Jennifer Elvgren's simple depiction of this dangerous, yet heroic rescue makes this story all the more poignant.   There is no sentimentality, but this gentle story shows ordinary people just doing what needs to be done to keep other people safe from Nazi hands.  But it will no doubt elicit questions from curious young readers and is probably best read with an adult who can answer them age appropriately.

Fabio Santomauro used sparse, dark cartoonish illustrations that seem to work very well with the simplicity of the text and he has chosen a palette of the dark foreboding black, blues and grays broken up with bits of reds, yellows and khaki dialogue against an almost white background.  The dialogue is done in word bubbles.  This style may attract young readers and make them feel comfortable, but there is nothing cartoonish or funny about the story.


By now, most of us are familiar with the story of how Danish Jews were smuggled out of Denmark by Danes who refused to support and collaborate with their Nazi occupiers.  In fact, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Danes were the "only occupied country that actively resisted the Nazi regime's attempts to deport its Jewish citizens."

So it is no surprise that the best resistance, rescue and escape stories set in Denmark always come from real life.  In her Author's Note, Elvgren writes that The Whispering Town is based on one of the true stories from the fishing village of Gilleieje.  And if Gilleieje sounds familiar to you, you may remember it from Number the Stars by Lois Lowery.  Elvgren writes, 1,700 Jews escaped from this small fishing village.  In fact, Danes managed to evacuate 7,220 out of 7800 Danish Jews, 668 of their non-Jewish spouses.
Gilleieje is the uppermost town in Denmark
If you are looking for a way to introduce young readers to the Holocaust, The Whispering Town will definitely help you do that.

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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20. Your Hit Parade #3: There'll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover



In WWII, popular music had the power to bind people together on the face a common enemy, to buck them up in the face of defeat, and to encourage them to be strong, loyal, and brave, even when they didn't much feel that way.  Some of the more popular songs were patriotic, but the best loved ones simply were those that appealed to the heart.

In October 1940, two American songwriters from New York, composer Walter Kent and lyricist Nat Burton, penned a song called They'll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover.  The song was originally written with a war-torn, war-weary Britain in mind, as is evident in the first two verses:

I'll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes

And though I'm far away
I still can hear them say
Bombs up…
But when the dawn comes up
(refrain)
They'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see

It was a favorite in Britain right from the start.  And why wouldn't it be?  The white cliffs of Dover had always been a welcome home symbol to weary travelers crossing the English Channel, but now that there was a war on, it became an icon, especially for those pilots in the RAF.  Once the United States entered the war, The White Cliffs of Dover began to appeal to Americans as much as it did to the British
with its lyrical images of hope and peace, although it was usually recorded in the US without the original first 8 lines.  

The White Cliffs of Dover was first recorded by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in 1941.  Miller's version was the first war related song to show up on the pop charts, coming in at 10th place on Billboard's Popularity Chart for the week ending December 26, 1941, just 19 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.


By the week ending January 2, 1942, Miller's version was replaced by Kay Kyser and his orchestra, also in 10th place, although it was in 2nd place on the Your Hit Parade chart as of January 3, 1942.  The song stayed on the top 10 charts for a number of months, with the weekly favorite swinging between Miller and Kyser.

Singer Kate Smith also recorded The White Cliffs of Dover early on, but her version didn't show up on the national charts until the week ending February 7, 1942, when she placed in 9th place to Miller's 10th place.  Other recordings were made by Bing Crosby, Guy Lombardo, Bebe Daniels, Rose Marie, and Tommy Tucker, all with varying popularity.

In Britain, a 23 year old singer from London named Vera Lynn also recorded The White Cliffs of Dover.  It was immensely popular, giving Lynn her first commercial success, although she is probably more well known for her iconic recording of We'll Meet Again in 1942.  The version I have included above is the one by Vera Lynn.  I chose that because this in the one I heard growing up when my Welsh father was waxing nostalgic for his homeland years after the war ended.  It is also the version that still occasionally runs through my head.

The White Cliffs of Dover  remained a favorite all through the war, frequently played on the radio and was one of the most requested by the troops abroad.  Of course, the song isn't without some irony, since the bluebird is an American bird, and not found in the British Isles, so it was unlikely that anyone would ever see bluebirds flying over the white cliffs of Dover heralding peace.  Luckily for us, peace did come eventually, anyway.

