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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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1. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. Remembering Günter Grass

Günter Grass 1927-2015
Günter Grass, the 1999 recipient of the Noble Prize for Literature, passed away on April 13, 2015 at the age of 87.   Grass wrote one of my all time favorite novels, The Tin Drum, in which he confronted Germany's Nazi past through the character of Oskar Matzerath.  The novel opens with Oskar confined to a mental hospital and, with the help of his family's photograph album, he begins to relate his story set against the background of his home in Danzig, Poland and centered on the Nazi years.  In Oskar, Grass created an unreliable narrator/pícaro extraordinaire, one of the best, in my opinion, right along with Salmon Rusdie's protagonist Saleem Sinai from Midnight's Children, and Serenus Zeitblom from Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn.

But in 2006, Grass, who was born in Danzig, Poland on October 16, 1927,  revealed that towards the end of the war, he had been conscripted into the Waffen SS.  It was 1944 and Grass was 17 years old at the time.  It was also clear that Germany was losing the war.  In a last ditch effort, Germany began to recruit  young boys and old men to do the jobs of trained soldiers against the advancing Allies.  By May 1945, Grass was a prisoner in an American POW camp.

Why Grass didn't reveal this information until so many years later is something we will probably never know the answer to.  He wasn't in the Waffen SS long and never committed any of the heinous crimes they were so notorious for inflicting on their enemies.  But Grass was always very outspoken, sometimes even very controversial.  Hiding his past, did he have a right to be so critical of others?  His conservative critics don't think so.  They jumped on his Waffen SS secret, quickly denouncing Grass.  Does hiding his past outweigh a lifetime achievement of confronting a horrific past that you were inadvertently made a part of?


Grass's death brought up all of this again for me.  But I think Salmon Rushdie put it best, at least for me personally, when he said "if you were a teenager and a Nazi came to conscript you, and a refusal meant death, would you choose to die?…To be a conscript is not to be a Nazi.  To be the author of The Tin Drum is to merit great honour." The Telegraph April 10, 2012.

It's been a long time since I have read a book by Günter Grass.  He was really the stuff of graduate school.  Still, The Tin Drum, which is actually the first book in Grass's Danzig Trilogy that includes Dog Years and Cat and Mouse, will always be one of my all-time favorite books and now I am even tempted to reread it since a new translation has come out a few years ago.  And if you haven't already read The Tin Drum yet, I highly recommend it.


I am always sad when an author I like passes away, and Grass is no exception.  He left the world shrouded in controversy, but with such an very impressive body of work that just cannot be discounted.

You can read Günter Grass's New York Times obituary HERE






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15. Escape in Time by Ronit Lowenstein-Malz

Living a comfortable life in Tel Aviv, Nessya, 12, is stunned to hear that her grandmother, Miri Malz, has been invited to speak at her school's Holocaust Remembrance Day program.  Nessya has never heard her happy, smiling grandmother speak being a Holocaust survivor, and besides, she doesn't even have at tattoo AND she has her family's old photo albums - items always destroyed by the Nazis.

When Nessya and her friend Rachel cook up a scheme to get into Grandma Miri's apartment to search for evidence while she is out to look for clues, the plan backfires.  But, is Grandma Miri really a survivor?  For almost two weeks, Grandma Miri keeps to herself, seeing no one but her husband.  When she finally does come to visit, she takes Nessya aside and begins to talk to her about her past.

Living in Munkács, Czechoslovakia, Miri Eneman was part of a large, loving family and life was pretty peaceful.  The family thought they were Hungarian and pretty safe from the Nazis, until one night in the spring of 1944 it all changed with a knocking on their door.  The family was being rounded up.  That night, Miri's father escaped out the back window, leaving everyone to think he had run off and deserted his family.  But in reality, that was just the beginning of his fight for their survival.

When she leaves, Grandma Miri gives Nessya a packet of letters written by her family members and tucked into their diaries, all of which her grandmother had spent two weeks translating for her granddaughter and including her own memories of her family during the Holocaust.  The story of her family's survival is her gift to Nessya for her upcoming bat mitzvah.

