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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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When I first started this blog, I reviewed a book called The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square
by Joseph Ziemian. It was the first of many books about the Warsaw Ghetto that I have reviewed here and these stories about the brave individuals who were part of the resistance never has ceased to awe me.
So when I found The Cats of Krasinski
by Karen Hesse on the library shelf, I thought Wonderful! A nice picture book for older readers who may already have some familiarity with the Holocaust to introduce them to the Warsaw Ghetto and Jewish Resistance in WWII.
As we know, lots of Jewish children of all ages often escaped the Ghetto and lived openly right under the Gestapo's nose, passing for Aryan. Whenever they were able, they smuggled food and other necessities back to family and friends still behind the Ghetto wall.
In Hesse's story, two sisters have escaped the Ghetto and are living hand to mouth in Warsaw. The younger sister has befriended the cats that became homeless when their owners were rounded up to live in the Ghetto. Her older sister, Mira, is working with the resistance. They are expecting some food to arrive by train, carried by other resistance workers, to be stuffed into the holes in the Ghetto wall where it can be found by the Jews still living there.
But word comes that the Gestapo knows about the plan and will be waiting at the train station with trained dogs to arrest the resistance workers and confiscate the food. The young girl gets an idea to distract the Gestapo's dogs when the train arrives. And it works, thanks to the cat of Krasinski Square. The cats are gathered up and let loose just as the train arrives.
The Cats of Krasinksi Square
is an uplifting age appropriate story that has a lot to say to young readers not only about courage and taking risks, but that sometimes kids can come up with ideas that actually work. Told in sparse, lyrical free verse, the story is enhanced by the corresponding illustrations by Wendy Watson. Watson used washed out muted colors in pencil, ink and watercolor that certainly evoke the place and period in her beautifully rendered illustrations.
I thought that putting a merry-go-round in Krasinski Square at the the beginning and end of the book was an interesting touch. Carousels are such iconic symbols of happy children having fun, yet here it is juxtaposed with and accentuating the deplorable conditions that the Nazis forced upon the Jewish children. It makes a very telling comment.
This story is, as Hesse writes in her Author's Note, based on a real event involving cats outsmarting the Gestapo at the train station in Warsaw that caught her attention when she read about it. There is also a historical note about the Warsaw Ghetto and Jewish Resistance that anyone not very familiar with these might want to read.
This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
When Ada Ruth's Mama decides to go to Chicago to earn some money to send home, Ada Ruth must stay home with her Grandma. Yet as the days pass, and no letter or money comes from Chicago, Ada Ruth misses her Mama more and more. But Grandma reassures her that Mama with be coming on home soon and to just keep writing to her.
When Ada Ruth finds a kitten at the door one cold snowy morning, Grandma tells her she can't keep it, there isn't enough food for themselves with the war going on. let alone a kitten. But she lets Ada Ruth give her some milk anyway.
After a while, with no word from Mama, even Grandma feels like crying.
Day after day, Ada Ruth and her Grandma go about their lives, listening to the war news on the radio, hunting for food in the woods behind the house, always followed by the kitten, and missing Mama and hoping for a letter.
Until, finally, one comes. And sure enough, there's money and the news that Mama will really be coming on home soon.
In this gentle, yet powerful story Jacquelline Woodson has poignantly captured the fear, the worry and the loneliness of a young girl left behind when her mother must leave home for a job, a not uncommon occurrence in WWII. The story is set in the middle of a very cold winter, metaphorically expressing the warmth that Ada Ruth associates with her mother and which is now missing from their home. But, the soft warm of the kitten keeps the memory of her mother's warmth alive for Ada Ruth. Their anticipated renion ends the story on a happy, hopeful note.
The text is completely supported by the realistic watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis, that are so expressive of the time and place that this story. I loved Ada Ruth's saddle shoes, so popular at the time. And the color palette used, in rich tones of browns, blues and icy whites, also reflects the sense of country living in the dead of winter.
Woodson has subtly given us a glimpse of one of the ways that the war effected the lives of African American woman and children on the home front in this story. Ada Ruth's experience of the war was, unfortunately, not uncommon. When men went to fight in WWII, it created a shortage of workers and opened opportunities for women to take over their jobs and earn better money than they normally would have been paid. Here, Ada Ruth's Mama went to Chicago and worked for the railroad, washing train cars. Pullman in Chicago had begun to hire black men in the 1930s, but by 1944, as the war went on, the company faced a shortage of workers and began to hire black woman as well.
This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
It is January 1, 1944 - a new year and Hobie Hanson, 11, thought he was doing everything a kid his age could do for the war effort. He collected scrape; he spent 10¢
on a 'savings stamp' every week to put in his Victory book; he had watched his father go to war, flying B-24's in Europe; and now he had to say good bye to his best friend Scooter, whose father was needed at the Portland shipyard. So Hobie wasn't too happy when his neighbor Mr. Gilbert told him that his nephew had just donated his dog to the military's Dogs for Defense program and they sure could use a well trained dog like Duke, Hobie's German Shepard. But give up Duke? Never!
Not even when his favorite radio show, Hop Harrigan, talks about kids who have given their dogs to Dogs for Defense to help win the war. How could Hobie ever seriously consider giving up Duke?
When Hobie gets back to school after Christmas break, there discovers a new boy sitting at Scooter's desk. His name is Max Klein and the class bully, Mitch Mitchell, immediately starts picking on him because of his German name. Hobie just stood there and watched, wanting to avoid Mitch's meanness. But, later that day, it is Hobie's turn to get bullied after Mitch takes his bike. Only this time, he has Duke with him, who doesn't hesitate to go to Hobie's defense (no, Duke doesn't hurt Mitch). Impressed by what he sees, a man walking a Doberman, asks Hobie if he would be willing to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, of which he, Olin Rasmussen, is regional director. Undaunted, as bullies often are, Mitch later tells Hobie he doesn't have what it takes to give up his beloved dog.
Challenged by Mitch, remembering his father's words about doing what needs to be done while he is gone, but feeling somewhat less heroic that the other Hanson men in his family, Hobie makes the big decision and before he knows it, Duke has left for basic training in the Dogs for Defense program.
Can he stick to his decision even after he learns that Duke is being trained for combat?
At first, I didn't care much for Hobie, but he grew on me. Duke
is a story about bravery, and what that means for Hobie and by I finished the book, I realized that I liked the fact that Hobie's courage isn't perfect. He has conflicting feelings about what he has done and changes his mind about volunteering Duke to Dogs for Defense over and over, even trying to get him back. Hobie's is a very understandable wavering we can all relate to.
Like all good writers, Kirby Larson has done a lot of research to give Duke a sense of home front reality. As she says in her Author's Note, she doe not write books about war, she writes about people dealing with tough times, like war. Not only are her home front depictions believable, but Larson has also glimpse into the world of soldiers and their dogs, through the letter Duke's soldier, Pfc. Marvin Corff wrote to Hobie.
I am always up for a good home front story about kids and how they coped in WWII, and Duke
did not disappoint.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an E-ARC from Net Galley
If you are interested in reading more about the Dogs for Defense program, you can read a short history about it HERE
Never heard of Hop Harrigan, America's Ace of the Airways, Hobie's radio hero? Well, neither have I. He wasn't very popular as a comic strip in the newspaper, but he did last for a number of years on the radio, where his sponsor was Grape Nuts.
The story of what happened to Japanese Americans shortly after the United States entered World War II never ceases to stun me. And, as Martin Sandler shows in his newest nonfiction book, Imprisoned
, it is especially ironic that while we were fighting a war to save democracy, we had no compunction about taking it away was a whole section of American society by placing them in internments camps scattered throughout the US, located out in the middle of nowhere.
But, as Sandler points out, fear and mistrust of Japanese immigrants to the US didn't begin with World War II. And so, we are given a short history about the arrival of the Japanese; their willingness to take any kind of work when they first arrived here; how they saved their money and how they were eventually able to afford their piece of the American Dream.
But they looked different, their language was different, their religion and culture were different and so they faced anti-Japanese signs and sentiments all over the West Coast. As more Japanese arrived, laws were passed preventing Japanese immigrants from owning law, then congress passed the Immigration Act, which banned Japanese immigration to the US altogether. And of course, according to The Naturalization Act of 1790, citizenship was already out of the question for any non-white not born on American soil. Yet, despite all of these obstacles, Sandler points out, the Japanese still managed to thrive in this country.
That was until December 7, 1941, when the Japan attacked the United States in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Once again, fear and mistrust reared up. And, despite the fact that there was no indication that the Japanese and their Americans born children were the least bit sympathetic to or in cahoots with Japan, it didn't take long for the hate and suspicion mongers to convince the President of the United States to sign Executive Order 9066 placing them in internment camps.
