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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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1. Pennies in a Jar by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Ted Lewin

When a father is sent overseas to fight during WWII, he tells his young son to be brave.  This idea of war is scary for the boy, but so are some of the daily things in his life, like the air raid sirens, and thinking about bombs and guns.  The young boy is  especially afraid of the trade horses who come down his street.

First, there is the ragman's large horse Josephina.  When the ragman comes around to collect rags, paper and even metal for the war effort, the boy shies away from the horse.  Seeing that, the ragman asks if he would like to feed the horse a carrot and make friends with it, but the boy is too scared to do it.

He feels the same way about the milkman's horse Nell when they come down the street pulling the milk cart.  He has the same reaction to the garbage man's horse when they come to collect the trash.  But all the while, the young boy remembers the story his father told him about the time he had been bitten on the shoulder by one of the horses on his father's farm as a boy.  He, too, developed a fear of horses, but his father needed his help on the farm.  The boy's father told him that sometimes, if it's important enough, you just have to do things even if you are scared.

Meanwhile, the young boy is trying to think of a wonderful birthday present he could get his dad with his jar of saved pennies.  One day, the pony man shows up and asks the boy if he would like his picture taken on the pony.  But the boy, who has been remembering all the horse stories his dad had told him, declines the offer.

Suddenly, remembering his father's words about being brave, the boy knows just what would be the perfect gift to send his dad - a photo of him bravely sitting on the pony.  A gift for his father is important to the boy, but, can he, like his father, put aside he fear long enough to have the photo taken?

Pennies in a Jar is such an inspirational story for young readers.  All children have fears, some rational, some irrational, but finding the courage to overcome what they are afraid of is an important step, especially when they are separated from a parent fighting in a war and worried about them.  In that respect, even though this story takes place in WWII, and we know longer have trade horses coming down our streets on a regular basis, this is a book that will still resonate with many kids today.  After all, it's not about the horses, it's about being brave.

Ted Lewin's realistically detailed watercolor illustrations add depth and expressiveness to the story by creating the world of a small town during WWII.  They will remind you of the paintings done by Norman Rockwell in the 1940s, who also liked to capture life's small important moments in small town daily life.

There is a Note from the Author at the back of the book describing what life was like during the war -games kids played, how people passed the time, rationing and kids doing what they could for the war effort.  And, of course, being brave during difficult times.

This is an excellent book for starting many different kinds of conversations and would make a wonderful addition to any classroom or home school library.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL


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2. My Brother's Secret by Dan Smith

It's summer, 1941 and there is nothing 12 year old Karl Friedmann enjoys more than being part of the Deutsches Jungvolk, anticipating the day he'll be old enough to join the Hitler Youth.  But on the day he wins a badge for achievement during some war games, he is also forced to fight another boy, Johann Weber, whose has just received word that his father was killed in the war.  Suddenly, fighting feels more like bullying.

At home, Karl knows his older brother Stefan is the family rebel, always getting into trouble and was even sent away to a boot camp for a week, where the Gestapo had beaten him and shaved his head.  When Karl notices an embroidered flower sewn into Stefan's jacket, he wants to know what it means.  But before that happens, the Friedmann's receive a telegram that their father has been killed flying for the Luftwaffe.  Their mother falls into a terrible depression, not speaking and refusing to get out of bed, so it is decided that the family would go stay with their grandparents in a village near Cologne.

Once there, Karl is kept out of school to prevent him from participating in Jungvolk activities and it doesn't take Stefan long to hook up with some friends who are also rebellious troublemakers.  One day, Karl decides to go out for a ride on his bike, but he has an accident, colliding with the beloved car of Gestapo Commander Gerhard Wolff.  Luckily, Karl is wearing Jungvolk uniform, but Wolff still seems suspicious of the Friedmann family, anyway.  Karl also makes friends with Lisa, a girl who isn't afraid to let her hatred of Hitler and his whole Nazi regime be known.  And when he notices that the embroidered flower has been cut out of Stefan's jacket, he is more curious than ever about his brother's activities and friends, suspecting anti-Nazi undertakings.

Slowly, Nazi brutality forces Karl to rethink his own beliefs and patriotism.  He learns that Lisa's father was taken away one night because of his beliefs and she has no idea where he is or if he is alive.  Instead of feeling proud that his father sacrificed his life for the Fatherland like he is supposed to, Karl feels grief and sadness, and wonders what was it all for.

Karl's suspicions that Stefan is involved with a resistance group are conformed when his brother's finally confesses to him that he is a member of the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely bound group of anti-Nazi young people who are trying to enlighten the German people to the truth of Hitler and his ideas.  Unfortunately, Commander Wolff also suspects Stefan of resistance activities and periodically shows up to search the house.  One night, he finds one of the anti-Nazi leaflet that had been dropped by RAF planes in Karl's copy of Hitler's book Mein Kampf.  Stefan is placed under arrest and taken away.

Now, Karl and Lisa decide to become their own Edelweiss Pirates and paint anti-Nazi messages around their village, and to find a way to free Stefan from Gestapo headquarters.  And although they are a resistance group of two, Karl is still wracked with guilt since it is because he chose to save the leaflet without telling anyone and feels it is his fault his brother has been arrested by the Gestapo - again.  

Like Dan Smith's last novel, My Friend the Enemy, My Brother's Secret is a thought-provoking story loaded with action, excitement, and nail-biting tension.  Karl's life felt so simple and straightforward before news of his father's death arrived.  But his hesitant feeling about having to fight Johann Weber at the beginning of the novel, clearly indicates that there exists a slight crack in his loyalty to Hitler and everything the Führer stands for.

There aren't too many books about young people in Nazi Germany who were involved in the Hitler Youth groups, so it was interesting to read this coming of age novel and to witness Karl's complete turnabout as he begins to see and experience the Nazis for the cruel people that they could be if you opposed them.  It is also interesting to see how easily the Nazi could sow an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and suspicion to keep people in line.

Dan Smith always includes nice historical information in his novels which give them such a sense of reality.  There weren't many youth resistance groups in Nazi Germany, besides the White Rose (Weiße Rose) in 1942 Munich, and the Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweißpiraten), who, as Smith demonstrates through Stefan, were not pro-Allies even though they were anti-Nazi.  Like Stefan, many young people who were part of the Edelweiss Pirates quit school in order to avoid having to join the Hitler Youth, which was mandatory.

My Brother's Secret is a well-written, well-researched, eye-opening, gripping novel with a lot of appeal.  Karl is a protagonist that goes from unsympathetic to sympathetic as the action unfolds and as he learns valuable lessons about courage, loyalty, friendship and brotherly love.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC sent to me by the publisher, Chicken House Books

(People tend to think of the Swing Kids (Swingjugend) as a resistance group but they were really a counter-culture group without a political agenda, with a common interest in jazz and dancing.)


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3. The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito

On the day that Jolanta brings a little food, some used clothing and a few vaccinations against typhoid fever to 9 year old Anna Bauman's youth circle in the Warsaw Ghetto, she decides to go home with Anna.  Quietly talking to her parents, Anna knows something is up.

After Jolanta drops off a paper for Anna's mother one morning, she begins to stay home as her mother makes her memorize a new name and other information.  Soon, she is no longer Jewish Anna Bauman, rather she is Catholic Anna Karwolska.  A few days later, Anna and her parents go to a home in the ghetto, where Anna is washed clean of ghetto dirt, and soon the leader of her youth circle, Mrs. Rechtman, shows up to take her away.

Wearing a new school uniform, Anna and Mrs. Rechtman go to the administration building, a building that straddles the ghetto and the streets beyond it.  Swiftly, Anna is passed to a woman who takes her into an office, where she must hide under the desk and wait for someone to come and get her.  The wait is long, but finally a teenage girl carrying a large box arrives and tells Anna to follow her.  They walk out of the building to the streets beyond the ghetto.  From here, Anna travels with the girl to a farmhouse, where she is surprised to find out that the box she and the girl carried so carefully contains a baby that has also been smuggled out of the Ghetto.

At the farmhouse, Anna is taught the traditions, the prayers and the catechism every Catholic child would know, including when to stand or kneel in church.  She is drilled over and over, until she responds automatically to being Ann Karwolska.  Afraid she is going to forget who she is and who her family are, Anna only allows herself to be Anna Bauman at night when she is alone in bed.

Eventually, Anna is sent to a Catholic orphanage away from Warsaw.  Keeping her secret, Anna adjusts to like in the orphanage, even though one girl, named Klara, seems to be out to get her.  Does Klara know her secret?  Hopefully not, because one day, Nazis arrive at the orphanage, pillage it and steal all the food that the nuns used for feeding the children, but not before terrorizing everyone.

Eventually, Anna is fostered out to a family that really welcomes her, and where she feels somewhat safe and comfortable.  Yet, Anna still makes it a point to remember who she is and where she came from when she is alone at night, never telling anyone her secret.  But, as Anna discovers, Stephan, Sophia and their son Jerzy are harboring a secret of their own - a very dangerous secret.

If you have ever wondered what happened to the children that Irena Sendler smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto, this is the book for you.  Based on fact, Angela Cerrito has imagined the life of one young girl who survives the Holocaust thanks to the courageous efforts of Sendler and the network of people who were helping her.  It is clear from the start that the lady Anna knows as Jolanta is one of the code named used by Sendler.

And while The Safest Lie doesn't have a lot a action, it does have a lot of suspense, nail-biting tension and shows the reader just how careful and clandestine people in the resistance needed to be.  Anna's story is fictional, but Cerrito has certainly captured all the tension, fear, constant hunger, and suffering that the Jewish children experienced during the Holocaust.  But she also shows the difficulty and mixed emotions parents must have felt when their children were offered the possibility of safety if they were willing to temporarily give them up.