Miri's story is riveting.  The Eneman family is often on the run after escaping the Munkács Ghetto, in hiding and living in fear, separated from other family members and never knowing what is happening to them.  All the while, Miri's father manages to anticipate what to do and stay one step ahead of Nazi actions, even hiding in plain sight in Budapest.  At one point, they find themselves living in and caring for a grand apartment after the owner flees to Switzerland.  Here, they lived across the street from the virulent anti-Semitic Hungarian pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party's headquarters and under the nose to an equally anti-Semitic concierge.  But can their collective luck whole out until the end of the war?

Escape in Time is a truly apt name for this novel about one Jewish family's survival during the Holocaust.  It is a story of courage, daring, luck and survival doing whatever needs to be done.  Lowenstein-Malz based this story on actual memoirs giving it a real sense of authenticity.  The book is written in such a way that the reader reads Miri's story right along with Nessya, but there are occasional breaks where we see her reaction to what she is reading (don't be surprised if your reactions are similar to hers).

There aren't many good middle grade books about the fate of Hungarian Jews in WWII so this is a welcome additon to the body of Holocaust literature.  For so long, they, like the Eneman family, thought they were safe, but it was just a question of time and politics and it all changed.  It is one of the reasons that I found myself so drawn into Miri's memories, and her family's letters and diary entries.  This is a slightly different Holocaust story in that, interestingly, no one in Grandma Miri's immediate family spends any time in a concentration camp, though extended family were sent there from the ghetto in 1944.  Young readers will not only meet this courageous family, but they will also meet some really good people willing to help the Enemen family as well as some really hateful people who would turn them in in the blink of an eye.

Escape in Time was originally written in Hebrew and I found the translation to be a very smooth one.  Having done some translating myself, I know it is often hard to get together all the elements that make a book great, but that wasn't a problem here.

Throughout this novel, there are realistic sepia-toned portrait illustrations that enhance the narration about the Eneman family.

Miri and her older sister Magda
Escape in Time is a well-written book with well drawn, realistic characters for young readers interested in the Holocaust or historical fiction, and since it is a story of survival against great odds, don't be surprised if you shed a few tears along with Nessya.  I did.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This was an EARC recieved from Net Galley


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16. Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas

American bornTomi Itano, 12, her younger brother Hiro and older brother Roy, 17, have been raised by their Japanese-born parents to love the United States and to be the best Americans they can be.  Every morning, the family solemnly raises the American flag to fly over their rented strawberry farm in California.  The Itanos, Osamu called Sam and his wife Sumiko, had made a pretty good life for their family.

But in January 1942, shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, it all changed.  Suddenly signs reading "No Japs" appeared in store windows, Tomi was no longer welcomed in her Girl Scout troop, and worse than anything, Pop was arrested as a spy by the FBI.

Then came the notice that the family had two weeks to get ready to go to a "relocation camp" taking only what they could carry in suitcases.  Everything they owned was sold for a few dollars each, prized momentos from Japan were burned and the family found themselves living in a smelly horse stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack for the first months of internment, eventually being transfered to Colorado and a camp called Tallgrass.

Throughout their ordeal, Mom, Tomi, Hiro and Roy keep their spirits up, trying to make the most of the situation they are in, even though they hear very little from Pop, and really have no idea what is going on with him.  Tomi meets a girl at Tallgrass named Ruth and the two girls become best friends.  Roy, who had a band called the Jivin Five in California, decides to form a jazz band at Tallgrass, playing at Saturday night dances.  Mom, who had always been a perfect Japanese wife, doing only what her husband said she could do, suddenly blossomed, teaching a quilting class and making her own decisions.  Hiro and his new best friend Wilson start playing on the camp's baseball team.  All the Itanos seem to have adjusted, believing that living in the internment camp is only a temporary situation and they will eventually be able to return to their old life once the war ends.

But when Pop shows up at the door unexpectedly, everything changes.  He looks almost unrecognizable - gray haired, stooped and walking with a cane.  And he is angry and bitter at what has happened to him, and has turned on his adopted country.  Suddenly, happy, optimistic Tomi begins to behave with the same bitterness and anger towards the country she had always loved.  Tomi has become so inflamed, even Ruth doesn't want to hang around with her anymore.

So, when when a newpaper runs a essay contest, Tomi's teacher wants her class to participate, answering the question Why I am an American, Tomi is faced with quite a dilemma  - how should she honestly write the essay.

Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky is the middle grade version of Sandra Dallas's adult novel Tallgrass, which I have not read.  I've read a lot of books about Japanese internment, and while I do believe it is a shameful period of American history, I can't say I was terribly inspired by this particular book.