In this relatively short (176 pages), well researched, well written book, Sandler gives us tells the story of life in the internments camps through personal accounts and interviews never before published, all supplemented with a abundance of photographs, providing a more in-depth look at what went on before, during and after the war.
It was a little difficult reading this book because it was from Net Galley and I downloaded it to my Kindle App and the photos weren't where they should have been and the wonderful personal accounts that are included were also kind of helter-skelter so I am very anxious to see and reread the actual book when it comes out on August 27, 2013.
Despite my difficulty reading Imprisoned
, I would still highly recommend it to anyone interested in WW2 home front history. A nice companion book, which Sandler also mentions is Citizen 13660
by Miné Okubo, which I review back in 2011.
The story of internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans didn't end with WW2. Given $25 and a ticket home, Sandler goes on to briefly cover how the internees returned to their homes to find everything gone, how they worked hard to get back on their feet yet again,despite yet more obstacles, and finally, their fight for reparations in the 1970s and 1980s.
There is copious back matter including places to visit, websites with additional information and a nice in-depth index (one of my favorite back matter elements that often is not as well done as this one).
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an E-ARC from Net Galley
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak is one of my favorite books and I am hoping it will also become on of my favorite films. The film is set to open in the US on November 15, 2013 and stars Geoffrey Rush as Hans Hubermann and Emily Watson as his wife Rosa Hubermann, the couple who take in Liesel Meminger, when her mother is taken into custody in Nazi Germany for her communist leanings. Liesel is played by Sophie Nélisse, who looks exactly the way I pictured Liesel in my head when I read the book.
Here is the first trailer that was just released and so far, so good:
*This review contains spoilers*
During the war, young Kata Steiner and her older brother Bela were sent to live on their aunt's farm in the Hungarian countryside under different names so no one would know they were Jewish. When the war ended, the Steiner family were reunited in Budapest. Their father, who had lost his factory under the Nazis, got it back and the family hoped that life would now get better.
But the Steiners hoped in vain!
The end of war brought a very short period of calm but now in 1948, Hungary has been taken over by the communists and once again, there is fear of the secret police. Now, instead of the Gestapo, it is the AVO (Allamvedelmi Osztaly) questioning people's loyalty to the Hungarian Worker's Party but with similar tactics.
And once again Mr. Steiner lost his factory, where he is now an employee, and his pay has been cut so much that he can no longer support his family. Depressed, he takes to his bed for days at a time and even refuses to attend required party meetings, unless forced to by his boss.
Bela, who always used to play with Kata, is never home and when he is, he has no time for her. Eventually, he goes in "an excursion" from which he doesn't return. Instead, he and two friend escape over the border to Austria and freedom.
Despite the danger, Mrs. Steiner sits at her sewing machine all day and much of the night sewing teddy bears, and later purses, to sell on the black market and help support the family with the money she makes. Any indication of capitalism, even just making bears and selling them, is a subversive undertaking, so it was imperative that no one finds out about it.
Kata, now 11, is a smart, but immature girl, though she does well in school, and even begins attending Young Pioneer meetings with her friend and neighbor, Eva, despite being too young. But Kata has been warned not to tell Eva anything about the Steiners, especially not about Bela's escape and her mother's sewing teddy bears. The Steiners are convinced, correctly it turns out, that they are being watched by Eva's father, a staunch supporter of the Hungarian Workers' Party who would love to turn them into the oppressive AVO.
The Bear Makers
is a story that disappointed a lot of readers because they felt there was not real story and no real denouement. I read it as an interesting coming of age story set in a basically unexplored place and period in children's literature. And while the ending wasn't all neatly tied up, there most definitely was an ending.
Kata is an extremely immature girl at the beginning of the story, but as events happen, she seems to develop more of an understanding about the danger of her family's actions under another oppressive regime. That was evident when Kata was tempted to tell Eva what was going on in her family because she felt sorry for Eva, who had just opened up to her about her volatile home life and being forced to report to her father about anything she discovers in the Steiner household. Torn between wanting to be Eva's friend and telling her what was going on in her home, in the end, Kata chose not to confide in Eva, sensing the danger if her did.
For me, though, the coming of age turning point begins when Kata makes the first name tag for one of the bears, much to her mother's chagrin, but later much to the delight of the buyer. From than on, each bear leaves with a name tag giving it an identity.
The coming of age turning point culminated the night the AVO took her father for questioning and Kata finished a teddy bear for her mother, who simply went to bed in despair. Up til now, Kata was innocent of any subversive behavior, but now, as a bear maker, she has crossed that threshold.
As for the denouement, the fact that Bela is going to America gives the family hope that he will send for them, and for the first time, Kata and her parents actually have a happy, hopeful evening together as they begin to learn English.
The idea for The Bear Makers
was based on Andrea Cheng's grandmother's illegal bear making activity after WWII in postwar Hungary, also done to help support the family. The picture of the bear on the cover is of a real bear she had sewn in postwar Hungary. And each chapter of The Bear Makers
is headed by a piece of pattern used for making the bears. These pieces of pattern seem to give the story its overall meaning: the fragmentation of the Steiner's both as a family and an individuals experienced under the Nazis. As the pieces are sewn together to form the bears, the Steiners, too, are trying to piece their own lives back together again.
Or maybe I am overreaching.
Either way, I actually liked The Bear Makers
very much, especially the historical background regarding Hungary. I did knew that Hungarian Jews suffered devastating losses during WWII, but didn't know much about the post war years. I think it would have been helpful to have an Author's Note at the end, to help put the story in context for its readers. Cheng is, after all, a very prolific writer and people would naturally be drawn to her work.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
This is book 5 of my 2013 European Reading Challenge
hosted by Rose City Reader
This is book 9 of my 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
hosted by Historical Fiction
I reviewed this week called Willow Run by Patricia Reilly Giff
, in which the protagonist's German-born grandfather grew cucumbers in his Victory Garden every year during World War II and then he would pickle them. This was something a lot of people did then, who, unlike this grandfather, only did it during the war.
I was telling my friend Sheila about it because she also makes pickles. Her pickles, however, are bread and butter pickles. She calls them Christmas Pickles because they are green and have some red in them and because she gives them out to people at Christmas. Everyone else calls them Sheila's Pickles and she has developed quite a fan base over time, so that every year she finds she must make more and more jars of pickles.
And yet, making Sheila's Pickles is not difficult and she has volunteered her recipe for anyone who wants to try their hand at it.
Sheila's Bread and Butter Christmas Pickles
1 gallon small firm cucumbers (about 35 firm kirbys or small firm zucchini, or a combination*)
2 red peppers
8 small white onions
1/2 cup pickling or kosher salt
For the Pickling Syrup:
5 cups of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
5 cups white vinegar
1- Select crisp, fresh cukes or kirbys. Wash, but do not pare.
2- Slice cukes or kirbys and onions paper thin and cut peppers into fine shreds.**
3- Mix salt with the vegetables and bury pieces of cracked ice in the mixture.
4- Cover with an inverted weighted lid (so the salt and ice pushes as much moisture out of the vegetables as possible) and let stand for three hours. Drain thoroughly.
5- Mix the dry ingredients with the vinegar and pour over vegetables. Place over low hear and paddle occasionally with a wooden spoon.
6- Heat the mixture to scalding, but do not boil.
7- Pour in hot sterilized jar and seal.
8- Process the jars in a water bath for at least 10 minutes
Makes 7 to 8 pints
*Sheila uses small firs kirbys and I think they are better than either small cucumber or zucchini, but that would be a matter of taste.
**a mandolin makes slicing the cukes or kirbys much easier and faster.
If you have never done a water bath for preserving food, here is a short video that tells you how to do it. You really don't need all the equipment they show, but it is nice. For year, Sheila did her water bath in a large pasta pot.
Weekend Cooking is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads
It is the summer of 1944 in Rockaway, New York and twelve year old Meggie Dillon's older brother Eddie is in the army and fighting somewhere in Europe. Meggie spends much of her time doing things with her German-born Grandpa, even though he sometimes annoys with her by always calling her Margaret, not Meggie and when he always gets the letters V and W mixed up when he speaks, plus he always talks during a movie.
So when her parents tell Meggie they will be temporarily moving ("for the duration") to a place called Willow Run, far from Rockaway, so her father can build B-24's for the war effort, she is somewhat relived to find out that Grandpa won't be coming along. She had just caught two boys painting a red swastika on Grandpa's window, calling him a Nazi spy and telling Meggie that if he lived anywhere else but Rockaway something terrible would probably happen to him. Worried, she rubbed the swastika off with a rag and turpentine so her Grandpa wouldn't see it.