The Safest Lie is a work of historical fiction but it is based on the hundreds of transcripted interviews with children who survived the Holocaust that Cerrito read and which give the novel its sense of authenticity.  Be sure to read Cerrito's Author's Note at the end of the book about her meeting Irena Sendler

There is an extensive Educator's Guide for The Safest Lie available to download from the publisher, Holiday House


This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC received from the publisher.

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4. Times Square on V-J Day: Then and Now

Times Square, New York City August 14, 1945:


and somewhere in the crowd:

Times Square, New York City August 14, 2015 - 70 years after the end of World War II


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5. Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust by Jennifer Roy, illustrated by Meg Owenson

In her book, Jars of Hope, Jennifer Roy takes the reader back to the childhood of Irena Sendler to understand why she would be willing to risk her own life years later to help the Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto after the Nazis so many people into such a small, unsanitary living space.

As a child, in her hometown of Otwock, Poland, Irena saw how the Jewish people were avoided, but her father taught her that nothing else matters about people except whether they are good or bad.

Irena grew up to become a social worker/nurse and as she watched events unfold in Warsaw after the Nazis took over, she was compelled to do something - but what could one person do, she asked herself.

The answer was to try and bring food and medicine to the people in the ghetto, but more importantly, Irena began to sneak the children out and to find safe homes for them until the Holocaust ended and they could be reunited with their families.  Irena began to organize friends and other trustworthy people in the Polish underground who could help her carry out her frequent trips to get babies and children.  Babies were taken out in carpenter's boxes, trash or coffins after being given a few drops of medicine to make them sleep.  Older children were smuggled out different ways, sometimes through sewer tunnels and other times right under the noses of the Nazi guards.

Teaching the children what they needed to know in order to pass as Catholics, Irena would write down each child's original name, new name and where each was sent.  Then she would put the names into jars and bury the jars under a tree.  Irena and her helpers would continue to make sure each rescued child was cared for, and the families or convents were given food and money in return for the risk they were taking.

In 1943, Irena was arrested, taken to prison and tortured, but never revealed the names of rescued children, where they were hidden or who had helped her.  A few months later, her freedom was bought with a large bribe and Irena continued her work with Zegota, the secret organization formed to help Jews in Poland.

It can't be easy to write a book about the Holocaust for young readers, especially for some who are just beginning to learn about it.  But Jennifer Roy has taken a real hero and used her to remind us that even in the darkest of times there are people who understand what the right thing to do is, who care and are willing to  help others.  Yet, Roy doesn't sugar-coat her story - when Irena tells parents the only guarantee she can give them about their children is that if they remain in the Warsaw Ghetto, they will die, or when people are forced to get into cattle cars, trains that are taking them to concentration camps and their death, young readers will easily grasp the magnitude and gravity of the Holocaust.

While Roy's words tell about those dark times, Meg Owenson's realistic dark, foreboding mixed media illustrations support and extend the text, expressing the wide variety of emotions that must have been felt by everyone at that time.  Be sure to read the Afterword and Author's Note at the back of the book. In addition, there is a glossary, an Index and Source Notes for further exploration.

Jars of Hope is an inspiring picture book for older readers about one very brave woman and reminds us all that one person can make a big difference in the world.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was a ARC received from the publisher, Capstone Press at BEA2015

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6. I'm back with a new look and a new name.



After five years, I decided that The Children’s War needed a bit of a makeover.  I talked to a few friends whose opinions I respect and told them my plans, and later showed them the new design.  

Two suggested that I think about changing the name.  When I first started The Children’s War the named felt logical to me, since I was focusing on children’s literature about World War Ii and so often I had read about how it was often referring to as the children’s or the people’s war because, for the first time, the front lines were the home front and it had a much more dramatic impact on the lives of children than any other war in history.  But it was also a war in which 1.5 million Jewish children lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis.  Calling my blog The Children’s War may have felt logical, but perhaps it was also a little too academic.  But when someone recently said to me "So you write a blog about kids fighting with each other?" I knew the time for change had come.

And since I was doing a makeover anyway, I decided to change the name as well.   Most of the books I read here come from my own bookshelves, and I’ve decided to rename The Children’s War and call it Alex’s Bookshelves.  My focus will remain the same, reviewing books for young readers about World War Ii.

I will be keeping the email address thechildrenswar@gmail.com active for a while longer, but from 
now on, I will also be using alexsbookshelves@gmail.com 

Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads will also reflect the new name change.  

These changes will be effective immediately, although there are a few kinks to still work out.


Hopefully, this is not a kiss of death decision!

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7. The time has come...



Yes, the time has come and I have decided to redo The Children's War, it will, therefore, be on hiatus while that is being done.  I've been thinking about this for a long time and finally decided summer would be the perfect time to do it.

When it returns, it will have a new look and a new name, but I will continue to look at books for kids about World War II just as I have done for the last 5 years.

Meanwhile, I will continuing reviewing kids books over at Randomly Reading and hope to see you there.

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8. Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

Back in 1902, E. Nesbit wrote a book called Five Children and It about five brothers and sisters: Cyril, 10 and called Squirrel; Anthea, 8 and called Panther; Robert or Bobs, 6;  Jane, 4;  Hilary, the baby called the Lamb because his first word was Baa.

The family had just moved from London to the countryside in Kent and it is there that the children discover a Psammead (Sammy-ad) or sand fairy living in their gravel pit. The Psammead is a rather disagreeable, grumpy creature, centuries old, but who has the power to grant wishes.  The problem is that each wish only lasts until sunset.  The children wish for all kinds of adventures but when one goes terribly wrong, the Psammead agrees to fix it only if the children promise never to ask for another wish but the children decide instead they never want to see their sand fairy again.

Nesbit wrote two sequels to Five Children and It, one in 1904 called The Phoenix and the Carpet and one in 1906 called The Story of the Amulet.  Though they featured the brothers and sisters, it is only in the 1906 novel that the Psammead is again featured.

Fast forward to 2014.  Once again we meet the five children and their Psammead in Kate Saunder's novel Five Children on the Western Front, her novel inspired by Five Children and It.  The story opens with a Prologue in 1905.  The children are staying in London with Old Nurse while their parents are away with the Lamb.  The children have found the Psammead in a pet store and now he lives in Old Nurse's attic.  One afternoon, when the children are granted one more wish, they find themselves in the study of their old friend, the Professor named Jimmy in the year 1930.  While the children are happy to see him, he is in the position of knowing their future and his tears makes for a very poignant beginning.

The main part of the novel begins in October 1914.  Cyril (now 22), Anthea (is 20), and Bobs (18 years old) are now young adults, Jane is 16 and in high school, the Lamb is 11 and there is a new addition to the family, 9 year old Edith or Edie, as she is called.  To everyone's surprise, once again, the Psammead is found sleeping in the gravel pit of the house in Kent.  The Lamb and Edie have always been envious of all the adventures their older siblings had with the Psammead and are very excited to see him back.  That is, until they learn that he can no longer grant wishes.  It seems the Psammead is stuck in this world until he makes amends for his rather cruel wrongdoings centuries ago when he was the ruler of his kingdom, and the only wishes that are granted are some of his own and always have to do with his past behavior.

At the center of the novel, however, is the Great War and how it impacts everyone's life, even the Psammead.  With England at war with Germany, Cyril can't wait to enlist and do his part for England.  Bobs is still at Cambridge, postponinging his enlistment until he is finished; Anthea is in art college in London, and doing volunteer war work, where she meets and falls in love with a wounded soldier who just happens to be helping the Professor with his research which just happens to be related to the Psammead.  Anthea is forced to see her young man secretly because  she knows that her mother wouldn't approve of him since he is out of their class.  And poor Jane desperately wants to go to medical school, which her mother refuses to allow, afraid she won't ever get married if she does go.

Very often, when one author attempts to write a novel based on another author's characters, it just doesn't work.  No so with Five Children on the Western Front.  I thought Kate Saunders did an exceptional job capturing the personalities of each of the children and the curmudgeony Psammead originally created by Nesbit.  It is easy to believe that these are the people the children would have grown up to be.

Saudners has also done a good job depicting the impact of the war on both the home front and the Western Front.  Food shortages, lawns turned into potato fields, young girls driving ambulances in London and in France, life and deatth in the trenches are all there.  Saunders has also shown how the Great War was a dividing line between the traditions of the Edwardian era (represented by the children's mother) and modernity(represent by the children), especially in the ideas about class structure and the position of women in society.

There are lots of humorous bits mixed in with the more sober moments, and the scenes of war are not a so graphic that they will scare young readers.  The new addition of Edie is charming, especially her unconditional love for the Psammead, with whom she spends a lot of time just chatting and oddly, for such a grump, he seems to enjoy her company as well.

I have to confess that it has been a long time since I read Five Children and It and probably won't re-read it now that I've read this novel.  However if you want to read it, you can download it for free at Project Gutenberg.  Five Children on the Western Front was published in England and I had to buy a copy through the Book Depository (free shipping), but it can be bought at Amazon.  Hopefully, it will make its way across the pond soon, for everyone's enjoyment.

Five Children on the Western Front is highly recommended for anyone who like a well-done combination of speculative fiction and  historical fiction, and a novel with heart - bring tissues.

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

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9. Top Ten Tuesday #17: Top Ten Books that Celebrate Diversity


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

This week's top ten topic is books that celebrate diversity.  I don't think my choices could be called  books that celebrate diversity, but they certainly put a spotlight on the way World War II impacted diverse people in different way.   I chosen 11 books that had a real impact on me as a reader when I read them.