Factually, this was a good novel, although a bit too didactic at times.  It is meant for young readers who may not know much about how the Japanese were treated in this country during WWII, and I realize that inserting factual information is a tricky business.  Still, that could have gone more smoothly, or put into notes at the end of the novel.

But I found Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky forced and emotionally cold.  I never really formed a clear picture of Tomi, Roy or Hiro, though I felt their mom was a better drawn character, and it wasn't until Pop arrived at Tallgrass that there was any real feeling.  I kept wondering how and why the Itano family didn't get angry, bitter, depressed at having their lives disrupted, when everything they worked for was lost, and people who were friends suddenly turning on them, at least for a while.  That's a lot of emotional stuff to handle for anyone, but they just easily assimilated throughout their whole ordeal.

In the end, Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky is an OK novel at will give readers some insight to what life was life in the internment camps.  I am, however, now curious to read Tallgrass and see what that novel has to offer.

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

The Library of Congress has a Teaching Guide using Primary Sources to learn more about Japanese American Internment During World War II HERE,

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17. From the Archives #28: Lucy of the Sea Rangers by F.O.H. Nash

I don't get sick often, but when I do, I like to read comfort books.  Usually that means an old book I have read before that just makes me feel good.  So at the beginning of February, when I found myself home with a respiratory infection, I started to reach for an old Nancy Drew or Chalet School book, but decided to reread Lucy of the Sea Rangers.  I love old books about Girl Scouts and Girl Guides and have a small but nice collection of them.

In this novel, Lucy Butler, 16, is a Sea Ranger, a branch of the Girl Guides, but living in London, she and the other Rangers have never had any real sea experience.  The Blitz is just beginning, so when the department store she works in is damaged by a bomb, Lucy is off to the small village of Sea Bay in Somerset to live with her Aunt Nell and help out in her shop.  Best of all, Sea Bay is located right on the beach.

It doesn't take long for word to spread among the village girls that Lucy is a Sea Ranger.  And although Lucy misses her best friend and fellow Ranger Sally, who is still in London,  she manages to meet and become friends with a girl named Betty, who also has lots of Guide experience.  Before long, they two girls have cobbled together a patrol for the local girls.

One afternoon, Aunt Nell tells Lucy that Mr. Grant, who runs a large guest house and golf course, needs some clerical help and Lucy immediately thinks of her friend Sally.  Wouldn't it be grand if Sally came to live with Aunt Nell and could work for Mr. Grant.  On her way to talk to Mr. Grant about this, Lucy and Betty see a small plane crash land on the edge of the golf course.  Out come a man, a woman and a young boy claiming they had just escaped from Holland and the Nazis.

Feeling sorry for the family, the Vanhuysens are quickly given jobs and help from the trusting villagers.  But when a fire threatens to destroy the club house on Mr. Grant's gold course, Lucy becomes suspicious of the Vanhuysens when she finds herself suddenly surrounded by fire with no way to escape and realizes that Mrs. Vanhuysen is responsible to it.  Perhaps this refugee family isn't who or what they claim to be, after all.

Aside from the possible spy family story line, which is somewhat interesting, the novel provides a lot of Guide and Ranger information, from how patrols were formed, naming them, ranks and activities, to making uniforms.  And of course, there is the usual collection of girls with different personalities for added interest.  In fact, the reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement wrote of Lucy of the Sea Rangers that aside from the spy business "...which is distressingly inevitable by now, there is a healthily ordinary atmosphere about this story." (TLS November 20, 1943).

Lucy of the Sea Rangers is a fun look at guiding during the war in England and a bit of history not many people know about.

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

You probably know that Queen Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret were Girl Guides when they were young, but did you also know that Queen Elizabeth became a Sea Ranger in 1943?


Two books that may be useful to anyone interested in Guiding in fact and fiction are
How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton  and
True to the Trefoil: A Celebration of Fictional Girl Guides by Tig Thomas, editor


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18. The Wren and the Sparrow by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

It's hard to imagine that such a lyrical story could be written about a time as terrible as the Holocaust, but that is exactly what J. Patrick Lewis has done in this new picture book allegory.