No sooner does the Dillon family arrive in Willow Run, Michigan than Meggie begins to miss home - tending the garden with Grandpa, her best friend Lily, the sound and smell of the ocean right outside her door. But Meggie soon makes friends with Patches from Tennessee, Harlan from Detroit and Arnold, the ice cream guy who Harlan thinks is a German spy and from whom the kids figure out how to steal ice cream when he locks up his truck.
But then comes the news that Eddie is missing in action after the Normandy invasion and the Dillon's world seems to collapse. In the midst of all their sorrow, Meggie receives a package from Grandpa containing his most cherished possession - his Victory medal from World War I. As Meggie begins to learn the truth about Patches' life before Willow Run and Arnold's demons, and witnesses her parents grief over Eddie as well has her own, she begins to understand what is most important in the world and hatches a plan to help herself and her parents.
Patricia Reilly Giff continues the story of Meggie and Lilly in Willow Run
that she began in Lilly's Crossing
, which I probably should have read first, but didn't. Yet, somehow I don't think that will really matter in the long run, however since Lilly plays a very minor role in Willow Run
, which is definitely a stand alone novel.
Meggie is an engaging down-to-earth narrator in this quiet coming of age novel. When Eddie had joined the army, he told Meggie now she was an only child, no longer the baby. And when she left Rockaway, she was indeed still quite immature. But it is her experiences in Willow Run and having to deal with such different new realities and events that turn Eddie's word into truth.
The reality of war was a part of home front life for many kids during WWII and in Willow Run
, Giff has given us a different version of that life by taking Meggie out of her familiar circumstances and placing her in a place place created specifically for the war, where she can meet other people from circumstances very different from her own. It is a situation where people become friends quickly and help each other out, understanding that they are all in the same boat with shared fears, hopes and dreams.
And Giff has captured some wonderful bits of home front life, like the rag curlers worn by a neighbor, the contests for things life Hot-O-Soup that Meggie and Grandpa are constantly entering, Meggie's vow to never eat Spam again after the war (my mom made the same vow and never did eat it again). All serve to give this well-written, thoughtful work of historical fiction a sense of authenticity.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library
Willow Run, Michigan was an actual place, a village and plant for making B-24 bombers, built by Henry Ford during the war. The housing was slapped together quickly and was exactly as Meggie describes:
A kindergarten kid could have drawn it: a long low box that stretched from one end of the paper to the other, no paint, no color. And if you divided the box into tiny sections, each family would have one to live in. Worst of all, there was no grass, nothing growing, only tree stumps... (pg33)
The plant where the bombers were built is described as a mile long, and as you can see here, it needed to be that long:
If you visit Willow Run Village
, you can see pictures and read about peoples experiences living in Willow Run. Many of the photos show exactly what Meggie describes in the novel Willow Run
I've gone back to sorting and reorganizing my bookshelves yet again. Naturally, it has been taking up most of the summer because I keep stopping and reading through things like old comic books (I had forgotten that Captain America had a brother who died at Pearl Harbor), magazines like Girls Own, Calling All Girls, Jack and Jill and Child Life, and of course, all the books and other small trinkets I have been given or gathered along my way - and all of it relating to kids during WWII.
Since it is summer, I've had a bit of help (?) from a 9 year old visiting niece and her new friend who lives in an apartment upstairs. This week, the girls decided to copy some puzzles from an old August 1942 Child Life. They seemed to enjoy doing them so much that I thought I would share the puzzles they copied.
It was Peace Day, August 6, 1954 and 12 year old Sadako Sasaki couldn't wait for the day to begin. Sadako loved Peace Day - the crowds, the fireworks and, especially the cotton candy. Sadako knew it was going to be a good day because she saw nothing less than a good luck sign in the bright blue sky over Hiroshima that day.
Still, her parents had to remind Sadako that Peace Day was a solemn occasion, a day for remembering that the first atomic bomb ever used - the Thunderbolt - was dropped on Hiroshima by the United States in an effort to end the World War II and for honoring the many, many lives lost because of it. But Sadako, who was 2 years old at the time the bomb hit Hiroshima, considered herself lucky to have survived the it without a scratch and avoiding its after effects, the dreaded A-Bomb disease. Sadako and her best friend, Chizuko, spent a wonderful Peace Day together.
But then, in the fall, Sadako began to feel strange and dizzy. Although the feeling came and went, Sadako decided to keep it to herself. After all, she was a really fast runner and had just been chosen to run the relay race in school. Nothing could spoil that. Sadako did manage to keep the dizziness secret for a few months, until February 1955 when she collapsed while running in school.
|Sadako, in the middle of the front row, with her relay team|
Taken to the hospital, Sadako and her family learned that she did, indeed, have the A-bomb disease - Leukemia. Now confined to a hospital bed, her friend Chizuko came to visit one day and brought Sadako a beautiful golden origami crane, along with some paper and scissors.
Chizuko reminded Sadako of the legend of the crane - if a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant their wish and make them healthy again. That very night, Sadako begin folding cranes.
But folding one thousand cranes is a big job, especially when you are ill. Sadako didn't finish folding all the cranes before she passed away on October 25, 1955. But, according to Eleanor Coerr in her Epilogue, Sadako's classmates finished folding the rest of the cranes for Sadako.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
is a emotionally, powerful story. It is a perfect book for introducing this difficult topic to young readers. There are no detailed graphic images described about the war, the bomb or even to after effects, only an acknowledgement of these things. There is some controversy over whether or not Sadako actually did finish folding 1,000 cranes. Regardless of whether she did or didn't, there is much to be learned from Sadako's story.
After her death, schoolchildren all over Japan helped raise money to erect a statue honoring Sadako Sasaki and in 1958, as statue was unveiled. Since then, school children from around the world have been mailing or carrying folded paper cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park by the thousands to honor Sadako and the many people who perished as a result of the A-Bomb with pledges of peace.
|"I will write peace on your wings and you will fly over the world"|
A second Atomic Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. This year marks 68 years since the Atomic Bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. No other atomic/nuclear bomb has been used since then...yet.
|Doves released August 6, 2013 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park|
This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was purchased for my personal library
The Children's Peace Station Hiroshima
has a virtual museum that you can visit online and learn all about Sadako's life and her paper cranes for peace.
is just one of many online sources where you can learn how to fold a paper crane.
also has instructions for folding paper cranes as well as the address for sending your peace cranes to the Children's Monument in Hiroshima's Peace Park.
When most of us think special agents, the figure that most often comes to mind is that of James Bond, code name 007, part of the Secret Intelligence Service, or M16. Bond is fun, but he is nothing like real life. In reality, being a special agent can leave you cold, wet, dirty, hungry, and sometimes your stuff ends up in a lake when you parachute into an occupied country as you will discover when you read Code Name Pauline.
In a series of interviews, Pearl Witherington Cornioley tells about her life in the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, whose purpose was to "locate, assist, supply and train willing resisters within occupied countries by sending them British-trained agents," (pg xxi) people who could speak the language of the occupied country with native fluency. The SOE was a top secret organization, so top secret no one in it knew its real name until after the war.
Pearl Witherington Cornioley was a perfect candidate. Although she was a British citizen, she had been born and raised in Paris and so, naturally she spoke fluent French. When the Germans began their invasion of France in June 1940, Pearl, her mother and three sisters (her father had already passed away) needed to get out of France and back to England. It was a long, harrowing seven-month trip, but they luckily received help along the way and arrived back in London in July 1941.
Morally opposed to the occupation of France by the Nazis, Pearl knew she could do more tho help the resistance working in France than doing paperwork for the Air Ministry in England and so she applied to the Inter-Services Research Bureau, which actually turned out to be the SOE, along with an old friend from France, Maurice Southgate, also a Brit.
After a grueling training period and only three practice jumps, Pearl, at the age of 29, parachuted into France in September 1943 disguised as a cosmetics saleswoman. For the most part engaging in acts of sabotage to slow down and thwart the Nazis, Pearl recounts some of the small every day details of resistance work we don't usually hear about in fiction and about her close calls with the Gestapo where luck was on her side.
Then, when her friend Maurice was captured by the Gestapo and sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Pearl took over the leadership of 3,500 resistance workers and assumed the code name Pauline for the remainder of her time with the Resistance.
Pearl never spoke about her work in France with the Resistance after the war. She married Henri Cornioley with whom she had been involved even before the war and who she worked with during it, and lived a relatively quiet life. In 1994, she and Henri decided to give some interviews to French journalist Hervé Larroque, which were published in French under the name Pauline.