1- Mare's War by Tanita Davis

This is one of the first books I read when I began this blog and I liked it so much I bought a copy for my niece.  Mare and her granddaughters are taking a trip to a family reunion during summer vacation.  The girls are bored and unhappy, wanting to stay home with their friends instead.  As they drive along, Mare begins to tell them about her time in the Women's Army Corp or WACS in WWII.  Because Davis wove in so many historical facts about Mare's, the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, the readers learns a lot about what like was like for the women in this African American, all-female unit, the only one to serve overseas. (YA)


2- Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

When I reviewed this book, I wrote that I knew almost nothing about the role India played in WWII.  In 1941, Vidya, 15, wants nothing more than to join Gandhi's Freedom Fighters.  Seeing a Freedom Fighters demonstration, Veda rushes to join it, but it results in her father being beaten by a British policeman, leaving him brain damages. Vidya keeps the details of what happened to herself, until her brother announces he is going to join the voluntary British India Army.  How could he fight for and defend the people who destroyed her beloved father's lie.  There is a lot of information in Vidya's story about Indian traditions and religion.  (YA)


3- The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescured Jews during the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle

The Grand Mosque had been given to the Islamic community in Paris in gratitude to the Muslims who fought in WWI.  In 1940, after France was invaded by the Nazis and began rounding up Jews for deportation, the members of the Grand Mosque, many of whom were in the French Resistance already, realized they had the means to help the French Jews and began sneaking them in the mosque until they had what they needed to escape.   (Picture Book for older Readers)


4- When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

Although Korea had been occupied by the Japanese since 1910, once World War II began, things began to get even harder for the Korean people.  In this story about the Kim family, the reader learns through the alternating narration of Sun-hee, 10, and her older brother, Tai-yul, 13, how much of their culture was sacrificed including their Korean names and forcing them to accept Japanese culture and language.  Outwardly, the family accepts the Japanese demands, but at home the hold tightly to their Korean culture.  As they begin to lose the war, the Japanese take it out on the Korean people, but despite everything, small acts of defiance abound as the Koreans desperately hold on to their real identity. (MG)


5- Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society by Adeline Yen Mah 

This speculative fiction novel about an unwanted daughter, Ye Xian, who is thrown out of her home by her father when she is disrespectful to her stepmother.  Ye Xian is taken in by Grandma Wu, and soon becomes an expert at kung fu and part of the Secret Dragon Society that helps the oppressed.  China has been under Japanese occupation since 1937 and now, in 1942, they have a different kind of mission.  Ye Xian and the other members of the society must try to save 5 downed American fliers before the Japanese find them.  This part of the story is actually based in reality, as is the cruel way the Chinese people were treated by the Japanese occupiers.  Though fantasy, there's lots of Chinese culture and tradition to be learned about.  (MG)

6- No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler

The main character in this novel is a 15 year old Charmorro boy, Kiko, living in Guam in 1972 and an elderly Japanese soldier, Seto, who has been living in hiding since WWII and doesn't know the war is over.  This is an odd coming of age story for both Kiki and Seto, who was only a young man when he went into hiding from the Americans on Guam.  There is quite a bit of information about Charmorro customs and traditions, and is it very interesting to see how Seto lived in his underground cave, concealing his presence for so many years. (YA)




7- Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter

Until the vaccine was discovered, there were outbreaks of polio all the time.  During WWII, even the President suffered with it.  In September1944, with her father in Europe fighting, Ann Fay Honeycutt, 13, is also diagnosed with polio. The novel follows her treatment and her friendship with an African American girl she meets in the hospital.  Catawba County, NC was particularly hard hit by polio and Ann Fay's story nicely documents what was done about it.  Since there are so few cases of polio these days, it is interesting to read about how clothes and favorite toys were burned, swimming wasn't allowed, and how a makeshift hospital was constructed to handle all the cases there.  (MG)



8- Code Talkers: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac

This is a historical fiction novel that tells about how the Navajo language and the Navajos who spoke it were used to send unbreakable coded messages during WWII and helped with the war.  But more than that, it is the story of what life was life for Native Americans within their family and when they were sent to an "Indian School" to be educated and where practicing their native culture and traditions could result in severe punishments.  This is the kind of novel that can make your blood boil when you read about how Native Americans were treated.   And even though they became real American heroes, it wasn't until 2000 that what they contributed to the war was acknowledged. (MG?YA)



9- Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury

This is one of the most disturbing books I've read.  Eddy Okubo, a Japanese American living in Hawaii, is only 16, but lies about his age and joins the army,  Seven weeks later, Pearl Harbor is attacked and from then on Eddy and the other Japanese American soldiers are treated like grunts.  When a Swiss emigre convinces President Roosevelt that he can train dogs to sniff out the Japanese, Eddy and 24 other soldiers of Japanese descent, are sent to Cat Island, MS where they serve as "hate bait" in the dogs training sessions.  This is, sadly, based in reality.  This is an interesting look at the kind of xenophobia that resulted after Pearl Harbor. (YA)



9a- Dash by Kirby Larson

When it was decided that Japanese Americans were to be put into internment camps for the duration of the war, they all lost everything they had worked for - homes, businesses, cars, cherished mementos from family in Japan.  For Mitsi, 11, it meant losing her best friends and her dog.  Later, at the internment camp, families are forced to live in dusty, smelly horse stalls, and later to dusty barracks in the middle of nowhere.   It's hard to believe now that this country could treat its citizens and its legal immigrants in such an appalling manner (well, actually, and I'm ashamed to say this, but maybe it isn't, after all). (MG)






10- T4 by Anne Clare LaZotte

This novel-in-free-verse is about a deaf girl, Paula Becker, who is 13 and living in Nazi Germany when the Nazis pass a law that allows them the euthanize disabled people, including children, to help create a master race that is free of any disability and also eliminate the cost of caring for them.  T4 is the name give to the program.  In desperation, Paula is taken to a safe haven where she learns sign language, but when the Nazis come to search the house, Paula must be taken to another safe haven.  T4 killings stopped in 1941 but Paula's life and other's with disabilities weren't safe until the end of the war. (MG)


It was interesting to go back and see what books I've read that I applied the keyword Diversity to.  One thing I noticed is that I have no reviews of LGTBQ books.  Any recommendations, besides Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers?  I would appreciate any suggestions.

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10. Battle of the Bulge by Rick Atkinson

Judging from my stats, there are still a lot of readers interested in books about WWII.  Like me, most are interested in fiction and stories of courage and survival, whether they take place in countries under Nazi occupation/siege, near the front lines, or are stories about the home front.  Not many really seem want to read the details of military strategy or battles fought.  But sometimes a book like that comes along and the author has made it so interesting, it appeals to everyone.  Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Atkinson is one of those writers who can bring major WWII battles to life, and adapting his adult books for young readers.  He did it in D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 and he has done it again in Battle of the Bulge.

By December 1944, it was looking pretty certain that Germany was going to lose WWII.  Refusing to accept defeat, Hitler came up with a plan he called Herbstnebel (autumn mist).  It was to be a surprise attack against Allied Forces in the forest of the Ardennes in Belgium, and Hitler ordered that nothing in the plan was to be altered, even though his advisers had grave doubts about the success of Herbstnebel.

And the surprise element of Hitler's last ditch Western Front offensive hit was indeed a surprise attack for the Allies.  Unlike the D-Day invasion, the Allies did not have time for planning, so the surprise element of the attack resulted in one of the worst battles of World War II for them.  How bad?  According to Atkinson, in just one day of the fighting, December 19, 1944, 9,000 American soldiers were captured by the Germans.

The Battle of the Bulge began on December 16, 1944 and ended in German defeat on January 25, 1945.  Much needed American reinforcements arrived on December 26, 1944 with General Patton, and proved to be a great boon for the Allies.  It must have felt like a Christmas present to the soldiers already at the front.

Atkinson used the same format for Battle of the Bulge that he used in his D-Day book for young readers.  There is plenty of informative front matter to help readers understand the main part of the book.  This consists of maps, who the key players were, Allied and Axis Commands, and a timeline of the war.  Atkinson's Back Matter is even more extensive and consists of many interesting topics, especially the kind that young readers might want to know about after reading the book and seeing the copious photographs he includes.  Topics like what U.S. soldiers wore in a battle that happened during such a bitter cold, snowy winter (as you can see below), or what weapons were used, and even what happened after the Battle of the Bulge ended, even the use of dogs on the battlefield.


The book is divided into four sections, each section covering both Allies and Axis sides.  The first section covering the Western Front form the beginning of the war to November 1944, for readers whose knowledge may need to be refreshed or for readers who know nothing about the war.  Atkinson's second section focuses on Hitler's Plan; section three follows the events as they unfolded on the actual day of the German offensive; and finally the days following that.

In war, planning and fighting a battle are very complex parts of war, consequently, writing about a battle cannot possible be done as a linear narrative.  For that reason, it sometimes feels as though Atkinson has simply cut and pasted parts of his adult book to make this a book for young readers.  But this is meant to be an introduction to this important, pivotal battle and in that respect, I think Atkinson does a very good job.  As always, his research in impeccable, and his writing clear and, while taking into account he is not writing for an adult, he does not condescend to his readers, either.