The white cliffs of Dover may have been a icon of home for British and American pilots, but they were also a beacon for Luftwaffe pilots.  Sadly, the cliffs were bombed during the war and badly damaged, though they are still pretty incredible.



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21. Under the Egg

After her artist grandfather is struck and killed by a car, loner Theo Tenpenny, 13, is now even more alone in the world.  There's her mom, but mom is a bit unhinged and hasn't been there for Theo in years, staying in her room drinking expensive tea and working on theorems that will never be proven.  And the 200 year old Tenpenny house in Spinney Land in Manhattan is literally falling apart at the seams and although grandpa Jack's last words to Theo were that he had left her a treasure, and  to "look under the egg," up til now she had only found $463.00 in the house.  And to top that off, a letter from Veterans Affairs arrived, stating that Jack Tenpenny's monthly VA benefits were now terminated.

Things were not looking good for Theo.

Until the day some rubbing alcohol spills on her grandfather's painting of a suspended egg.  As the egg painting rubs off, suddenly, under the egg, another painting appears - one of a Madonna and Child, with a Latin inscription at the bottom - and it looks like it could be a genuine work of art from the Italian Renaissance.

Now, Theo is really worried.  Grandpa Jack had once worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a security guard…in the European Paintings wing.  As hard as it is to believe it about her beloved grandfather, Theo can't help but wonder if he might have done the unthinkable.

But first things first.  So, Theo heads off to the library to find out what the Latin inscription says.  Along the way, a rain shower begins, and the owner of a diner calls her in out of the rain, and next thing Theo knows, there is a plate of hot meatloaf and potatoes in front of her - the first real food she's eaten in a long long time.  Not only that, but she strikes up a conversation with a girl about her age and the second thing Theo knows is she has just met her first real friend.  Bodhi is the wealthy daughter of two well known celebrities and lives in a completely renovated house, also on Spinney Lane.  The two girls couldn't be more opposite, and yet, more alike.

Suddenly, Theo's life has changed - no, not the financial part of her life, but the social part.  Jack carried grudges, and Theo was never allowed to speak to anyone on his list.  But with Jack gone, Theo finds that some of them are supportive adults who really like her and can help her solve the mystery of the Madonna and Child painting.  And, most surprising, Bodhi turns out to be a big help as well.

Together, Theo and Bodhi go on an adventure that will will include the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a little history of paintings from the Italian Renaissance; Nazi-occupied France; art stolen and hidden by the Nazis; and art uncovered and rescued by the Monuments Men; as well as modern ways of dating works of art; a bit about iconography found in works of art and, most important, how to survive in Manhattan when you have no money.

In the end, Theo and Bodhi solve the mystery of the painting, but will any of this change Theo's circumstances?

So, now you know why I have included Under the Egg on The Children's War.  When the mystery is solved, you will see how the war impacted the life of one child then and how the aftermath impacted the life of another now.

Theo is an interesting character.  She's creative, independent, intelligent, resourceful and she really knows her art history.  She has a lot of responsibility for a 13 year old, but handles it well.  To save money, she buys nothing that is not imperative.  After all, the streets of Manhattan are teeming with working castoffs, just there for the taking.  And she has a limited garden, egg laying chickens and Theo has learned the fine art of canning and pickling.

Best of all, Theo isn't a perfect character.  She wants to find out about the painting in the hope of selling it and alleviating some of her money woes.  So, maybe she really doesn't want to find out too much about the painting.  And she even gets annoyed and avoids her new best friend for these totally selfish reasons.

I really liked Under the Egg, especially the friendship that developed between Theo and Bodhi.  They make a great team, most of the time.  Despite her wealth, Bodhi is also a pretty down to earth kid, but has as much to learn from Theo and Theo did from Bodhi.  It is a friendship that you know will last for years to come.

Fitzgerald has also included lots of art history in Theo's story without overdoing it and without sounding teachy.  It will most likely be read by the same readers who loved E.L Konigsburg's From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and who knows, it may even inspire an art museum visit (From the Mixed Up Files was the book that sparked my Kiddo's first of many visits to the Met).