Kathryn Atwood presents this narrative of Pearl's for the first time in English with the publication of Code Name Pauline.
Code Name Pauline
is an interesting, exciting memoir about a woman I would love to have met. Pearl/Pauline is feisty, almost fearless, and very morally principled, but she is also stubborn, as you will discover when you read about why she refused an honor given to her by Britain for her work in the resistance. Bravo, Pearl!
And because reminiscences aren't always linear, or clear and sometimes digress, Kathryn Atwood, who first introduced English readers to Pearl's story in her excellent work, Women Heroes of World War II
, has written a comprehensive introduction to each chapter and has also included in her back matter a list of key figures, an extensive appendix and chapter notes, all very interesting and useful to the reader. There is also an insert of photographs of Pearl, her family, her forged documents and, of course, Henri.
Pearl's intention for allowing herself to be interviewed was to hopefully inspire young people and to that end, this is indeed a fascinating book that will appeal to readers interested in WWII history as well as readers interested in women's history and it is most definitely inspirational.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was sent to me by the publisher
Pearl passed away in 2008 at the age of 93. Obituaries give much additional insight into a person's life and you might like to read Pearl's obituary from The New York Times
and The Telegraph
This is book 4 of my 2013 European Reading Challenge
hosted by Rose City Reader
I really enjoyed reading Phoebe Stone's novel The Romeo and Juliet Code
back in June 2011 about Felicity Budwig Bathburn, 11, brought from 1941 blitzed London by her parents to live in safety with some very eccentric relatives living in Maine. Her parents, Winnie and Danny, returned to London and Felicity only knows they are doing something undercover for the war effort. Flissy, as she is immediately nicknamed, adjusts to life in the Blackburn home, growing to love her Uncle Gideon, Danny's brother, her flamboyant Aunt Miami and her strict but kind grandmother, called The Gram, and in the process, she solves a mystery that changes her life completely. I highly recommend this lovely Middle Grade novel.
Now, Flissy is back in Stone's wonderful new sequel Romeo Blue
and there are more mysteries to solve. It is 1942 and Flissy is 12 and feeling the first pangs of love - with Derek, 13, an orphaned boy the Blackburn's have been caring for for sometime. Derek has been trying to locate his real father and has just been contacted by a Mr. Fitzwilliam, who claims he has found the missing man. Sure enough, a man claiming to be Derek's father starts visiting the Blackburn house, but refuses to have his picture taken and, as Flissy points out, behaves rather oddly and asks some strange questions. But Derek has sworn her to secrecy so she can't say anything to her father-uncle Gideon or The Gram about her suspicions that the man is a fraud. Now, Flissy is afraid she will lose Derek to his quest to find his father.
Meanwhile, other strange things are happening. First, a box containing a Nazi uniform arrives for Gideon. Then, two men from Washington show up at the house, with a film projector, Flissy enlists Derek's help in eavesdropping on the adults to find out what is going on. It turns out that Winnie and Danny have gone missing in occupied France and Gideon has been selected to find and get them out of Nazi hands. Flissy has always suspected Gideon of being involved in spy activities along with Winnie and Danny and now she is beside herself with fear and worry. Will she ever see Winnie, Dannny and Gideon again?
Gideon does manage to get Winnie out of France, but not before he is shot. Winnie gets to the Maine house, but the Gram doesn't welcome her. And in fact, Flissy finds she also has conflicting feelings towards her mother now. Winnie treats Flissy like a child, refusing to see she is growing up and some unusual mother-daughter strife occurs. Or has Flissy just romanticized her mother so much over the last year that they will never get along again?
Aunt Miami is largely gone from this novel. She has joined the USO and is traveling around the country entertaining the troops. But she has left behind her mailman boyfriend, Mr. Henley, a poet at heart who is drafted into the Army and finds himself fighting in North Africa.
This is one of those books that is hard to write about without getting into Spoilers and it is too good a story to spoil for future readers. Suffice it to say that there is a lot going on in Romeo Blue:
more mystery, more spying, more disappointment, more changes, in short, more good stuff. Yet, Stone keeps it all in perspective and never lets the story run away from her in this well-constructed novel. She has created quirkily realistic characters involved in what could easily have been real situations for people living on the Maine coastline during WWII. And Stone has captured the essence of life on the home front during the war - rationing, shortages, blackout, curfews and generally making due.
Felicity is much more of a developed character in this second novel (not that she wasn't in the first book), probably because she is older now and settled into life at the Blackburn house. And it is interesting to watch her fledgling love for Derek and his for her, even if it is a love that can never be realized. Of course, you will have to read the book to find out why and it is worth it.
is a compelling coming of age story, and Flissy is an engaging narrator. Though it is a home front novel that takes place away from the actual war, it still gives a clear picture of how WWII impacted kids in so many different ways and none of them positive. On the other hand, it demonstrates just how strong and resilient kids can be and that is a positive thing.
And finally, there were some loose ends remaining at the end of Romeo Blue
and it is my sincere hope that Phoebe Stone will seriously consider a third volume to tie them up.
My fingers are crossed, Phoebe!!
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library
Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger
FYI: Butterflies come up a lot in Romeo Blue
. A Romeo Blue butterfly is a male Mazarine Blue butterfly more common in Europe than the US.
FYI: One of the men who came from Washington to see Gideon was William Donovan. Donovan was head of the Office of Strategic Services in WWII, which was the wartime intelligence agency (the OSS later morphed into the CIA).
Life was pretty good for the Onishi family living in Alameda, California in 1941. Though still both Japanese citizens, father Kenji Onishi had his own successful music store, and mama Aiko looked after the family, while sons Frank and Jeff and daughter Meri, short for America in homage to her parents adopted country, were all in high school.
But the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 changed everything. And it didn't take long for friends to become enemies or for attacks on people of Japanese descent to begin. Then, in March 1942, a curfew was ordered for all newly designated enemy aliens and Japanese Americans. A month later, notices were posted that they were all being evacuated, "for their own protection."
Little by little, the Onishi's began to lose everything they had worked so hard to get - their house, the business, they even destroyed generations old family heirlooms and moments of their own lives in japan and America. People flocked to the homes of the soon to be interned Japanese and bought everything the Onishi's owned for a fraction of their value,
Before the Onishi's knew it, they were living in a converted stable at Tanforan Racetrack, where there was no privacy, including in the shared lavatories. At each new humiliating discovery, Meri became more depressed and withdrawn, losing herself in the books sent to the internees by the Quakers. Not even meeting Brian, a friendly boy about her age, helps pull her out of her depression.
No sooner are the families in Tanforan settled when they learn they will be sent to another camp, this time to the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah. This is their home for the next few years. For a while, Meri's depression begins to lift when she begins dating Brian. Then when the government decides that Japanese-Americans can enlist , Jeff Onishi joins the army as soon as he is able, though his brother Frank vows he will never fight for the country that could treat its citizens as deplorably as the US is treating the Japanese.
Meri cannot seem to accept what has happened without anger and resentment and no matter how hard Brian and others try to convince her that she can choose not to let circumstances ruin her life, they always do. But, when Brian tells Meri he also plans on enlisting, it is a decision that impacts their relationship and puts Meri's well being in serious jeopardy.
AS Meri falls deeper and deeper into the depths of depression, can her mother be the strength she needs, despite Aiko's own losses and disappointments?
Rising Sun, Falling Star is a fictional family saga based on what really happened to the Japanese and Japanese Americans after the United States entered World War II. This well written, well researched novel realistically depicts the innocent, though gut-wrenching idea so many had that if they could just do something, anything to prove their loyalty to America, everything would be OK. Hall also gives us a clear picture of life in the internment camps, the deprivations, the humiliations but also the ways in which people managed to cope and even thrive. For instance, many skilled and talented people were interned, and they provided opportunities for others to learn different skills and help relive the oppressive circumstances under which they lived. The art class that Brian and Meri take while at Topaz is similar to those offered by artist Chiura Obata when he was interned there.
The story of the Onishi family, their ups and downs, their triumphs and defeats, their wins and losses is rendered beautify by Hall and is a family story that will stay with you for a long, long time.
This book is recommended for ages 14+
This book was provided to me by the publisher
This is book 8 of my 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
You can find more information about Topaz Internment Camp HERE
|Ariel view of Topaz|
I Am A Reader, Not A Writer - Guest Post
The Children's War - Review
Bookworm Lisa - Review
What did girls read during WWII when they wanted to get away from the war? Well, one of the things they liked to read were the same books that Laura Bush, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gayle King, Diane Sawyer, Nancy Pelosi, as well as Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, filmmaker Pamela Beere Briggs, SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, and Federal Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, American Girl Molly McIntire and I read, and maybe you did, too.