The Battle of the Bulge was never something I was particularly interested in after watching a old movie about it on TV when I was a tween.  It was cold, and bloody and, not knowing anything about it before  I watched the move, I didn't really understand it.  Natuarlly, I never felt inclined to read anything about the battle of the bulge t before this book.  I feel like I have a much better handle on the events of this offensive now and hope it will help kids understand its importance in the overall WWII events, too.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This was an EARC received from NetGalley

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11. Mischief and Malice by Berthe Amoss

It's 1941 and in New Orleans, Addie Agnew, 14, is a girl with a vivid imagination and some big growing pains.  Addie had been living with her Aunt Eveline in a house that she loved and that contained all her memories.  But when Aunt Eveline passed away, Addie was forced to move next door and live with her Aunt Toosie, Uncle Henry and her cousin/rival Sandra Lee.  But luckily for Addie, her strong Catholic faith and the communion of saints allows her to keep a running conversation with Aunt Eveline, who was and still is her moral compass.

Addie has always been best friends with Tom, a next door neighbor, but when his father Louis suddenly shows up, she falls head over heels in love with the older man, despite the fact that he had deserted Tom and his mother ten years ago.  And after Louise asks Addie to go to the train to pick up Tom, she is sure he feels the same way about her.  Tom, however, refuses to speak to his father and friction flares between him and Addie over it.

Meanwhile, a family has rented out the house that Addie lived in with Aunt Eveline.  Addie discovers their real home is a plantation called Oakwood, just north of New Orleans, so they are not planning on remaining in the house for long.  And they have a daughter, Norma Jean Valerie, who is rather thin and sickly.  She's Addie's age, and soon the two girls are friends.

Addie's life revolves around her family, her friends, her school, an upcoming dance that she doesn't want to go to and a Christmas play she is helping the nuns at her Catholic school put together, and of course, boys, crushes, and being in love with an older man and with always trying to best Sandra Lee and never succeeding.  It all sounds like pretty normal stuff, until Addie overhears a strange conversation between Louis and Mrs. Valerie.  Realizing they are up to something, their conversation leads her to do some investigating on her own, and pretty soon she has a real mystery on her hands to try and solve.  And, it turns out, the mystery involves her directly and the house she loves so dearly.  How could she possible have any connection to Louis and Mrs. Valerie's connivances?  She never met the Valeries before and Louis has been gone since she was four years old, much too young to get involved with anyone's schemes. Or is it?

And to top all that, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and the US enters World War II.

Mischief and Malice is a sequel to a book called Secret Lives, written 30 years ago.  I hadn't read Secret Lives, so when I first started reading Mischief and Malice I was a little lost among all the names and Addie's relatives and their back story, but it didn't take long to catch on.  I think that is because it is written in the voice of a very chatty, lively 14 year old with lots of thoughts that are really explanations for the benefit of the reader.

Addie Agnew is the first person narrator and her thoughts and observations contain a certain honesty not often found in many coming-of-age characters but very well defined here.  Her confusions, her crushes, and conscience all make up a nice well rounded character.  Addie is a typical teenaged Catholic girl and her religion is a real part of her life.  She reminded me so much of some of my friends at that age who were Catholic.  

I did love the competition between Addie and her cousin Sandra Lee.  That reminded me of my sister and me when we were growing up.  But I also loved how they could pull together when the situation called for a united front.

The mystery isn't really a big deal and comes towards the end of the novel, but Mischief and Malice is a wonderful work of historical fiction giving us a window into life just before the US entered the war.  War was certainly on people's minds, in reality and in this story, but took a backseat to everyday life before Pearl Harbor.

I had a lot of fun reading Mischief and Malice and kudos to Berthe Amoss for taking up Addie's story again.  Will there be a third Addie story?  I hope so.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Ig Publishing

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12. Movie Matinee #7: Yankee Doodle Dandy

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!
HAVE FUN, STAY SAFE!

Yankee Doodle Dandy is a historically not terribly accurate bio-film about the life of George M. Cohan (James Cagney).  It begins when he is summoned to the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There, he begins to tell the President the story of his life, beginning with his birth on July 4, 1878 in Providence, RI, where his father was performing in vaudeville.  The scene then leaves the Oval Office and flashes back to that date.

From there on, in voice overs, Cohan narrates each scene change as time go by, and he and his sister Josie grow older and join in their parents vaudeville act, becoming The Four Cohans.  We seea very talented though somewhat arrogant George as a boy starring in Peck's Bad Boy, and blowing the family's chance to play Broadway with his demands.

Later, George meets Mary, the girl he will marry, and for whom he wrote the song "Mary is a Grand Old Name."  The whole time the family is performing, George is writing musical theater scores, but no one is interested.  Finally, he meets Sam H. Harris, also not succeeding in selling his material, and the two become partners and successes with their production of Little Johnny Jones, most noted for the songs "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Give My Regards to Broadway."

When the US enters World War I in 1917, George tries to enlist, but is told he is too old at 38.  Leaving the recruiting station, he runs into soldiers and an Army marching band, and as he listens to them,  the song "Over There" begins to formulate in his head.  

But Cohan's professional successes and failures isn't the only storyline.  The movie also follows his family life, though only when it suits Cohan's story.  For instance, his sister get engaged and we never find out what happened to her until later we learn that both his mother and sister have already died.  And after Cohan marries Mary, there is no mention of their three children, or his first marriage, for that matter.  The whole movie I thought they were childless because of his career.

Eventually, Cohan retires and travels the world, but when he is offered a part on Broadway playing the President, he jumps at the chance to go back to the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd.  And that's when he is called to the White House.  Thinking he is in trouble, instead he is give the Congressional Medal of Honor for his two songs,  "You're a Grand old Flag," written in 1906 for Cohan's musical play George Washington, Jr and "Over There" written in 1917.

Original Sheet Music courtesy of the Library of Congress
The finale is priceless, even if anachronistic.  As Cohan leaves the White House he joins a parade of soldiers singing "Over There" and obviously heading off to fight in WWII.  Cohan received his Medal of Honor in 1940, a year and a half before the US entered the war.  But, so what, it is still an ending that is sure to bring a tear to the eye.  

Besides James Cagney Yankee Doodle Dandy has a wonderful cast.  There is Walter Huston as his father Jerry, and Rosemary de Camp as his mother Nellie, Cagney's real sister Jeanne ss his Cohan sister Josie, and Joan Leslie as his wife, Mary.  Richard Whorf played Sam Harris, Cohan's partner and one of my favorites, S.Z. Sakall, has a small but pivotal part in the film (Sakall played Uncle Felix, the chef in Christmas in Connecticut).

Yankee Doodle Dandy is a little corny, a whole lot energetic and off the charts flag waving patriotic propaganda now that the US had entered WWII.  Still, the dancing numbers are wonderful, and although James Cagney is not Fred Astaire, I loved the tap dancing scenes.

Movie premiere May 29, 1942 in New York City, as a war bonds benefit
(Public Domain)
Yankee Doodle Dandy has been named as one of the American Film Institutes 100 Greatest American Films; James Cagney won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role; and the Library of Congress chose it to be preserved in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historicaily or aesthetically significant."  And while it is certaainly historically significant, there is one scene that bears this out in a rather offensive way when The Four Cohans are seen performing in blackface.  Historically accurate, sadly yes, but no less odious to the modern viewer.

Here is the offical movie trailer from 1942:


As long as this is a Yankee Doodle day, I thought I would also include a copy of the Uncle Sam movable paper puppet you can put together.  It's been circulating around the Internet for a while and we actually made one yesterday, but it went home with one of the kids and I didn't have time to make another.  I printed it out on 8 1/2" by 11"white card stock, cut it out and just followed the directions.  As far as I know, it was from an old postcard, printed in London, from around 1914 (I couldn't find a recent copyright, so I assume this is in the public domain now).


Oh, this modern world!  I actually rented Yankee Doodle Dandy from iTunes and watched in on my iPad with headphones.  A weird, yet rather pleasant experience  

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13. Nim and the War Effort by Milly Lee, pictures by Yangsook Choi

It's 1943 in San Francisco's Chinatown and young Nim and her classmates are all competing to see who can collect the most newspapers for the war effort.  So far, Nim and Garland Stephenson are in the lead.

One morning, Nim takes her wagon to her aunt's house to pick up some papers tied with a red string, but when she gets there, the papers are gone.  Disappointed, Nim decides to look around the neighborhood to see if she can find other papers to add to her pile at school.  Along the way, she runs into Garland, who not only has a pile of papers tied with a red string, but he is taking the new ones that were just delivered to the newspaper stand that morning.  When Nim confronts Garland about both piles of papers, he tells her they are his now and Mr. Wong shouldn't have left his lying on the sidewalk.

Garland's wagon is so overloaded, that the papers spill all over the sidewalk when he tries to turn a corner.  While he is picking them up, he tells Nim she can't win the contest, that they are in an American war and that only an American should win the newspaper competition and "not some Chinese smarty-pants."

Undaunted by Garland, Nim decides she has some time after school to search for more papers before she has to go to Chinese school, which her Grandfather has always been adamant she not be late for or miss.  But when she approaches the doorman of a big building in Nob Hill and asks if there are any newspapers she can have for the war effort, he is more than obliging.  To Nim's amazement he opens the door to a room full of newspapers, stacks and stacks of them.  Surely, Nim would win the competition with all those papers.  After all, Garland said it should be won by an American and Nim is as American as he is.  But how can she get all those papers to the school and still get to Chinese school on time so she doesn't anger her Grandfather?

Nim's solution will surprise readers but her reasoning is sound and she is only doing what she was taught to do - call the police and ask for help.  But, she comes home late, greeted by an very angry Grandfather who says she has disgraced the family by being seen riding in a police paddy wagon.  Can she win back her Grandfather's respect and trust when he learns the truth about what happened?