The story takes place in a small town in Poland that has shriveled up under the occupation of the Tyrant and his Guards.   Living in shadow, an old man nightly plays his hurdy-gurdy, singing so beautifully, he is called the Wren by his neighbors.  He has on music student - a young girl called the Sparrow with fiery red hair.

One day, the Guards order all the residents of the town to turn in their musical instruments.  The Wren brings his beloved hurdy-gurdy but begs to allowed to play one more song before handing it in.  As he plays, the whole town begins to sing.  At the end of his song, the old man gives his instrument to the Guards and disappeared himself, never to be seen again.

The instruments are all thrown into a pile to be destroyed later.  But later that night, the Sparrow sneaks into the storage area and finds the hurdy-gurdy.  Inside it is a hidden note from the Wren to the Sparrow.  She takes the instrument and note and hides the them in the hope that they will survive the war and be found in the future and that the finder will know exactly what happened in this small town in Poland and the world will never forget.

I think this is a wonderful example of an allegorical story, Allegory, you will remember, is typically used as a literary device that uses symbolic figures, events etc for revealing a more complex issue or meaning in a work with a moral or political message.  Here, Lewis uses symbolic types rather than realistic characters, - the Wren, the Sparrow, the Guards, the Tyrant - in an abstract setting - a small town in Poland - to achieve maximum impact of this Holocaust story about the Nazi occupation and the the fate of Europe's Jews.   The result is a powerful multi-layered picture book for older readers that should not be missed.


Patrick's words and text reminded me of the way Expressionist writers sought to convey feelings and emotions in an anxious world.  Here his words are simple and elegant in contrast to his topic, but at the same time so very ominous.  Unlike Eve Bunting's excellent Terrible Things: an Allegory of the Holocaust, another picture book for older readers, which ends on a note of hopelessness, The Wren and the Sparrow sees hope for the future.

Perhaps following Patrick's lead, Yevgenia Nayberg's expressionistly styled illustrations are painted in a dark palette of yellows, greens and browns that ends in a lighter illustration done in bright blue-green at the end, symbolizing a message that even in the darkest of days, hope can survive.  Illustrations and text compliment and enhance each other throughout this allegory.

And be sure to read the Afterword at the end of the story that explains how Lewis was inspired by the street musicians and performers in the Lodz Ghetto.  In fact, performers and music were a sustaining force in ghetto life under the Nazis and Lewis has written a beautiful homage to them in The Wren and the Sparrow.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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19. Half a Man by Michael Morpurgo

Young Michael had been told by his mother over and over again not to stare at his grandfather whenever he visited his family in London.  But Michael couldn't help it, slyly looking at a grandfather he really doesn't know very well and wondering how his face had gotten so disfigured, how he had lost part of the fingers on one hand and all of them on the other.  His mother doesn't talk about it and his grandfather doesn't talk about much of anything, let alone what happened to him.

Michael's grandfather lives a relatively isolated life on one of the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast, making a living crabbing and lobstering.  When Michael is about 12, he is sent to spend the summer with his grandpa, helping with the fishing, reading, and living a quiet life side by side without electricity, using only a generator that was shut off at night.  But Michael liked it there, it was calming and comforting.

One day, while out in the fishing boat, grandpa suddenly told Michael that the thing he liked about him was that he wasn't afraid to look at his face.  Before long, grandpa is telling Michael about his life and how things came to be as they are.

After marrying his youthful sweetheart, Annie, war broke out and grandpa joined the merchant navy.  One day while crossing the Atlantic in a convoy, his ship was torpedoed several times.  With their ship on fire and sinking, grandpa's friend Jim managed to get both of them off it and into the burning water.  They swam to a lifeboat, and even though there was no room for either of them, grandpa was pulled into it, and Jim stayed in the water, hanging on for as long as he could.

Grandpa woke up in the hospital, with a long recovery ahead of him.  Annie came to visit but grandpa could tell things were different.  When he finally returned to Scilly, they did have a baby girl, but things didn't improve.  Grandpa started drinking, living with so much hate and anger because of the war.  Eventually, Annie left, taking their daughter and never speaking to him again.  Father and daughter were estranged until she was grown and sought him out.  Their relationship was tentative at best, in part because he had always felt like half a man because people only half looked at him, and his own daughter always avoided looking at him.  It was only Michael who wasn't afraid to see his grandpa for who he was, scars and all.