What am I talking about?
None other than Nancy Drew, the teenage girl detective who wore frocks and drove a roadster. And, now that American Girl is going to retire Molly and her friend Emily Bennett, an evacuee from the London Blitz, I thought I would have a look at the Nancy Drew book that sat on Molly's night stand all these years.
The Quest of the Missing Map
was published in 1942, shortly after the US entered WWII. The quest begins when Hannah Gruen, the Drew housekeeper, asks Nancy to help the Smiths, a family that she used to work for. They are in possession of half of a map given to Mr. Smith by his father, a sea captain indicating a small uncharted island in the Atlantic where he had buried a treasure. Now, needing money, the Smiths would like to find the other half of the map. That half had been in possession of the twin brother of Mr. Smith but the twins had lost track of each other over time.
The search for the lost brother leads Nancy to a widow, Mrs. Chatham and her young daughter Trixie living on an estate not far away. The estate had originally been owned by an inventor and there are all kinds of secrets places hidden away, especially in a small cottage on the grounds. And as it turns out, the widow had been married to the lost twin brother, now deceased.
But, of course, Nancy isn't the only one who is suddenly looking for the treasure map. Leaving the Smith home, Nancy realizes she is being followed by a Mr. Bellows, who had tried to buy the Smith's half of the map earlier Later, the Smith home is robbed of the map. The Smiths are upset, but Nancy had drawn a copy of the now missing half of map. Unfortunately, she is overheard by a couple who also want to find the treasure when she tells the Smiths about her copy.
Later, at a college dance Nancy is attending with boyfriend Ned Nickerson, the couple kidnap her to try to get the map, though Nancy manages to easily get away. But Nancy soon discovers that a clue may be in a ship model that Mrs. Chatham had sold. Unfortunately, the crooks also learn about this, but again Nancy makes a copy of what she finds after hunting down the ship model.
The quest for the map begins to take dangerous turns and Nancy is in turn kidnapped twice, tied up, knocked out and robbed. And ironically, no one really knows if there is a real treasure to be found or if this is just a wild goose chase.
Treasure or no treasure, this is an exciting Nancy Drew story. There is a lot more action than I remembered, but one thing is for certain - Nancy is one cool headed character and we often get to witness her logical reasoning. Though she consults her father, lawyer Carson Drew, occasionally, she is a very competent, feisty, independent 18 year old, and it doesn't hurt that she has that nice blue roadster for getting around. Small wonder Nancy had such an impact on the lives of so many girls.
It is often said that Nancy Drew's world is never impacted by realities such as the Depression of the 1930s or World War II. And that was how I remembered the series. So imagine my surprise when I came across two war related references. While exploring, Nancy and her friend George found two letters and a machine of some kind in a secret tunnel on Mrs. Chatham's estate. One of the letters mentions the machine might be of interest to the War Department (pgs 76-89). Later, an old man tells Nancy "War bickering...Yes, there's plenty of it these days. What the world's a-coming to I don't know." (pg 141
Most of the Nancy Drew books I read were hand-me-downs which is how I ended up with some old original editions belonging to I don't know who. But I am pretty certain I read the same edition as the book on Molly McIntire's nightstand. Take a look at the title page:
The Quest of the Missing Map
|Click to enlarge and read|
is the first time I have reread a Nancy Drew book since I was about 10 years old. I can't say it was my favorite story, but I'm not sure I want to reread any more Nancy Drews. I think I would rather let my romanticized memory of the books remain intact. Sometimes that is just the better thing to do.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book is part of my personal library
The New Yorker Magazine published an interesting article by Meghan O'Rourke from 2004 called Nancy Drew's Father
(her creator/publisher Edward Stratemeyer not Carson Drew) in which she writes about Nancy's beginnings and her continues success.
The Quest of the Missing Map
was ghost written by Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote many of the early books in the Nancy Drew series. You can find out more about Mildred and the other books she wrote HERE
This is book 2 of my 2012 Cruisin' with the Cozies Reading Challenge
hosted by Socrates' Book Review
This is book 5 of my Pre-1960 Classic Children's Books Reading Challenge
hosted by Turning the Pages
|The original Worrals|
While Americans were busy with their 4th of July barbecues, fireworks and fun, our fiends across the pond were busy with something special of their own. No, it wasn't the royal birth. What it was was the relaunch by IndieBooks of the first three Worrals books originally written by Captain W. E. Johns during WWII at the RAF Museum in London.
Flight Officer Joan Worralson was first introduced to British girls in September 1941 with the publication of Worrals of the WAAF
). This was followed by 10 more novels and one book of short stories detailing the flying adventures of Worrals and her best friend Frecks in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Though only supposed to ferry planes between their makers, aerodromes and the front, Worrals and Frecks manage to get themselves involved in all kinds of wartime situations other than ferrying.
Worrals was a much needed strong, competent role model for girls during those difficult and dangerous days of the war. Fearless, feisty, witty, and plucky, Worrals was everything a girl could want in a protagonist even though Frecks probably embodied the average girl more - avoiding danger, enjoying chocolate and reading film star magazines were more her thing.
It has been a long while since the Worrals books were published and now they are sometimes difficult and/or expensive to find. I know that from experience. When I was working on my dissertation, it took me quite a long time to track them down and I was never able to find all 11 Worrals books.
But now with the relaunch of Worrals in the WAAF
, followed by Worrals Carries On
and Worrals Flies Again
and the rest of the Worrals oeuvre
, today's reader can enjoy reading about Joan Worralson's exploits once again. The only two differences - we are not in the midst of a world war and there are new updated illustrations. The original books had lovely realistic illustrations. The new illustrations were done by Matt Kindt, a name that might already be familiar to any graphic novel fans.
|The new Worrals |
Captain J. E. Johns, who also wrote the Biggles novels (reviewed here
) stills has lots of old and new fans, so these new editions of Worrals should be welcome additions to many personal libraries. If you are unfamiliar with Worrals, you can find lots of information at Roger Harris' dedicated Worrals website HERE
Worrals is recommended for readers age 12+
Worrals of the WAAF was sent to me by the publisher
It all begins with a bicycle in a store window. Richard Fuller, 15, decides that is what he wants but knowing his laundress mother could never afford to buy it for him, he is determined to earn the money himself.
Richard begins with a job picking fruit and generally helping out an elderly farmer, than moves on to delivering bread with Mr. Black, the baker in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Both men take Richard under their wing, so to speak, but it is Mr. Black who initiates Richard into the life of a soldier. Mr. Black invites Richard to the opening ceremonies at a Canadian Army Summer Camp where he is the cook. Later, knowing that Richard is underage, Mr. Black uses his influence to get Richard into the camp under the name of someone who couldn't make it.
It turns out that Richard is quite good at signaling and enjoys his two weeks of playing soldier, taking much of what is thrown at him in stride, and not being terribly bothered that the other men, who smoke, drink and gamble. are older than he is.
Not long after he returns home, Canada finds itself at war with Germany and Richard, still under the influence of Mr. Black, decides to enlist, but under his own name not the assumed name of summer army camp. And because he is a known face at the enlistment office, Richard manages to enlist using just his library card. Unfortunately, his actions lead to an estrangement with his mother.
Eventually, Richard is shipped overseas, but that first year of war was a quiet one, earning the name the phony war. But again, Richard takes it all in his stride, and excels at what he does. Though he misses his mother, his spirits are buoyed by the support he gets from Mr. and Mrs. Black and from Amy, his next store neighbor who provides a humours bit to the novel. Amy keeps knitting socks for Richard, but they always seem to get lost along the way. She finally comes up with a great plan for definitely getting the next pair of socks to him - it is such a good plan, even Richard is afraid to open the package.
But eventually the phony war ends and the Blitzkrieg begins and the reality of war really hits very close to home for Richard.
In her Author's Note, Maruno explains that many of the episodes and incidents she includes in Kid Soldier
were based on details gotten from her father's diary, which give the novel a very tangible sense of historical reality. Her father, like Richard, also participated in the army's summer camp under the same name as Richard - Chester Lee Huston. It is hard to believe that a 15 year old boy could get away with enlisting, but it did happen, even in WWII.
I found Kid Soldier
to be an interesting novel. The fact that a boy as young as 15 could be accepted into the army so easily is a very scary thought, but the idea of child soldiers always is and is something that still occurs in some parts of the world. This was also an especially interesting novel because it was about a Canadian boy's experience of the war and books about that aren't as numerous as American or British books, even though the Canadians fought just as hard and suffered so many causalities.