Nim and the War Effort is one of those picture books for older readers that packs in a lot of information about kids and WWII.  Kids did a lot to help the war effort, and really throw themselves into it, just a Nim and Garland do for the scrap paper contest.

Garland's cheating is a sad note about needing to win the contest.  There was nothing at stake for him, except to show her up.  Garland's behavior reminded me of the saying I was taught as a girl:
"Winners never cheat, and cheaters never win" and that's just what happened.

Cheating is one issue, but Garland also enables Milly Lee to quietly but effectively take on issues of racism and misplaced patriotism in her debut children's book.  Garland only sees Nim as Chinese, his attitude towards her, that she isn't a real American, was common after the US entered the war.  A lot of Chinese people were ostracized during WWII by those who lumped all Asians together and felt it gave them the right to mistreat them.  Lee adds a nice touch of reality when she shows grandfather wearing a pin with the American and the Chinese flag, something many Chinese people did to differentiate themselves.

Lee also takes the reader inside Nim's home, where Chinese American family life is thoughtfully depicted.   Young readers may find the relationship between Nim and her grandfather a little stiff and formal, and probably more realistic for the 1940s than in today's world.  He is a real patriarch, with Nim's mother and grandmother firmly in the background.  I thought it interesting that there is no mention of Nim's father.  Was he away fighting the war?  Another interesting note is that her grandmother has bound feet, something that most of today's young readers might not know about.

The muted realistic illustrations give the readers a true feeling of the past by using a palette of yellows and browns, making Nim's white shirt and red wagon really standout.  Like Lee, this is a debut children's book for Yangsook Choi and the two really seem to have been on the same thought-wave, producing a thoughtful, thought-provoking picture book that no doubt generates all kinds of questions and observations among young readers.

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

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14. The Sound of Life and Everything by Krista Van Dolzer

It's 1953 and WWII has been over for 7 years.  In fact, for most of 12-year-old Ella Mae Higbee's life.  Her older brother Daniel had been killed in the war in Europe and her cousin Robby Clausen died in the Pacific at Iwo Jima.  And while Ella Mae's mother has accepted the death of her son, her Auntie Mildred hadn't accepted that her Robby was gone for good.  In fact, she still holds on tightly to Robby's bloody dog-tags.

So when Auntie Mildred heard about a scientist who could re-create a person with just a few drops of their blood in his laboratory, she was ready to welcome Robby back from the dead.  There was just one problem - the person who was resurrected using Robby's bloody dog-tags was a young Japanese man.  How had a Japanese boy's blood ended up on Robby Clausen's dog-tags?  Hysterical, Auntie Mildred, along with Ella Mae and her mother leave the laboratory.

But the lab wants someone to take custody of the Japanese man, whose name is Takuma Sato, and since Auntie Mildred didn't get the son she wanted, it was up to Ella Mae and her mother to bring him home with them, much to the chagrin of Mr. Higbee.  By now, Auntie Mildred is convinced that it was Takuma who killed Robby and refuses to speak to her sister for taking care of him.

Indeed, Takuma becomes the unwitting catalyst for long held resentments and hatred in Ella Mae's small California town.  While he doesn't remember much about his life before he died, for some who are still coming to terms with family members lost in the war,  he brings up their hostile feeling towards the Japanese in general.  For others, like the Reverend, the fact that Takuma was created in a lab makes him an abomination on the eyes of God.

Even as tempers flare, even as they are ostracized by family, friends and neighbors for taking in Takuma, Ella Mae and her mother stand firm in their belief that they did the right thing.  At school, Ella Mae's cousin and best friend Theo turns his back on her, though when she and Takuma are gone after by the class bully, Theo does get help.

Little by little, Takuma begins to remember his former life, but after a few months, he also begins to physically fail.  As he grows weaker and weaker, he starts to draw pictures from the war.  Soon the truth about how his blood got on Robby's dog-tags become evident in his drawings.  But will Auntie Mildred and everyone else in town be able to accept that what happened on Iwo Jima just didn't happen exactly the way they had thought it had?

The Sound of Life and Everything was an interesting book.  It's not often that I get to read speculative fiction that has anything to do with WWII with the exception of time travel books, so this was a welcomed addition.  The early 1950s was a time when people were becoming aware of DNA thanks to people like Linus Pauling, Francis Crick and James Watson, all mentioned in the novel.  But the science isn't the real focus of the story, merely the means to a way of opening up questions of racism, of forgiveness and of replacing ignorance with knowledge.

I thought Ella Mae was a feisty protagonist in this coming of age story, which is told in the first person by her.  Sometimes, though, she is a little too quick with her fists, and yet, she is also a thoughtful young girl willing to admit when she is confused by events and attitudes.  She willingly takes Takuma under her wing, teaching him English and showing him her favorite spots to hang out.  And when her older cousin Gracie takes over the teaching job, there are some pangs of jealousy.

Ella Mae's mother is wonderful.  A deeply religious woman, yet she doesn't hesitate to take on the minister when he refuses to let the Higbees into church with Takuma.  And though she acknowledges science, her faith will always be in God, even when it comes to Takuma.  But, best of all is how she treats Ella Mae.  It's nice to read about a mother who isn't crazy or distant or mean.  She is right there in Ella Mae's life, and it's clear she loves and respects her daughter, even when she is mad at her.

The Sound of Life and Everything reads so much like realistic historical fiction, I had to keep reminding myself that it is speculative historical fiction - and while that is the best kind of sic-fi, this is a novel that should appeal to almost anyone.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL  

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15. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth & John Sherrill

This biography of Corrie ten Boom's work in the Dutch Resistance during World War II has been around since 1971 for adult readers.  Now, the story of this brave woman and her family is available for younger readers.  It is a story that is compelling, inspiring and proves once again that anyone can make a difference in dangerous times.

The ten Boom family had been watchmakers in the Dutch town of Haarlem since 1837, which also served as the family home.  And it was at the 100 year celebration of the family business that Corrie, her sister Betsie and father Casper, already 77 years old, became truly aware to what what happening in Germany.  On this happy occasion, they met a Jewish man who had just escaped Germany after some kids had set fire to his beard, burning his face.

Three years later, in 1940, Holland was invaded by the Nazis. A curfew was put in place, newspapers were taken over and radios were confiscated - well, maybe not all the radios in the ten Boom household.  Jews began to be harrassed and rounded up for deportation.  While a neighbor's shop was being searched by the Nazis, Corrie managed to get the owner, Mr. Weil, into her home without being noticed. It was decided that Mr. Weil needed to go into hiding and Corrie knew just the person who could help - her brother Willem.

After that, it didn't take long and Corrie, along with Betsie and their father, found themselves playing an active part of the Dutch underground.  Soon, a secret room was build into Corrie's bedroom wall and a constant procession of Jews on the run found themselves in this welcoming home and hidden room.  By now, Corrie and her sister Betsie were in their 50s, and their father was in his 80s and with no thought of giving up their underground activities.  

Though many in the town of Haarlem knew of the ten Boom's activities, they turned a blind eye.  But in February 1944, someone talked and the family was arrested, but although they searched the house, the seven people in the hidden room were not found by the Nazis (they were rescued later).  Corrie, Betsie and Casper were taken first to Scheveningen prison, Sadly, Casper ten Boom passed away 10 days later, on March 9, 1944.  Corrie and Betsie were sent to a concentration camp in Holland called Camp Vught, which was mainly for political prisoners, but from there, they went to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Germany.  It was there that Betsie passed away, but eventually Corrie was released.

Corrie ten Boom's story is so powerful and this shortened version for young readers is ideal for introducing them to this extraordinary woman and her family.  Sometimes an abridged book just doesn't work, but in this case, nothing important is left out and it still reads smoothly.  It is written as though Corrie were right there telling her story, and I may say, quite modestly and with all the surprise that she ended up as part of the Dutch underground as the reader might feel.  You don't expect older people to be the stuff of such heroism, but, as Corrie, Betsie and Casper show us, why not?

Corrie and her family were very religious Christians, members of the Dutch Reformed Church, and their religion was very much a part of their daily lives.  This comes up in the book, especially towards the end and it may put off some fo today's young readers.  However, it should be remembered that the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people was a racial and a religious issue.  It only stands to reason that the deeply religious would be exactly the people who most understand the need to help another deeply religious group.

In 1975, a movie was made about the ten Boom family in World War II, starring Julie Harris as Betsie and Jeanette Cliff as Corrie.  I haven't seen it yet, but hope to soon.  If it is any good, and it seems to be well liked, I will be back here to tell you what I think.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

The ten Boom home and watch shop, now a museum:
:

 The inside of the ten Boom home showing where the secret room was built into Corrie's bedroom wall:


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16. Weekend Cooking #27: Remembering Marguerite Patten

Marguerite Patten 1915-2015

I haven't written a Weekend Cooking post in a while, but this week, while I was reading the NY Times the other day, I came across a familiar face in the Obituary section.  It was a photo of Marguerite Patten, the lady who taught Britain how to cook despite rationing in WWII (and you may recall, rationing lasted there until 1954).  Marguerite passed away on June 4, 2015, at age 99 years.  I discovered Marguerite long before I started blogging, and during my first year of blogging, I did a post about her and some of her recipes.  I thought I would repost it today in homage to all that she accomplished with food when there was very little of it to be had.