For young readers who like a a fun novel, a good mystery and well-developed characters, Under the Egg should definitely please them.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

But that's not all:
Look under Resources on Laura Marx Fitzgerald's website for information on all things Under the Egg, including information on the painter Raphael (yes, he's in the book, too),  and information on WWII, stolen art and the Monuments Men.

 But, wait there's more:  
Look under Discussion Guide for help on themes and issues designed around the Common Core standards for grades 5-7.

And yet, still more:
Look under Life with Theo, and you can also find a map of her Greenwich Village neighborhood, out how to pickle beets, which I will definitely try, or how make a sweater purse like Theo's, (um, more my Kiddo's style).

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22. The One I Was by Eliza Graham

For Benjamin Goldman, 11, the Kindertransport is a life-saver.  Oh, sure, he's homesick, but the people in England are nice and there is always plenty to eat at the refugee camp.  No one seemed interested in fostering Benny, though, except one nicely dressed man, but then, all he does is give him a chocolate bar and leave.

Nevertheless, next thing Benny knows is that his name is being called, and he is told that he and some other boys would be living at Fairfleet, the estate of Lord and Lady Dorner.  And life at Fairfleet is pretty good, with private tutoring lessons for the boys, plenty of good food and even time for recreation and dreaming.  But, Benny, who always keeps his distance from the other boys, is still haunted by things that had happened in Germany, and he just can't forget about his best friend, Rudi Lange.

The boys' benefactress, Lady Harriet Dorner, is a pilot who is often away, flying planes in the Air Transport Auxiliary.  Still, when she was at Fairfleet, it seems she and Benny shared some kind of connection, which, as the years go by, becomes a deeper mutual attraction.  Nothing comes of it and after the war, Benny leaves Fairfleet and goes on to a successful career as a journalist.

Now, many years later, Benny is one his deathbed, and a hospice nurse has come to care for him - at Fairfleet, which Benny had purchased after a forced sale.  Little does he know at first that his nurse, Rose Madison, is really Rosamond Hunter, granddaughter of Lady Dorner and a person haunted by her own ghosts of the past at Fairfleet.  But, as the days go by, Benny begins to sense something about Rose that doesn't feel right.

When a threat from Rose's childhood at Fairfleet shows up again, and begins make new threats, Rose finds she must confess her own secret in order to keep everyone safe.

And as Benny comes closer to death, it becomes clear to Rose that he needs to make his own confession of something regarding his life in Germany as a young boy.  And when he finally does, it is a stunner!

There is a lot going on in Eliza Graham's novel The One I Was.  It moves between three time periods that connect Benny and Rosamond's individual stories to each other, though they are strangers when they meet.   The red thread that ties them together is, of course, Lady Harriet Dorner.  And though I would classify this novel as historical fiction, it is also a mystery and a thriller.

Benny's story gives the reader lots of interesting, realistic background into life in Nazi Germany in 1939, as well as life in England both during and after WWII.  Graham has done her research on both early time periods and so there is an authentic blending together of events that keeps the continuity of the storyline going nicely, and framed by the present time.

Each of the characters are drawn with such depth and personality that you feel a compelling need to keep reading their story.  The overriding theme of The One I Was is the idea of reinventing oneself and why that may be done.  In the end, after reading Benny's confession, you may even find yourself in a bit of a moral dilemma regarding his actions.  There is no denying that Benny's story is thought provoking, but remember, hard times call for hard decisions and Benny was only a child when he made his fateful decision.

This is the kind of crossover novel I would have read and loved when I was about 15 years old and still straddling the worlds of young adult and adult novels.  It has some mild violence and equally mild sexual content, but nothing a young adult reader hasn't come across already.

I One I Was is a nice meaty novel that is sure to leave you feeling satisfied.

This book is recommended for readers age 15+
This book was received from the author

This is book 7 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
This is book 3 of my 2014 European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader  

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23. Announcing the very first 2014 Kids Author Carnival

So, maybe you're going to BEA 2014 this year, and you think all the fun will come to an end on Saturday, May 31 at 3 P.M.

Well, I'm here to tell you that if you love Middle Grade books, the fun continues!!

That's right!  Because on May 31, from 6:00 to 8:30 P.M. at the NYPL's Jefferson Market Library the very first, the inaugural Kids Author Carnival will be the happening place to be in NYC.  It is your chance to meet around 37, count 'em, around 37* Middle Grade authors that you know and love.  And the best part is that your age 7+ kids are more than welcome.  In fact, age 7+ kids are encouraged to come to the Kids Author Carnival.  And it's all FREE!