The novel is well-written with well defined characters. Written in the third person, the voice of the narrator is engaging, and the character of Richard is very likable, making this an very readable novel.
This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was an E-ARC from Netgalley.com
This review contains spoilers
It is spring 1775 in the British colony of Williamsburg, Virginia and it is also Felicity Merriman's 10th birthday. Not your average girl of the time, Felicity loves horses and would rather ride her horse through the fields and pastures of Williamsburg than help out at home.
But her mother is determined that Felicity learn how to be a proper gentlewoman and signs her up for classes that will give her the skills she will need. There, she meet Elizabeth Cole and her snooty older sister Annabelle. Felicity and Elizabeth become immediate friends, though Annabell looks down on the Merrimans because Felicity's father is a merchant, not a gentleman.
Of course, gentlewoman lessons involve learning how to make and serve tea properly, but tea has already become a point of conflict between the loyalists, those who are loyal to the crown, and the patriots, who want independence from Britain because of the high tax on tea without any representation in Parliament. The Merrimans, including their 15 year old apprentice Ben, are patriots while the Coles and Felicity's grandfather are loyalists.
Felicity has also fallen in love with a spirited mare she names Penny. Penny is being abused by her owner, Jiggy Nye, who is trying to tame her. Felicity is convinced she can tame Penny and begins to sneak out at night to try. And she eventually succeeds. But when she hears Jiggy Nye yell in a fit of anger that anyone who came ride his horse, is welcome to her, Felicity takes him at his word. Accused of horse theft, Felicity must later return Penny to Jiggy Nye. That night, Felicity again sneaks out and frees Penny.
Meanwhile, apprentice Bee has gone missing. But summer has come and the Merrimans are off to visit grandfather, who surprises Felicity when he gives her Penny. One day, Felicity overhears bounty hunters looking for Ben, who they say ran away to join General Washington's troops. She takes Penny and find the injured Ben, convincing him to come to her grandfather's and to ask for her father's forgiveness.
Returning to Williamsburg, Felicity learns that the father of her friend Elizabeth has been imprisoned for being a loyalist. Felicity's father sees no reason for his arrest and promises to try to get him out of prison. While visiting him, Felicity also sees Jiggy Nye in the same cell. Feeling pity for him, she brings him a blanket and some food.
Over the course of not quit a year, Felicity grows from a self-centered, impulsive girl who wants nothing more than to be independent to a thoughtful girl who cares about others, but there is still much in store for her. Both her mother and Penny have pregnancies that result in life-threatening births. Felicity manages to take care of the house and family maturely, efficiently and responsibly while her mother's life hangs in the balance. And when Penny's foal is a breech birth, Felicity has the wisdom to turn to the one person who can help her - Jiggy Nye.
There are lots of historical elements in Felicity
besides being an engaging coming of age story. The two sides, patriot and loyalist, are explained clearly in the context of the story so that young viewers will have no trouble understanding the events that led to the American Revolution. And in keeping with the themes of freedom, independence, and responsibility, the practice of apprenticeship is also clearly presented. Apprenticeship was a legal contract to learn how to do something, and when Ben ran away, regardless of his ideological reasons, he broke the law by reneging on this contract. The grandfather's reaction when Ben returns, that he should be imprisoned, give a good idea of how serious an apprenticeship was.
Felicity is an excellent movie, that may appeal to boys as well as girls. It certainly was a hit over and over in my house whenever my niece L'naya visited. We spent a lot of time drinking tea and talking about loyalists and patriots. And in case Felicity looks familiar to you, it is because she is played by a 13 year old Shailene Woodley, whose acting career has really taken off in the last few years.
This movie is recommended for viewers age 7+
This movie was purchased for L'naya by me.
Although the American Girl Felicity doll was retired a few years ago, you can still access lots of fun stuff and information about Felicity's world and the movie at the following web addresses:
This is part of my 2013 American Revolution Reading Challenge
hosted by War Through the Generations
Happy Independence Day!
It is 1942 and the effects of WWII are beginning to be felt in the traveling carnival where 12 year old Bee tends the hot dog stand. Most of the men are gone - drafted or enlisted, and now sugar and gasoline being rationed and life in the carnival is getting harder and harder for the owner, Ellis.
Bee has lived in the back of a hauling truck with Pauline ever since she was 4 and her parents were killed in an accident. Ellis wants to put her into the sideshow. Bee has a diamond-shaped birthmark that covers one side of her face and he is sure people will pay good money to gawk at it. Pauline has always protected Bee from this fate, but when Ellis sends her to Poughkeepsie to work in a stationary show, life becomes much harder for Bee. Luckily, just as she needs someone to hold on to, a little dog the color of butterscotch that she names Peabody comes into Bee's life.
All Bee has really ever wanted is a permanent home and family, and now at Ellis's mercy and with Pauline gone, she realizes she must find that for herself. So one morning, Bee runs away from the carnival with Peabody and Cordelia, a little piglet from the show. And then she comes upon it - the absolutely perfect gingerbread house where two elderly ladies are living and waiting for her. But wait, one of those ladies is familiar to Bee, she has seen her off and on before whenever things had gotten tough.
Bee moves in but it doesn't take long to realize something isn't quite right about Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Swift. They certainly provide for her, even if they don't eat much, and they make sure she begins school, even if she is put in a 'special' class of kids separated from the 'regular' kids. There, Bee makes a best friend, Ruth Ellen, a girl with a brace on her leg because of polio, and a worst enemy, Francine, a girl who continuously bullies her because of the 'diamond' on her face.
But more and more, Bee is bothered by the fact that only she and Peabody can see her caretakers. One the one hand, it causes Bee problems with the nosy neighbor who thinks she's living in the house alone and the school principle who wants them to come to school for a meeting. One the other hand, Bee loves these two odd ladies and doesn't like to be reminded that they came to help her and won't be able to stay forever.
Still, life is ever so much better for Bee now, except for the bullying over the birthmark so that she stills feels the need to cover up by pulling her hair tightly over it "like a curtain." But sometimes, at home or at Ruth Ellen's, Bee forgets about her birthmark.
But then Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Swift begin to visibly fade away. Was life in her gingerbread house too good to be true for Bee? Or will she find the strength and courage to fight for the home and family that she wants so badly?
is one of those Middle Grade novels I couldn't put down. Bee, the book's first person narrator, tells her story in short, sometimes very short, chapters and in language so conversational it feels like she is speaking directly to you and only you. Sometimes when she is speculating on a thought or idea, or when she is trying to figure out why someone has done something, her voice has an endearing quality I don't find often enough in Middle Grade novels.
And there is a lot going on in this wonderful coming of age story - issues around bullying, inclusion in school, self-esteem, self-reliance, courage. Pauline has always protected her, especially from bullies, but now Bee is, essentially, on her own and must learn to take care of herself, even if that does mean making mistakes along the way.
This is a home front novel and there are some wonderful WWII references throughout the book giving the setting a real feeling of the time. But the one realistic aspect that always gets to me in these books are the way they make you realize how very, very vulnerable children, are especially during a war. Had Bee not found the courage to run away from a greedy adult who just wanted to exploit her, she would most certainly have ended up a carnival side show attraction with no one to stand up for her and stop it.
I have always like fantasy and sci-fi, but nothing pulls me into a book quite like magical realism. And so I loved Beholding Bee
. Set so completely in reality, you begin to wonder about Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Swift. Ghosts from the past? Figments of Bee's imagination? I guess you will just have to read Beholding Bee
and decide for yourself.
One more thing - Peabody is definitely the dog of my dreams.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
This weeks topics is Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2013
Picking my Top Ten in any category is usually hard for me. Either I can't come up with ten things or I end up with way too many. But this weeks Top Ten list took me no time at all to figure out. And it was NOT what I was expecting. Some are old, some are new, all are favorites.
They are listed in no particular order of favoritism.
1- Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet
by Andrea Cheng
Cheng has imagined the life of this quiet rebel who lived in the 19th centur in a unique and
informative way in this free verse YA novel.
2- Maggot Moon
by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
This year's Carnegie medal winner, it is a YA story set in an oppressive dystopian 1950s England about a severely dyslexic boy who finds the courage to rebel.
3- Hokey Pokey
by Jerry Spinelli
I loved this MG book set in a metaphoric world of children's play and watching the main character as he comes of age in the course of one symbolic day.
4- The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket
by John Boyne
In this MG novel, Barnaby's boringly normal parents, clearly Australian relatives of the Dursley's,can't stand that Barnaby refuses to be normal and continues to float. When his mother does the unspeakable and lets him go, Barnaby floats into all kinds of experiences with different people who accept who they are and teach Barnably to embrace who he is.