From March 6, 2011:

Weekend Cooking #5: We’ll Eat Again: A Collection of Recipes from the War Years by Marguerite Patten – Dropped Scones

Talk about celebrity chefs - Marguerite Patten was a celebrity chef as early as World War II, long before the term was even coined.  During the war, Marguerite worked for the British Ministry of Food, where her job was to teach housewives how to making good meals despite rationing. In 1944, she began working on a radio program for the BBC called Kitchen Front. To date, Marguerite has written over 170 cookbooks, has been honored by the Queen and, at 95 years of age, she is still (relatively) going strong.

Next to Welsh Cakes, scones were my favorite tea food, much better than the bread and butter tea we usually had. My dad worked in the Museum of Natural History and he came home around 4 every afternoon. As kids, we were required to be home than for tea, unless we has something related to school to do. It was my favorite time of day, and a ritual I never gave up. So today I have drop scone recipes. These come from Marguerite’s book We’ll East Again, published in association with the Imperial War Museum and can be found on page 84 of that book.

Drop Scones aka Scottish Pancakes (as it was written)

Sift 4 oz. plain flour with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add 1 tbsp dried egg powder then beat in 1 pint milk and 2 tbsp water.

Grease and heat a heavy frying pan, electric solid hotplate or griddle. To test if the right heat, drop on a teaspoon of batter, this should turn a golden brown on the bottom in 1 minute. Put the mixture in tablespoons on to the plate and leave until the top surface is covered with bubbles then turn and cook on the second side. The scones are cooked when quite firm.

Potato Drop Scones (this one sounds like something my dad may with leftover mashed potatoes on Mondays)

Rub 2 oz mashed potato into 4 oz flour and ¼ teaspoon salt. Make into a stiff batter with half a beaten egg and ¼ pint milk. Allow to stand for a time. Sift in the small teaspoon of cream of tartar and a small level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and ½ oz sugar just before cooking. Cook in spoonfuls – as for Drop Scones – on a greased griddle or in a heavy frying pan. Serve with a little hot jam.

Coffee Potato Scones (this one sounds intriguing)

Sift 6 oz plain flour, 2 level teaspoon baking powder and ½ tsp salt into a basin. Mix thoroughly with 4 oz mashed potato. Rub in 2 oz fat with the tips of the fingers. Blend to a soft dough with ½ teacup strong, milky, sweetened coffee. Roll out to ½ inch thickness on a floured board and cut into rounds. Glaze the tips with a little milk. Bake on greased baking sheets in a hot over for 15 minutes.

I still make drop scones for tea, but I have to confess, I use Bisquick for them. Apparently the Queen likes them too. I found this bit in a 1965 book review from the New York Times. The review was for a book by Dwight D. Eisenhower called Waging Peace: 1956-1961.


For more on Marguerite Patten see
MailOnline
The Sunday Times
Celebrity Chefs

In 2007, Marguerite received a Lifetime Achievement Award and you can was it here:


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. As always Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

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17. Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee

Hiroki Sugihara, the son of a Japanese diplomat posted to Lithuania in 1940, tells how his father suddenly found himself confronted with a terrible dilemma.

Hundreds of Jewish refugees, driven out of Poland by the Nazis after they had invaded and then occupied that country, began to show up at the gates of the Sugihara home, which doubled as the Japanese embassy.  The Sugihara's, Hiroki, his younger brothers Chiaki and Haruki, his Auntie Setsuko, and his parents lived upstairs, and his father, Chiune Sugihara, worked downstairs.

Men, women and children, dressed in layers of clothing despite the July heat, were seeking visas that would enable them to travel through Russia to find asylum in Japan.  Sugihara knew he had to do something, so he asked the crowd to choose five people to come inside and talk with him.

The next day, Sugihara cabled the Japanese government asking if he might be allowed to issue visas to the desperate refugees.  His country refused his request, leaving Sugihara with a tough moral decision - turn away the people outside his gate and leave them to certain death at the hands of the Nazis or disobey his government.

Sugihara chose to issue visas to each and every person outside his gates, disregarding Japan's order.  Day after day, from early morning to late in the evening, Sugihara hand wrote about 300 visas per day.  Even after the Nazis and Soviets began to close in on Lithuania, visas were written, right up until the family was ordered by Japan to leave when Sugihara was reassigned to Berlin.

In telling his father's story, Hiroki writes in the Afterward that it is a story that he believes "will inspire [readers] to care for all people and to respect life. It is a story that proves that one person can make a difference."  His father remained a diplomat for many years after the war, eventually leaving the Foreign Service.  In the 1960s, Chiune Sugihara began to hear from some of the people to whom he had given visas, and who referred to themselves a Sugihara survivors.  He ultimately received the Righteous Among Nations award from Yad Vashem in Israel.

Dom Lee's sepia-toned illustrations provide close detail and give a feeling of dimension and authenticity to the story being told, seemingly based on old photographs of the July 1940 events.  They are done by an very unusual method.  Lee applied encaustic beeswax to paper, scratched out the image he wanted and then added oil paint and colored pencil.

Passage to Freedom is indeed an inspiring story and one that should be shared with young readers.  Sugihara was a real hero, a man who put human life above politics,  even at a time when Japan was at war with China and relations were already contentious with Great Britain and the United States.  One thing that did amaze me was that his government didn't call him back to Japan to censure him.

An extensive PDF Classroom Guide for Passage to Freedom is available from the publisher, Lee & Low books.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

This 11 minute video recounts the life of Chiune Sugihara at the time he was writing so many visas, it includes Sugihara survivors and his wife's recollections.



Today is Nonfiction Monday:

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18. National Donut Day

Today is National Donut Day, a day that recognizes the role that donuts played in WWI and WWII, so I thought I would repost my Victory through Donuts post frin 2012;  You can also read a short history of Donut Day HERE.

REPOST: Victory through Doughnuts



I read this 1944 book called Kitty Carter, Canteen Girl last week.  It's a novel about a young woman who joins the Red Cross Canteen Corps in World War II in her hometown.  It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it did get me to thinking about how the Red Cross is always there for people whenever and wherever they are needed.

And they were certainly there in World War II providing the men and women in the Armed Forces with so many of the things they needed.  For example...

No sooner had the US entered the war and American soldiers were unfortunately sometimes taken prisoner.  In 1942, the Red Cross vowed to send one care package per week to every American POW.  In the first year of the war, they actually shipped out more that 1,000,000 care packages to the POWs.

That same year, the Red Cross collected over 1,000,000pints of blood and were asked if they could collect at least 4,000,000 in 1943.  I have no doubt they succeeded.

in the US, and later in Britain, the Red Cross opened and maintained clubs where soldiers could go to relax, have some refreshments, play some games, dance a little and chat with other soldiers and the volunteers.  These same volunteers would faithfully meet troop trains with coffee, sandwiches and doughnuts whenever they stopped at a railway station.

Clubs were so successful, that in 1942, the Red Cross introduced the clubmobile, a mobile canteen, for the servicemen and women stationed in Britain and coffee and doughnuts were always available.


Clubmobiles were important and very welcome throughout the war, especially at the front.  In fact, by July 1944, shortly after the Normandy Invasion, there were already 16 clubmobiles right on the beachhead serving coffee and doughnuts to tired, weary servicemen and plans for more.

Not surprisingly, by October 1944, there were a total of 84 clubmibiles close to the front lines, serving an average of 100,000 cups of coffee and 150,000 doughnuts every day.  The women volunteers who ran these clubs had to sleep in bedrolls underneath their vehicles at night.   

So, were the doughnuts really so good or was it the company that made them taste that way?  Now you can be the judge...

Red Cross Doughnuts 

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4    tsp    baking soda
1/4    tsp    salt
1/4    tsp    butter or substitute, melted
1/4    tsp    ginger
1/4    cup   molasses
1/4/   cup   sour milk (buttermilk)
1       egg   well beaten

Combine half of the flour with the soda, salt and ginger.
Combine the egg, molasses, sour milk and melted butter or substitute.
Blend with flour mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
Add remaining flour to make dough of sufficient to be rolled.
Roll, on floured board, to thickness of 1/4 inch.
Cut with a donut cutter.
Fry in deep hot fat (360 degrees) until lightly browned, about 2 03 three minutes.
Drain on brown paper.


This recipe came from the online American Red Cross Museum, which you may want to visit to learn more about what the Red Cross did in WWII.  And just in case these doughnuts put you in a party mood, there are also detailed instructions for having a Red Cross Canteen Party.

And Better Late Than Never...
On May 23, 2012, the Senate passed Resolution 471 "commending the efforts of the women of the American Red Cross Clubmobiles for exemplary service during the Second World War."

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19. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

When the Germans invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, many Danes welcomed them, but many more were filled with anger as they watched these soldiers taking over their towns and cities.  But what could they do?   The Danish army was simply no match for the Germans.  They may not have been willing to take on Hitler but Knud Pedersen, 14, a successful student living in Odense, Denmark, decided he might just be able to do something himself.

Very carefully, Knud, his older brother Jens, and a handful of fellow students decided to form a resistance group.  Calling themselves the RAF Club, named for the pilots who were defending Britain against Luftwaffe attacks, and modeling themselves on what they knew of the Norwegian Resistance, their goal was to disrupt their occupiers anyway they could.

It didn't take long for the RAF Club to gain a reputation, irritating the Germans and eluding the Danish police.  But in the spring of 1941, Knud's father, a Protestant minister, moved his family north to Aalborg and a new church.  Knud and Jens were enrolled in the Cathedral School there, and again, it didn't take long for them to form a new resistance group with their new school chums.  This time, they called themselves the Churchill Club, after their hero, Winston Churchill.