The Jefferson Market Library is located at 425 Avenue of the Americas at 10th Street, almost in the heart of Greenwich Village.  You can find easy directions and a map HERE

Afraid you might not recognize the building once you get to the Village?  No problem!  It looks like this:


And speaking of Middle Grade books and the Jefferson Market Library, this is the very same place that Theo and her new best friend Bodhi go when they need to find information in Under the Egg.  And by now, you may have noticed that Laura Marx Fitzgerald, who wrote Under the Egg, is one of the around 37, count 'em, around 37* authors at the first, the inaugural Kids Author Carnival. So...

Be there, or be square!

*Alexander London is not able to attend Kids Author Carnival, after all.  Prior commitments and all that.

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24. Top Ten Tuesday #15: Top Ten Books About Friendship


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This week's topic, Top Ten Books About Friendship, posed a real dilemma for me.  I've used the label Friendship 109 times so far, and I know there were other times I could have used it, but to choose the top ten friendship books?  No easy task, because they are all top draw.   Here, then,  are the 10 books about friendships that I have reviewed and that had the most impact on me:

1- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein- this is the best story of a friendship that I have ever read.  Wein follows the friendship between two young women, a young spy, Julie, and a ferry pilot, Maddie, by letting each character tell their own story.  This is one of the most poignantly written friendships I've ever read.


2- Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang - a dangerous friendship forms between a 16 year old German girl and a Russian POW hiding in her family's barn even though they don't speak each others language.  If caught, both would be immediately killed by the Nazis.


3- The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico - this is the story of the friendship that develops between a deformed recluse and the young girl who overcomes her fear of him when she finds an injured Canadian goose, bringing it to him and believing he can help it.  This beautifully written story still brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it.


4- The Cay by Theodore Taylor - a friendship ultimately forms between a young white boy, Phillip, and Timothy, the black man who, despite saving his life after their boat is torpedoed, considers him to be inferior as he had been taught while living on the island of Curacao.  


5- Mister Orange by Truus Matti - though he is never mentioned by name, this is a fictional tale of the friendship between modernist artist Piet Mondrian, who has just escaped from Nazi occupied Holland, and Linus, the boy who delivers his oranges.  I wrote: "In a way, however, it is a nice example of how even a short lived friendship can impact our lives, in this case from September 1943 to February 1944."


6- Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool - I loved the friendship that develops between Jack and "that strangest of boys" Early at boarding school.  They are bound together by their individual traumas and so they go on a quest together to try and heal their wounds.


7- The Dolphin Crossing by Jill Paton Walsh - two teen boys from different classes are brought together by the war and form an unusual friendship.  Events polarize the friendship but they are united again by their desire to help bring back soldiers stranded at Dunkirk, ferrying them to saftey in a small boat.



8- Warriors in the Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood - Joseph, son of a Saipan chief, and his Japanese cousin Kanto have always been best friends, but now the war has come between them.  They must try put aside their differences to save Kanto's family from certain death ordered by the Japanese occupiers of Saipan.


9- Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett - I loved the friendship between Johnny, Yo-less, Bigmac, and Wobbler, three modern day boys who time travel back to the 1941 and the night of the Blackberry Blitz.  This is friendship as only Pratchett can write it - funny, serious, dangerous, slapstick.


10- Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein - I started with an Elizabeth Wein book and I am ending with one.  When ferry pilot Rose Justice finds herself in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, she meets a group of young Polish woman called the Rabbits, so-called because of the medical expiments performed on them by Nazi doctors.  The life-saving, life-affirming friendship that forms between Rose and the Rabbits in the midst of unutterable horrors is not to be missed.  Wein is a master at writing about female friendships.


What are your top ten books about friendship?

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25. Sunday Funnies #16: Memorial Day 2014

This Memorial Day weekend please take some time to think about those who served their country and are no longer with us.  And then, like Nancy, take a moment to thank those who are still with us.

Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker May 30, 2010

Hi and Lois by Brian and Greg Walker May 28, 2012
Red and Rover by Brian Basset May 28, 2012












Nancy by Guy Gilchrist May 28, 2012

In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

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