5- Navigating Early
by Clare Vanderpool
An MG quest story about an unlikely friendship between two boys and the journey they take to find out who they are as they follow the twists and turns of the Appalachian Trail and Early, who is anumber savant, narrates a parallel quest story about Pi (yes, 3.14 Pi) that takes them all full circle.
6- Beholding Bee
by Kimberly Newton Fusco (To Be Reviewed)
I just finished this wonderful MG story about 12 year old Bee, born with a diamond shaped birthmark on one side of her face, who just wants a home and family and the two aunts who help her, even though she and her little dog Peabody are the only ones who can see them.
7- Tamar, a Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal
by Mal Peet
A YA novel set in 1945 and 1995, this is a delicious story that is about identity - finding out who you are or even inventing who you are. Oh yes, it is also about spies, codes, love, betrayal and intrigue and one of the best of its kind.
by Morris Gleitzman
This is the 4th novel about young Felix and his flight from the Nazis and takes the reader back to 1945 and Felix's life as a 13 year old partisan, finally able to fight the Nazis rather than just running from them. If you have already read Once
will give you the sense of closure that you might need if you have been following Felix from the beginning.
9- The Lions of Little Rock
by Kristin Levine
In this MG novel, Marlee Nesbit, so shy she can't speak to anyone outside her family, finally does find her own voice in 1957 Little Rock, Arkansas in a fight against discrimination and segregation.
10- Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad
by Henry Cole
This wordless picture book tells the poignant story of a young girl's compassion towards a run away slave by silently giving him food and helping him avoid capture one night.
I really needed a Top Eleven this week because my other favorite was:
by Jacqueline Woodson
A young girl repeatedly rebuffs the proffered friendship of a poor girl in her class, but when the girl doesn't come back one day, she recalls her own unkindness and how she could have done things differently. A nice look at bullying from the perspective of the bullier.
These are my favorites so far this year, what are yours?
"What are you doin' to help win the war, mister?"
When the country went to war, so did America's "strippers" that is, the author's and illustrator's of the comic strips already enjoyed by millions of fans young and old. Little Orphan Annie
was no exception. The gangster stories of the 1930s that had entertained readers were out and war service stories were in as Annie became a home front sweetheart.
And it didn't take Annie long to organize the Junior Commandos with her friends. And the idea caught on - before long there were thousands and thousands of real Junior Commandos all over the country, 20,000 in Boston alone. And even Dottie's little brother Burk in the novel Crystal City Lights
embodied the Junior Commando spirit, despite being interned by the country he was helping. So, what is a Junior Commando? I think Dottie explains it best:
"Little Orphan Annie is organizing groups of kids all over the country to collect newspapers, scrap metal, and all kinds of stuff that can be reused for the war effort. They sell the scrap and then buy war stamps and bonds. Burk even made himself a special armband with "JC" written on it so everyone will know he's a Junior Commando just like Annie." (page 135)
The Junior Commandos came into being on June 15, 1942 when Annie and her friend Loretta tell the other girls they have no time to play - they are busy doing war work and the rest is, as they say, history. And Annie and the Junior Commandos returned to the comic strip on and off as needed in the various storylines that ran throughout the war. But for now, I hope you enjoy the beginning of this pop culture phenomena:
|Ckick to enlarge and read|
|Click to enlarge and read|
|Click to enlarge and read|
|Click to enlarge and read|
From: Arf! The Life and Hard Time of Little Orphan Annie 1935-1945 by Harold Gray
Internment camps in the US during WWII are usually associated with the detainment of Japanese Americans. But they actually were not the only group to be classified as enemy aliens. People who had been born in Germany or Italy were also sent to internment camps, despite having lived in the US for a considerable length of time and had strong ties to this country. Often, they were sent to these camps based on very flimsy evidence.
Which is exactly what happens in Holly Moulder's novel Crystal City Lights
. Dottie Zorn, 12, has comfortably and happily lived her whole life with her parents and younger brother Burk in Audubon, NJ. So when her best friend Liesel Siegfried says she is distressed about her father's support of Germany and then shows Dottie a pro-Hitler flyer she found in her house, Dottie knows she shouldn't keep it but instead she hides it in her closet.
After Liesel's father is taken into custody by the FBI, it isn't long before they show up at the Zorn's house and take Dottie's father into custody as well. The next day while the family is out of the house, the FBI ransack their home, destroying loved family heirlooms and furnishings. Still, the Zorns think they are OK, after all there is nothing about supporting the Nazis or Hitler in their home. Except for that flyer, but Dottie is scared and keeps her mouth shut, hoping for the best.
The flyer is used against Mr. Zorn, and the family finds themselves traveling to the family internment camp in Crystal City, Texas carrying whatever they could in one suitcase each.
Now, instead of comfort, they live in a two room hut in a place surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by men carrying machine guns. But Dottie makes the best of it and is happy to find her friend Liesel in a hut not far away. Only now, Liesel must go to the German school instead of the American one because her father plans to take the family back to Germany. And in fact, Mr. Siegfried even goes so far as to forbid Liesel from hanging out with Dottie.
To make matters worst, he has begun drinking all the time. But where does he get the alcohol? When Dottie discovers Mr. Siegfried's secret, once again, she keeps the information to herself. And just like the flyer did, Dottie's silence again leads to trouble and this time, it might cost someone their life.
I came by Crystal City Lights
at BEA this year and it was totally serendipitous. I saw the sign as I was walking by the autographing area. How I missed knowing that Holly Moulder's new book is beyond me, but I find that happens sometimes with BEA, no matter how careful I am. So, I am so glad that the stars aligned at just the right moment for me to find this "killer diller" middle grade historical fiction story (killer diller is Burk's favorite expression).
This is a very nice coming of age story in which Dottie must learn the hard way and more than once that withholding information that her parents need to know can have serious consequences - it doesn't protect them or make bad things go away.
But Dottie also has the fierce loyalty of a girl her age to her best friend despite everything that happens. And she loves to read - Nancy Drew, of course, gets packed in her single allowable suitcase.
Crystal City Lights
is thought provoking middle grade historical fiction novel that not only provides a very readable story, but also gives the reader an inside look at a German internment camp and at the way German Americans were treated by others no matter how loyal they were to the United States. It is a book that resonates even in today's world.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was received from the author at BEA 2013
|A photo of Crystal City Detention Center|
|A hand drawn map of Crystal City Detention Center *|
If you would like to have more information about the Crystal City Internment Camp that detained Germans, Italians and Japanese at the same time, though in separate areas, you can find it HERE
*"en-denshopd-p64-00005-1." Densho Encyclopedia. 10 Jul 2012, 09:29 PDT. 20 Jun 2013, 04:49 <http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-p64-00005-1/>.
When 9 year old Karl is forced to go to work on weekends at a Canadian nursing home with his mother, a nurse, he finds himself drawn to an elderly patient name Lizzie. And the attraction is mutual. Karl is the only person there who believes Lizzie when she says that she once had an elephant in her garden. Slowly, Lizzie tell her story to Karl and his mother.
Lizzie had lived with her mother, a zookeeper, and her young brother Karli in Dresden, Germany during World War II. Though very much against Hitler, their dad is off fighting on the Russian front. But when the Allies begin to bomb Germany, it is decided that the animals in the zoo would need to be put down if things got really dire. Rather than see that happen, Lizzie's mother decides to bring a still young elephant home from the zoo and to care for her in the garden. The elephant is named Marlene, after the famous German singer Marlene Dietrich, now living and working in America. But in 1945, RAF planes literally firebomb Dresden, destroying most of the city center and causing residents to flee the city westward to avoid the Russian soldiers approaching from the east. Among those refugees are Lizzie, Karli, their mother and Marlene.
It is mid-winter when the refugees head out with their pachyderm, hoping to find safety at the rural farm of some relatives who haven't spoken to Lizzie's family since the war began because they were Hitler supporters. But when they arrive, the farm is almost completely deserted - in the barn they discover a wounded Canadian airman named Peter hiding out. At first, their mother treats him terribly, but after he saves Karli's life, that changes. And when the police show up at the farm looking for Peter, the family decides it is time to move on, west towards the Allies, with Peter, and of course, Marlene, who now carries 16 year old Lizzie's secret - she is madly in love with Peter.
As they head west again, the family has many more adventures and many more interesting encounters, but will they make it to safety with their elephant and their enemy soldier?