This short story is told in retrospect by a now grown-up Michael.  It feels almost like a chapter book, in part because it is only 64 pages, in part because there are so many illustrations, and in part because it is told so simply, but it is a deceptively complicated story and not for such young readers.  It is really more for middle grade readers.

The ink and screen print illustrations are done in a palette of grays, oranges, blues and yellows, and are as spare as the story is intense.  Most are done from a distance to the subject, and those that are close up show no distinct features.  And distance seems to be an underlying theme of the story.  The story is told from the distance of time, about people who are just so distant from each other emotionally and physically.

I know Michael Morpurgo is a master at telling sad stories, but I found this to be a sadder story than usual, even though the end does bring closure, at the request of Michael's grandpa, bringing together his mother and grandmother, who have been estranged for years.  It really makes you sit back and think.  There was so much sadness because of what the war did to Michael's grandpa and the repercussions that resulted leaving these relatives isolated, alienated, even angry with each other, when really it should have elicited kindness, compassion and love.

For that reason, this is a story that will also have resonance in today's world, where we see so many veteran's coming back from war injured, disfigured and with traumatic brain injury.  It begs the question: how will we treat these veterans, these men and women and their families.

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

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20. Mister Doctor: Janusz Korczak & The Orphans of the Warsaw Ghetto by Irène Cohen-Janca, art by Maurizio A.C. Quarello

Janusz Korczak was a well-known, well-respected children's pediatrician in Poland in the early part of the 1900s.  Among his many accomplishments, he had founded an orphanage to care for some of Warsaw's young Jewish orphans. He loved children and would often regale his charges with stories he made up, including the now classic tale of King Matt the First, as well as looking after their health and cheering them up with their needed it.  And the children loved him back, affectionately calling him Mister Doctor.

On November 29, 1940, all the orphans living in the big orphanage at 92 Krochmalha Street in Warsaw, Poland were ordered to leave by the Nazis.  Accompanied by Mister Doctor and his assistant Madam Stefa, all of the children walked to the ghetto that would be their new home for a while carrying their meager belongings, softly singing, and the flag of King Matt the First.

Their new home is small, located within a two block radius, surrounded by barbed wire and armed watchman, their living quarters are cramped and dirty.  When their wagon full of potatoes were confiscated by the Nazis, Mister Doctor put on his WWI uniform and went to Gestapo headquarters, where he was laughed at, ridiculed, beaten and temporarily arrested.

Life in the ghetto grew more and more crowded as more Jews were brought in, food became scarcer and scarcer, with men, women and children dying in the streets everyday from starvation and disease.  Finally, in August 1942, the children were ordered to the train station and from there to a concentration camp and death.  But Mister Doctor was offered his freedom, after all, he was a famous doctor.  Instead, he refused and choose to accompany his children on this final journey.

The story Mister Doctor is told by a young boy named Simon to a younger, newly arrived orphan named Mietek.  Simon describes in detail how the orphanage was run, how the children were educated and how Mister Doctor took such special care of all of them.  At the same time, Simon is talking about past, he also gives detailed information to the reader about what is going on in their present situation.  Cohen-Janca has really captured the sense of longing and nostalgia in Simon's voice when he talks about life in the orphanage before the Nazis invaded Poland, and the fear and apprehension he feels about what is to come.

The story told here is a fictional reimagining of what happened to Dr. Janusz Korczak and the children in his care, but based on the true story of what happened to them during the Holocaust.  Pay particular attention to the last three paragraphs of this book and ask yourself who wrote them and why?

Like Michael Morpurgo's Half A Man, this book also looks like a chapter book with only 68 pages a simple narrative style and many illustrations, but it is also deceptively complicated and really for a middle grade reader.

The realistic black and white illustrations set against a marbled peach background are a precise reflection of the words that Cohen-Janca has written, and give the reader a real-to-life sense of the children, the doctor and their lives from 1940 to 1942.  Little touches, like the figure of Puss in Boots leaping over the barbed-wire fence of the ghetto as Simon talks about how that cat and his courageous deeds always gave the orphans courage.  But there is a subtext that says the Nazis can take away housing, food, dignity, but not the stories that means so much and help the get kids through very difficult times.