The boys of the Churchill Club, with bikes as their only means to transportation, began to commit acts of satotage all over Aalborg.  Not satisfied with vandalizing Germany property, usually setting fire using a small can of petrol they carried in the book bags, the boys decided they needed weapons.

Cautiously waiting and watching, the boys slowly began to acquire guns from unattended German cars, creeping into rooms and taking guns right out of the holdsters of German solders, even sneaking into coat rooms in restarurants to help themselves to whatever weaponry they could find.  Pretty soon, they had quite a cache of guns and ammunition, even snagging a machine gun at one point.

And the boys managed to frustrate the Germans to the point that their resistance activities were known about in Nazi headquarters in Berlin.  Both the Danish police and the Nazis were trying to catch these resisters, at first never dreaming these acts of sabotage were being committed by a group of schoolboys.  And there were plently of close calls that could have ended in their capture.

But in May 1942, the Chuchill Club's luck ran out and the boys were arrested.  They were tried and imprisoned, most of the boys sent to an adult prison, where they were essentially in solitary until their release in 1944.  Imagine their surprise when they returned home and discovered to what extent the Danish Resistance had grown.  Because a handful of young boys, ashamed of their country's behavior in the face of occupation, decided to do something on their own?  Certainly, that is what Philip Hoose implies and I am inclinded to agree.  Once the boys were caught, and despite Nazi censorship attempts, the Churchill Club became an international story.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is a inspiring, rivating story about courage, conviction and action.  Hoose interviewed Knud Pedersen for a week in 2012 and so a great deal of this book consists of his recollections, told verbatim.  In between, Hoose gives the reader enough information about Denmark, including why it was important to the Germans, about life under the German occupation, the attitude of the Danish people - including Nazi collaborators.

There are numerous photographs throughout the book, including photos of the boys in the Churchill Club.  In the photo below, I believe the tall boy with the pipe is Knud, since he comments several times that he was the tallest of the group.  I read the ARC, so I hope this photo is labelled in the published edition.  And a word about the pipe - all of these boys, who were in their mid-teens, smoked a pipe.

The Churchill Club
Hoose does end the book by telling the reader what became of each of the members of the RAF and the Churchill Club after the war.  These is also a Selected Bibliography, including books, articles and web sites, even YouTube recordings the reader can listen to, and extensive Notes.  

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club is a well-written, well-researched book by an author who specialized in nonfiction about young people making a difference and is one that I believe teen readers will find exciting, informative and even relatable.

Philip Hoose offers an excellent teracher's discussion guide for this book HERE

During May 2015 you can enter to win a copy of The Boys Who Challenged Hitler on Goodreads 

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley and will be available May 12, 2015.

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20. Sunday Funnies #21: The Boy Saboteures

I really enjoyed reading The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Philip Hoose this week.  At the back, in his Notes and his Bibliography, Hoose listed an issue of True Comics, one I am familiar with.  Naturally, I went back to my e-copy of the comic and sure enough, there was the story of the Churchill Club in the September 1943 issue.  Given the times, the Churchill Club in comic form makes perfect sense.

Comics were very popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and great vehicle for wartime propaganda.    But educators and librarians weren't particularly happy with their growing popularity, seeing no redeeming value to them.  In an attempt to offer something a little more substantial that would offer an educational alternative to kids, Parents Magazine, Inc. introduced True Comics.  The idea was to introduced kids to stories about real heroes, people like Winston Churchill, FDR, national heroes from history, explorers and innovators, brief histories of famous places and things such as airplanes, ships etc., and away from more sensationalized comics.

And since all Nazi attempts to censor what was happening in Denmark, it isn't surprising that the resistance efforts of the boys in the Churchill Club became internationally known, especially after they were arrested.  Their story and True Comics seemed made for each other.  Of course, the comic version is a little different from the book The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, but not by much and certainly not a substitute for the book (so don't use this version for your book reports, kids).

(click images to enlarge)









You can read more True Comics at Comic Books+

And here is an from the March 8, 1943 edition of the New York Times about some of the activities of the Churchill Club:


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21. Dead in the Water (World War II Book 2) by Chris Lynch

Hank and Theo McCallum are about as close as brothers can be, so when it looks like war is inevitable, their plan is to enlist in the navy together.  That way, they can look out for each other.  Except their father isn't having any of that - his thinking is that it would only take one torpedo to kill both his sons.  Before they even leave the house to enlist, it Hank for the navy, Theo for….the Army Air Corps.

A few weeks later, Hank and Theo are off to the Navy and Army, and it isn't long after boot camp that Hank finds himself on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, heading to the Pacific Ocean after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  On board the Yorktown, Hank is an airedale, which means his duties are plane-handling on the flight deck, doing everything except flying the aircraft he takes care of.  But Hank also has a reputation for always wanting to throw a little ball.  Before the Navy, Hank and Theo were all about baseball, and when they left for the war, Theo gave his well-used glove to Hank.  Now, with two gloves and a ball, Hank was always looking for someone to throw with during down time.

Once in the Pacific, the Yorktown doesn't see any real action until after a visit to Pearl Harbor.  Seeing the aftermath of the attack there, however, finally makes the war real for Hank, but he has absolute faith that the US will win.  Meantime, he meets a throwing partner, who actually has a few baseball tricks he can teach Hank, who is pretty good himself.  Mess Attendant First Class Bradford had played in the Negro Leagues before the war, but now he is generally stuck below deck, serving the pilots, sleeping far down in the ship, even below the torpedoes, because of the Navy's policy of racial segregation.

Hank and Bradford soon become friends and throwing buddies, often joined by two of the pilots whose planes Hank services whenever they fly missions.  At first, the Yorktown and its partner ship the Lexington still don't see much action, but a bad attack on the ships causes the Lexington to sink and the Yorktown to have to limp back to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

With time on their hands, Hank, Bradford and their two pilot friends decide to head to Waikiki Beach, even though Bradford isn't allowed to be there because he is African American.  When two policemen try to get them to leave, they refuse and they prevail.

Soon the Yorktown is really to sail again, headed for Midway Island and a life and death battle with the Japanese.  Once again, the Yorktown is hit, and sinks.  Can Hank survive a sinking ship?

Dead in the Water is narrated by Hank and although he and Theo are close, we don't really ever know how Theo is doing.  This is Hank's story (Theo is book 3).  Lynch always manages to make his narrators so believable and so historically real sounding, and Hank is no different.  He has a real 1940s way of speaking.  My only complaint is that there is too much baseball involved.  On the other hand, Lynch doesn't overdo it on the military stuff, including combat details.  There's just enough description and not too, too detailed on that front.

At first, I was afraid that taking on the racism that black sailors faced in the Navy (in fact, in all the Armed Forces in WWII), might be a bit over the top in a book like this, but it really works and he manages to make his points quite nicely, the beach incident is packed with tension.  I did find it a little surprising that Hank, baseball obsessed as he is, never heard of the Negro Leagues, and the Newark Eagles, for which Bradford played.

Dead in the Water is the third Chris Lynch book I've read, and I have to be honest and say they have all been very good.  The story flows nicely, they are historically correct, and most important to me, Lynch doesn't glorify war.

 And, of course, now I am curious to know what happened to Hank and his friends.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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22. Top Ten Tuesday #17:: Top Ten Favorite Things to do in NYC when you come for BEA or just to visit


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

I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in NYC.  I know many of you will be here for 2015 BEA or just visiting at some point in the summer.  Either way, I hope this is a helpful list for you. Some of these suggestions are free, some only cost a minimal amount of money, but all are fun ways to enjoy NYC besides the typical touristy things.

1- Walk the Highline - the Highline is a repurposed railway turned linear park that runs for almost 1.5 miles above ground.  You can just walk and appreciate the gardens, but there are also all kinds of fun things happening on it, too - art, performances, tours, storytelling, stargazing.  Check the Highline website to see if any will fit your schedule.


The Highline runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, some of the access points have elevators and are wheelchair accessible.  And here's a bonus - the new Whitney Museum of American Art has just moved to 99 Gavsevoort Street, right by the Highline.

2- Visit the NYPL on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.  This the is research library, but there are interesting exhibits and there are free one hour tours at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.  And you can drop by the the Children's Center and have a lovely visit with the real Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends.


3- Ride the Cyclone - you can easily take a subway ride to Coney Island for this.  The Cyclone isn't the world's biggest roller coaster, but it is an old wooden coaster, so you feel every bump and jiggle and it continues to be voted among the best.


Go for a ride on the Cyclone, stay for a real Nathan's Hot Dog just down the street on Surf Avenue.

4- Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit - head down to Greenwich Village for this unusual art show May 30th and May 31st if you are still in NYC.  Begun in 1931 by Jackson Pollack and Willem DeKooning who set up some of their painting to sell on the sidewalk when they were desperately in need of money.  They were soon joined by other artists needing money and it jsut grew from there.  My dad used to exhibit some of his painting there when we were kids, so I have a soft spot for this particular art show.



5- Shakespeare in the Park - You'll have to get up really early to snag 2 free ticket per person for this year's production of The Tempest beginning May 27th, but it's worth it. This production stars Sam Waterston and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, among others.  If you decide to do this, get to the line about 6-7 AM, tickets are given out around noon, first come, first served.  There are bathrooms, and food, but bring your own food it you can, and something to sit on.  And your linemates are usually pretty friendly, or you can read a new gotten book from BEA, either way, it itmakes the time go faster.


6- See a Mets Game - the Mets are playing home games during this year's BEA and you can get inexpensive tickets HERE, then take a subway out to Citi Field.  Friday nights are free t-shirt night for everyone in attendance, and Saturday, May 30th, it's free beach towel day to the first 15,000 people.