An Elephant in the Garden
is based on a real story that Morpurgo and his wife heard on the BBC at 3 in the morning about a woman zookeeper in Belfast who took an elephant home each night with her When the Germans started bombing Ireland. Naturally, Morpurgo gave the story his own special twist. The result in an interesting narrative, though perhaps no one of his best.
Almost from the start, my interest flagged each time I picked up the book. It was too slow moving and too full of explanation and short on action. It did get better in the middle, after Peter was discovered and the family went on the run again, but I am afraid most young readers might have given up on the book by them.
I also found the idea that a modern listener is named Karl just like the Karli of the past, and that he resembles him in so many other ways, to be one of those coincidental conceits that Morpurgo so often uses and that I don't much care for. It's a little to pat for my taste.
I did, however, like the metaphor of the compass - the one Peter carries as an airman and how it becomes a red thread through the story as a guide for finding one's way both physically and morally.
As always in a Morpurgo story, An Elephant in the Garden
is told in simple, well-crafted prose. The past and present settings are differentiated using different fonts to avoid any confusion. And because it is by Michael Morpurgo, you know the end will be OK ever for the most sensitive reader, making it a good introductory narrative for kids who are just beginning to learn about war and its consequences. And he does make Marlene sound like such a gentle, patient pachyderm, it almost makes you want to get an elephant of your own. ALMOST being the operative word in that sentence.
Morpurgo has teamed up once again with Michael Foreman, one of my favorite children's book authors/illustrators, and the accompanying black and white ink and wash illustrations he has created for An Elephant in the Garden
just complete the story perfectly.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library
Scholastic/UK has a short but lovely 2 page PFD guide for An Elephant in the Garden
that can be downloaded HERE
And if you would like to read more about the real story that inspired Michael Morpurgo to write An Elephant in the Garden, you can find the story HERE
Today is Man of Steel Day because supposedly if you visit your local comic book retailer you can get a free copy of the All Star Superman @1 Special Edition comic book and maybe if you are lucky, free Man of Steel posters and bags. It's all really just promo for the Man of Steel
movie which opens on Friday.
This is a rather glamed up Superman and I know lots of people are looking forward to the new Man of Steel
movie, including my own Kiddo. But I'm just an old fashioned girl who still likes the old Superman comics books and newspaper strips. Superman, as you probably know, was the brain child of Jerry Siegle and Joe Schuster in the 1930s. In June 1938, Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, and by 1939, the Man of Steel had his own comic book. Once World War II broke out, it didn't take Superman long to become a hero and a defender to "truth, justice and the American way" for kids (and grownups) who were already hooked on both the comic book and the 15 minute radio show that aired almost everyday.
|Action #1 June 1938 and Superman #1 1939|
Superman ran as a serial on radio from February 12, 1940, syndicated on NYC's WOR, and later, it was on the Mutual Network, where it was broadcast from August 31, 1942 to February 4, 1949. Called The Adventures of Superman
, the 15 minute show usually ran late in the afternoon so kids could listen after school. And kids loved it.
Superman is 75 years old now and over 1000 episodes of his radio show, The Adventures of Superman, is now in the public domain, which means you, too, can listen to this downloadable bit of pop culture history either on ITunes or the Internet Archive
and best of all, it's all free.
Here, for your listening pleasure, is the very first episode called, appropriately enough, The Baby from Krypton.
And well, OK, I will probably go see the new movie Man of Steel,
The events in Italy during WWII aren't often written about in kidlit. To date, I have only written about two books where the action takes place in Italy. The first was Stones in Water
by Donna Jo Napoli, an MG story about an Italian boy rounded up in the cinema while watching an American cowboy movie and sent to work in a labor camp in Germany. The second was the excellent picture book I Will Come Back for You
by Marisabina Russo, about how a young Jewish girl and her family were helped to survive in hiding in Italy despite the strict anti-Semitic laws.
Well, now, thanks to the prolific British children's author Shirley Hughes, another story set in Italy had been told. Hero on a Bicycle
begins in 1944 in Florence. Paolo Crivelli, 13, lives with his British mother Rosemary, older sister Constanza, 16, his now very old beloved dog Guido and his bicycle. His Italian father is an outspoken anti-Fascist, forced into hiding so no one, not even his family, knows his whereabouts.
Now, with nothing to do since the schools are closed and his friends have all left Florence, Paolo sneaks out of the house every night and rides his bicycle around the city despite the curfew. Meanwhile, his mother lies in bed worrying about whether he will make it home.
One night, Paolo is stopped by some rough looking men with rifles. They have a message for his mother and want him to give it to her: they are in the area and will be getting in touch - tomorrow night if they can - the usual way. The next night Paolo follows his mother as she heads to her meeting with the strangers. As he watches, he realizes they are partisans and they want his mother to shelter two Allied airmen -a Brit and a Canadian - until they can get them to safety.
But there are rumors about Rosemary Crivelli and one Sunday, the Gestapo shows up and searches the house from top to bottom. Luckily, the Crivelli's had a warning this was going to happen and were able to hide the airmen. In fact, as the war in and around Florence heats up and the Allied forces get closer, the occupying German get more and more desperate and cruel. And Paolo, who had earlier tried to join the partisans but was embarrassingly rejected, finally gets his wish do something for them when it is decided that he will be their guide to a safe house in the center of Florence. But is a 13 year old boy up to the task of a grown man in order to save the lives of these two Allied airmen?
Hero on a Bicycle
is a real coming of age novel, but I can't say it totally grabbed me. I just didn't connect with any of the characters. I actually found them to be flat. forced and quite frankly, unbelievable. What was believable, however, were the descriptions of Florence and its surroundings, and the deprivations that the ordinary citizens suffered - for example, the Crivelli's were always hungry like everyone in WWII, while the best food went to the occupiers and it is interesting to read how careful Paolo was about protecting his bicycle tires, since there were no replacements if they got ruined. Although, by 1944, I am surprised they were still OK given Paolo's heavy duty riding all the time.
And I am usually fond of books about partisans, but not this one. I found Hughes' portrayal of them to be just plain of mean at time, especially towards a family and child of a man who is probably a fellow resistance fighter, as the family suspects he is. And I thought they were a little to easy for Paolo to find, but not the Germans, which didn't make sense.
There are some pleasant surprises, though, and certainly some very heart-pounding moments, as when the German lieutenant, attracted to Constanza, finds a discarded Lucky Strike packet during his search of the house. Or when Paolo must help the airmen and everything goes wrong. This is a first novel for the 85 year old Hughes and I would still recommend Hero on a Bicycle
in part because of its lovely Italian setting but with reservations as far as the plot goes.
A word about the illustrations at the head of every chapter: Hughes is an artist and she had done these illustrations herself. They are wonderful black and white pencil drawing, as you can see from this one of Paolo taking one of his nighttime excursions:
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
Be sure to check out the website dedicated to Hero on a Bicycle
for more on this interesting novel, including some of the drawings she did during her post war trip to Italy and which she utilized for this novel.
This is book 7 of my 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
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The 69th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and invasion on Normandy Beach in France, a operation that turned the tide of the entire war, has come and gone.
My apologies for this last D-Day post. I had a wonderful post planned for D-Day thanks to the generosity of a reader who sent me a wonderful poster that was distributed to newspapers across the county. The poster is of the five daily Peanuts comic stripes by Charles Schulz commemorating D-Day in 1994. I had the poster framed and promptly broke the glass, so it is back at the framer. So I am reposting the strips I used in 2011 again until I get my poster back:
|Click to Enlarge and Read|
You can also still follow the D-Day landings and invasion through the experience of 7 people who were there thanks to England's Channel 4, an experiment in real-time which should prove to be interesting. You can find it HERE
Lastly, a documentary has been produced by Rick Beyer and has been showing on various PBS stations around the country called The Ghost Army. This sounds like the stuff of YA WWII fiction, but it was the real deal. This was a unit of hand picked artists, designers, ever a fashion designer - you remember Bill Blass, don't you? These guys landed in France with rubber tanks and jeeps, sound effect records and all the other tricks they had dreamed up to fool the enemy. And they did - more than 20 times throughout France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
Check your local PBS stations to see if The Ghost Army is scheduled to be on TV. If not, hopefully PBS will run it again online or on TV, it is so well worth watchers to see how their deceptions were created and utilized, as you can see from this trailer:
You can also read an interesting article in The Atlantic about the Ghost Army HERE
Those of you who read Connie Willis's brillant Blackout and All Clear
, you might remember that she included bits about the rubber camaflogue tanks and trucks.
Please take a moment to remember those who landed in France on D-Day, those who survived and as well as those who didn't. Each person played their own important role in the success of that invasion.