This is a powerfully poignant story that shouldn't be missed.  Additionally, at the end of Mister Doctor is information about the real Janusz Korczak, whose real name was Henryk Goldszmit, followed by a briefbut useful list of Further Reading and Resources, Children's Books by Janusz Korczak, Resources for Parents and Teachers and Related Links.

Mister Doctor was translated by Paula Ayer

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an E-ARC received from NetGalley

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21. John Green's Crash Course: World War II

You know John Green as the author of some pretty good YA books, like The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska which have been living on the NY Times YA Best Sellers list for more that 106 weeks.  Green has won a number of awards for his books, and in 2014, was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people.

In 2012, after receiving a grant from Google, Green and his brother Hank began a series of educational videos on YouTube called Crash Course.  Green gives crash courses on World History, American History and Literature, while Hank covers Biology, Chemistry, Ecology and Psychology.  

Here are the three Crash Courses that John Green did on WWII.  Each is approximately 13-15 minutes long.  They really just introduce you to the topic, so don't expect in-depth detail, but they are interesting and informative.  









If you liked these, you can see all of the Crash Course topics HERE 

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22. Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Reisters, Soldiers, Spies and Medics by Kathryn J. Atwood

Today is the last day of Women's History Month for 2015 and because the theme this year is about Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives, I thought who better to turn to for today's post than Kathryn Atwood.  A few year ago, Atwood wrote a fascinating book called Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance and Rescue.  Now she has followed it up with a book about women heroes in World War I and once again, their stories are as amazing as they are compelling.

In Women Heroes of World War I, Atwood introduces the reader to some of the women, a few still in their teens, who decided to serve their country, despite the real dangers that they were to face.  Some became nurses, caring for the wounded as close to the front lines as they could get.  Others joined the resistance or became spies, some became soldiers fighting side by side with men, and still others were journalists, reporting events from the heart of the conflict.

Some of the women are familiar, like British born Edith Cavell who found herself in Belgium when the war started, director of a school of nursing there.  After the Germans invaded Belgium, hospitals were forbidden to care for any Allied soldiers that might find their to one of them.  Edith, ignoring the Germans, cared for wounded Germans soldiers openly, and for wounded Allied soldiers secretly.  And when these were healthy enough, she made such they had safe passage out of Belgium to the Netherlands.  Edith and her network can be credited for heroically getting a lot of Allied soldiers to safety before the getting caught by the Germans.  Her capture and punishment, which caused an uproar around the world, subsequently changed the way Germany handled women POWs at the insistence of the Kaiser.

One of my favorite stories is Helena Gleichen and her friend Nina Hollings, two ambulance drivers in Italy who sometimes found themselves driving through intense shelling to get wounded men to hospital.  Later, after training in Paris to become radiographers, they could be found driving around the Italian front with a portable x-ray machine.  With their x-ray skill, Helena and Nina were able to help the wounded in some surprising ways, for example, locating shrapnel lodged in areas that wouldn't have been found otherwise and bringing relief to the wounded man.  For their heroic work, the women were awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (the OBE).

My personal favorite is the story of Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Yes, I do mean the mystery writer.  Mary was also a journalist who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post and in 1915, she decided she wanted to go to Belgium.  After all, she had nursing experience and could report of the conditions of the hospitals there, but what she really wanted to do was experience the war as soldiers do.  Mary finally did get to see the front lines, including no man's land, and even managed to get an extensive interview with the King of Belgium.  Returning home she wrote her articles, but realized the war was going to last longer than anyone thought.  

Women Heroes of World War I is a well-written, riveting book.  Atwood divides the women's experiences into four sections - Resisters and Spies, Medical Personnel, Soldiers, and Journalists.  The women profiled come from different countries, including the United States, France, Britain, Russia and each of their individual stories ends with a Learn More inset listing where to find more information them.  Atwood's extensive, intelligent research is evident in all the women's stories and she includes sidebars that give additional information about the women and the war.  Also included are an Introduction, an Epilogue and many, many photographs of war and the different women in it.  An extensive and useful Glossary and Bibliography, and well as a list of websites can also be found at the back of the book.

World War I was at first greeted with incredible enthusiasm, causing young men to unhesitatingly leave school, jobs, and families to join their countries armed services.  After all, no one thought it would last more than a few months.  Women were also eager to do their part and for some that meant being in the thick of the fighting, not working on the home front.  Women Heroes of World War I not only informs the reader about these now mostly forgotten women heroes, but pays homage to them and all the women who decided to do constructive for their warring countries.   