7- See a Broadway show - drop by the TKTS booth in Times Square to see what up on the boards - you might just snap some cheap tickets to a great show, same day tickets are usually 50% off.



8- Visit the Strand Book Store - I know, you're here for Book Expo, but you might want to go visit this iconic book store even if it is only to walk among the miles of books you will find there.  You might also want to check their calendar of events to see if there is anything of interest while you are here.



9- Do check out the Food Trucks - you will find food trucks almost anywhere in NYC, probably outside the Javits Center now, or you can download a mobile app called NYCFoodTruck to help you find what you want and where they are.  Food Trucks are different from sidewalk vendors, which are also good, but the trucks tend to have more upscale food and there is a great variety to choose from.

10- Visit the Bronx Botanical Garden - you can take a subway there or get a MetroNorth train at Grand Central.  The Botanical Garden is beautiful in the summer and they have a wonderful Frdia Kahlo exhibition at the moment.  During the warm weather, every Saturday, you can enjoy a Frida Al Fresco Evening, a evening of art, gardens, music, performance art and the price of admission, $25.00, includes a complimentary Modelo Especial draft cerveza or Jose Cuervo Tradicional margarita.



So grab a subway map, buy a Metro Card and have some NYC fun while you are at 2015 BEA!

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23. Memorial Day 2015

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, a day to take some time and think about those men and women who served their country and are no longer with us.

I found this poem on the International War Veterans' Poetry Archives: War and its Consequences, a site where veterans' and their families can post poems about their experiences.  The poem below was written in 1981 by Kelly Strong when he was in high school.  It is a tribute to his dad who was a career marine and served two tours of duty in Vietnam.  I think this poem speaks for itself this Memorial Day.

FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked a him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought…how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves
No, Freedom is not Free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still;
I listened to the bugler play,
and felt a sudden chill;

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend;

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No. Freedom is not Free!

Used with permission ©Copyright 1981 by Kelly Strong
You can contact him at kellystrong@aol.com

In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

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24. What I did at Book Expo America (BEA) 2015


I knew this would be my last year attending BEA so I decided to make the most of it (it's moving to Chicago next year).  First up, they had a promotion code for $25.00 off your first Uber ride, so I gave that a shot and it worked out really well - not only did I get the the Javits Center early for once, but it turned out to be a free ride.  Naturally, I took that to be a good omen for the rest of BEA - and I think it was.

First off, I met my friend Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.  Our blogs couldn't be more different, but it goes to show you what a great community bloggers are.  We were both attending the BEA Bloggers Conference, so we started off with some of the provided breakfast, followed by the keynote speakers.  While that was happening, we invited Daniel Saugar who blogs YA fiction at The Couch Potatoes Digest (twitter @dsaugar9 and who will also be posting his BEA recap) to join us.

Most of the sessions were about monetizing and branding your blog, both things I don't want to do, but they were interesting.  At lunch, I ran into Charlotte of Charlotte's Library, who I have known for about 5 years now.  For those who may not know, Charlotte blogs about middle grade science fiction and fantasy book, and does a great roundup of reviews and other news on Sundays.  Charlotte was handing out cards informing bloggers about the 2015 KidLitCon (kidlotosphere conference), which will be held  on October 9th and 10th this year at the Hyatt Place Harbor East in Baltimore, MD.  More information can be found HERE.

After lunch, however, the exhibit floor opened up for the afternoon, which they never did before.  Needless to day, Elizabeth, Daniel and I headed up there.  So, for 2 1/2 days, we lugged books around the Javits Center, stood on long lines and walked away with clutching our treasures and grinning to beat the band. 

On Friday, I went to the Children's Book and Author Breakfast with Nathan Lane, Oliver Jeffers, Rainbow Rowell, and James Patterson.  Each spoke about their work, their passion for what they do and did you know the it was James Patterson who coined the term "Toy-R-Us Kid" - authors are always full of fun surprises.  I did get a chance to tell Rainbow Rowell about my Kiddo writing fan fiction at fanfic.net when she was younger and how much she loved reading Fangirl because of it.

After breakfast, it was on to the exhibit floor for the rest of the day.  I had decided to be more discriminating in the books I thought I might like and since the amount of swag available goes down more and more every year, swag for me was at an all time low, which was fine.

So what books did I bring home with me?  Most of them are for my other blog, Randomly Reading, but I thought I would share them here anyway.


The Harry Potter book you see is only a preview of the new illustrated edition coming out in the fall.  The blue book is Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper, who I was very excited to meet.  And of course I have to get Mike Curato's new book, Little Elliot Big Family.


These are the middle grade and YA books I was excited about, especially Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond.  I read an awful lot of Lois Lane comics as a kid, so couldn't resist this one.  And even though I have already readGone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia, I loved meeting her and getting a signed copy (and yes, I did gush).  But I had already run into Rita the day before when I got a copy of the new Guys Read: Terrifying Tales, edited by Jon Scieszka, and signed by Jon, Michael Buckley, R.L. Stine, and Rita Williams-Garcia, among others.


There are the books I picked up for this blog.  Not quite as many as for my other blog, but enough.  I was very excited to meet M.T. Anderson, whom I have always enjoyed reading, and get a signed copy of Symphony for the City of the Dead, a YA nonfiction work about the Siege of Leningrad.  And who could resist the new Tim Wynn-Jones book, The Emperor of Any Place.    I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing all these new books.


This is my swag (like I said, not much.  I'm not a big Disney fan, but I have Diane Muldrow's other Everything I Need to Know, so I decided to see about this one, too.  And they are a nice walk down the Little Golden Books memory lane (I stll have my original Pokey Little Puppy book). The gold box on top of that pile is 15 Thank You cards in 5 languages.  The book at the bottom is the new Geraldine Brooks novel, The Secret Chord.  I've always enjoyed her historical fiction so much.  I also have a copy of Suzan-Lori Parks play Father Comes Home from the Wars.  I saw an excellent production of it performed at the Public Theater this past winter and thought I might like to read it, as well.  I was happy to find that Suzan-Lori Parks also thought the play was excellently produced.

So that was my Be a 2015 experience and I have lots of reading material for the coming months.  It was fun, but tiring and now I will be happy to get back to my regular blogging routine.  If you went to BEA, I would love to hear what you did, and if you participated in Armchair BEA, I would like to know how that went, expecially since that's the BEA for me next year.

(This was originally posted on my other blog, Randomly Reading, so if you follow both blogs, I apoligize for the duplicate posts in advance.)

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25. Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle

This free verse novel, written from a first person perspective by three separate and distinct voices, introduces the reader to Daniel, a 13 year old German Jewish refugee who held the hand of his grandfather as he died on Kristalnacht; Paloma, the 12 year old daughter of a corrupt Cuban official who determines, for a high price, who gets a visa to enter Cuba.  Paloma also works at a shelter to help the refugees adjust to their new surroundings; and David, an elderly Russian Jew who fled his country in the 1920s because of pogroms and with whom Daniel is able to communicate in Yiddish.

The novel begins in June 1939 and, as each of these three characters tell their story, the reader also learns that Daniel's parents are musicians who decided to save Daniel because they could only scrape together enough money to pay for one ticket on a ship and send him away from the Nazis.  It was his and their hope that they would be reunited in New York someday.  

Paloma, ashamed of her father's abuse of power and the high price he charges desperate people for a visa, works with the American Quakers in Cuba to help people find shelter and provide them with food and clothing more suitable to a warm climate.

David, who hands out ice cream and food to the refugees with Paloma, befriends Daniel and convinces him to take off the heavy winter coat he brought from home, and metaphorically shedding his old life.  Over time, Daniel, David and Paloma become friends and David helps Daniel begin to move on with his life, though never forgetting his parents.  

In December 1941, when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, paranoia that Germany has sent spies to Cuba increases and the Cuban government orders all non-Jewish Germans to be arrested.  The three friends watch husbands and wives torn from each other because one spouse is Jewish and the other is Christan, and think of the oldest couple in the shelter.  Having crossed Europe together, hiding from Nazis any way they could, Miriam, a Jew, and Marcos, a Christian, are about to be separated in what should have been their place of safety.  Are Paloma, Daniel and David willing to risk everything to help this elderly couple hide from the police?  Does the fear of German spies mean that ships from Germany will now be turned away from Cuba?

Despite being written in free verse, each one of three characters begins to really come to life as they tell their thoughts and secrets and share the different obstacles they must face and overcome, but each is also willing to do what they can to help others in the difficult times and circumstances they find themselves in.    

This is the fourth book I've read about the experience of Jews fleeing Europe and Hitler's cruelty, seeking refuge in Cuba.  This book covers a three year period, from June 1939 to April 1942.  Read carefully, because Engle packs a lot of information about life in Cuba during that time as the characters speak.  There is both corruption and kindness to be found, as well as the anti-Semitic propaganda campaign launched by Germany in Cuba; the eventual turning away of other ships and forcing them to return to Germany and death, and the rounding up of Christians married to Jews and believed to be spies.  Engle includes that and more in her spare, yet graceful poetic style.

There are a lot of excellent stories written about the experience of people during the Holocaust, but not many about the experience of Jews and Cuba.  Books like Tropical Secrets give us another side of what life was like for Jews living under Hitler and their desperate attempts to escape - sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  Ships like Daniels continued to be turned away from the US and Canada, and even though Cuba eventually did the same, it did provide a relatively safe haven for 65,000 refugees.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the book to learn more about Cuba in WWII.

Tropical Secrets is a very moving novel about family, friendship, tolerance, love, and survival.

A reading guide can be downloaded HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL



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