I can't recommend Women Heroes of World War I highly enough, and what a wonderful book with which to end this year's Women History Month.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

March is Women's History Month



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23. Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss

At the start of World War I, a young lieutenant named Harry Colebourn, who also happened to be a veterinarian, is on his way with his regiment to a military training camp in Quebec, when he sees a baby bear on a station platform.  He discovers that the baby bear is for sale, for only $20.00, and Harry decides he has to have it.

The little cub, whose mother had been inadvertently shot, is named after the regiment's hometown of Winnipeg, but immediately shortened to Winnie.  Winnie quickly becomes Harry's constant companion and his company's mascot.  Walker depicts Harry and Winnie playing their own version of hide and seek, Winnie sleeping directly under Harry's cot, and exchanging big bear hugs.

Even when the war worsens and Harry's regiment is sent overseas, Winnie goes, too.  And proves to be a good sailor all the way across the ocean, while Harry lies in bed seasick.  But when it is time to go to the battle front in France, Harry realizes he can't bring Winnie along, after all, she could get seriously hurt on the battlefield.  So Harry makes a tough decision - to place Winnie in the London Zoo for safekeeping.

Winnie and Harry playing
Winnie proves to be such a gentle bear, that children are allowed to play with her and ride on her back.  The war lasts four years, and at the end of it, Harry has another tough decision to make - to take Winnie home with him or let her stay at the zoo, where she has so many friends.  He decides to let her stay at the zoo.  Winnie has one very frequent visitor named Christopher Robin, loves Winnie so much that he renames his teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh, after which his father begins to make up bedtime stories about the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh that eventually grow into a book.

The real events surrounding the relationship of Harry and Winnie are remarkable enough, but Sally Walker has told it in language the is simply and straightforward for even the youngest of readers to understand.  Jonathan Voss's soft watercolor and pen and ink illustrations done in a palette of browns and greens reminiscent of nature and the military compliment and provide a visual extension of the story.

Walker includes an Author's Note about Harry and Winnie, as well are sources and websites for further exploration.  Be sure to look at the photo's of the real Harry and Winnie on the endpapers.

This is a story the will delight young readers some of whom are already fans of the Winnie-the-Pooh books and perhaps make a few new ones.

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Today is Nonfiction Monday - be sure to visit this week's roundup


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24. Top Secret Files of History: Spies, Secret Missions & Hidden Facts from World War I by Stephanie Bearce

In October 2014, I reviewed a book called Top Secret Files of History: Spies, Secret Missions, & Hidden Facts from World War II.  It is such an interesting book, and I discovered all kinds of new information about the hidden workings and wartime secrets that helped end the war.   Now, the author, Stephanie Bearce has followed it up with a similar book about World War I.

Bearce has once again culled little known information about WWI and combined it with more well-known details and events in a book that will fascinate young readers.  For instance, they will read about the secret society, the Black Hand, formed by the Serbian Army for the purpose of freeing Serbia from being ruled by Austria-Hungary, which led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife and the start of WWI.

And then, in the section on Spies, there is the prospector/mining engineer Howard Burnham, who had lost part of his leg before the war in an accident.  Working for the Allies, Harry traveled into German territory to do learn enemy troop positions.  Howard has a photographic mind and didn't need to put anything on paper.  In addition, he cleverly hid his surveying tools in his prosthetic leg and no one was ever the wiser.  Readers will also read about brave women like Nurse Edith Cavell and Nurse Marthe Cnockaert, whose professions helped them spy for the Allies.  After the war, Cnockaert went on to write spy novels.

One of my favorite stories in the Special Missions section are the dazzle ships.  Radar was unknown in WWI, and the Germans had developed their submarines or U-boat to such an extent that Allied ships were being successfully torpedoed by them.  A British naval officer named Norman Wilkinson came up with a unique way to confuse the Germans: camouflage the ships by painting the bright geometric patterns so the U-boats couldn't zero in on their position.  See what I mean:

HMS London (1918 Public Domain)
Spies, Secret Missions & Hidden Facts from WWI is chockablock with interesting facts, people and events.  Towards the end of the war, as planes were being used more and more, the French were afraid that Paris would be bombed.  What to do?  Readers will discover the unusual solution the French come up with in this book.  And speaking of airplanes, remember the World War I flying ace, Snoopy and his foe, the Red Barron.  Well, readers will meet the read Red Barron in the section on Secret Forces.

And they will learn about some secret weapons that were used, like carrier pigeons and dogs, and Little Willie, the tank that was able to put an end to trench warfare.  How?  Here's a hint:

The newly invented tank could easily cross over a trench 
Like it companion book, this one is also divided into five sections: Secrets, Spies, Special Missions, Secret Weapons and Secret Forces, each packed with all kinds of interesting information, and within that, readers will find inserts with even more unusual facts.  And at the end of each of the five sections, there are activities and projects for kids to do that corresponds to the topic covered.

A Bibliography of Books and Websites is included for further exploration.  Like Bearce's book on WWII, this volume is also sure to please young history buffs, or anyone else who like a good secret.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Prurock Press


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25. Echo, a novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan

When young Otto goes missing in a German forest during a game of Hide and Seek, he meets three princesses, sisters named Eins, Zwei and Drei (One, Two and Three).  The sisters were brought to a witch by a midwife after their father, the king, rejected them for not being the son he wanted.  Now, they have been cursed by the witch to live in a small clearing, unable to leave until they save a soul from death's door.  The sister's hope comes from the prophecy each were given by the midwife when she left them with the witch: "Your fate is not yet sealed/ Even in the darkest night/ a star will shine/ a bell will chime/ a path will be revealed."

As an adult, Otto becomes a master harmonica maker, but when one of them is destroyed in an important order for 13 harmonica's, he decides to include the one that each of the sisters had played.  One the bottom of the harmonica, he paints the letter M.

The story skips now to Germany in 1933, just as Hitler comes to power.  For 12 year old Friedrich Schmidt, life is hard.  Not only was he born with half is face covered in a wine colored birthmark, and Friedrich can hear music in his head and has an uncontrollable need to conduct it, making his a target of the other kids and earning him the name Monster Boy.  A loner, Friedrich finds the M marked harmonica in an abandoned factory.  The music from it is like no other he has ever heard before.  After his father is arrested and sent to Dachau, Friedrich becomes a target of the Nazis despite the fact that his sister is an important member of the Hitler Youth's League of German Girls.  Though he is about to audition for the music conservatory and realize his dream of conducting, Friedrich realizes he must try to free his father and escape Germany.

The story skips two years to an orphanage in 1935 Pennsylvania.  Mike Flannery and his younger brother Frankie are adopted by Mrs. Sturbridge's lawyer Mr. Howard on the spot when it turns out that they can play piano beautifully.  The adoption is done to meet the requirements of the will left by Mrs. Sturbridge's father.  But when Mike learns that Mrs. Sturbridge is planning on have the adoption reversed, he makes a deal with her.  If her keeps Frankie, he will audition for a travelling harmonica troupe of young kids.  After all, he has a harmonica marked with an M that makes an especially beautiful sound.

The story jumps to California in 1942.  Japanese Americans have just been rounded up and sent to internment camps.  For Ivy Lopez and her parents, that means a job and the possibility of owning land, having a permanent home and never needing to move from job to job.  Her father new job is caring for the house and land of an interned family, the Yamamotos, whose oldest son is serving in the army.  Ivy, who has come into possession of a harmonica marked with and M that makes an especially beautiful sound from her old school, is excited to join the orchestra in her new school, until she discovers that the Mexican American students don't attend the main school, going to a ramshackle annex instead.

Three different stories bound together in space and time by one harmonica marked with an M but how do their destiny's connect?  Ryan ends each story with a cliffhanger, but it all comes together in the end.  In the meantime, she shows the reader how music can be a sustaining force even in the most difficult times.  Each of the characters must deal with situations that are rife with hate, suspicion and intolerance to suffering for those who are different and helpless in some way.

Ryan uses the technique of a Rahmenerzählung, framing the three stories with the story of Otto and the fairytale story of the three sisters, giving it a nice magical element.  Ryan holds the reader in suspense about every one's destiny and how they connect until the very end, but it is a delicious kind of suspense.

Echo is an enchanting novel that carries a message of hope, even throughout the scary parts, but readers should still read it with a willing suspension of disbelief to really get  appreciate the entire story.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL (but I liked it so much, I've decided I need to buy a copy for my personal library).

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