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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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1. On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck

You can't go wrong when you chose a book by Richard Peck to read and On the Wings of Heroes is not exception.  This gentle home front story takes place in middle America, in a family like so many others at that time.

Before the war, narrator Davy Bowman tells us, it was always summer, except when it was Halloween or Christmas.  Summer meant exciting games of Hide and Seek with all the kids, including his big brother Bill and his dad, Earl, the biggest kid on the block.  Halloween 1941, Davy is a cub scout who thinks he and his best friend Scooter could get one more year of trick or treating in before they were too old for it, and before the war took away all sweet treats.  And that Christmas, Davy and Scooter both hope against hope to get the new shiny two tone cream and crimson Schwinn bike in the window of Black's Hardware.  But then, Pearl Harbor is bombed and life changes for everyone.

School is now overcrowded with "Eight-to-Five Orphans," new kids from other places whose mothers are working in factories so no one is home during the day.  Air raid drills are the order of the day, in case of an attack; scrape is being collected by all the kids;  dimes are brought in to school once a week to buy war bonds; and Victory Gardens are dug and tended everywhere.

And Davy's hero, big brother Bill, joins the Army Air Corps, causing his family to live a constant state of pride, fear and anxiety, which becomes unbearable fear when they receive the news that Bill went missing in action while flying a B-17 over the English Channel.

As Davy takes us through life during the war, he recounts episodes with class bullies, three of the girls who are part of the Eight-to-Five Orphans; a little extortion ring collecting their dime protection money each week when it is time to buy bonds,; an old lady who has a genuine Pan American car in her garage that Davy and Scooter discover during a scrap collection excursion and who holds an even greater surprise for them than the buckshot she fires when she discovers them in her garage; and the old lady who hordes everything, including every newspaper she has ever received.  All these eccentric characters are given their own background story, including families created by Peck with a kind of depth and charming believability, so they become more than just plot devices.

On the Wings of Heroes is an historical fiction novel that will give you a sense of the war from the perspective of a preteen boy and will leave you with a warm feeling of family and community, of love and support.  Ironically, some of Peck's descriptions of neighborhood life, such as Halloween or playing Hide and Seek, are not so very different from my own memories of those things many years later, providing a comforting kind to timelessness that connects people through time and space.

On the Wings of Heroes is a serious, entertaining and thought-provoking novel.  Peck writes, even about war, with lots of humor, and I dare say, experience, since he would have grown up during WWII, just as Davy does and giving the novel a real sense of authenticity.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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2. The Color of LIght by Helen Maryles Shankman

It is 1992 and postmodernism is the dominent art movement of the moment.  Rafe Sinclair, founder of The American Academy of Classical Art in New York City, is a classicist through and through, but now he is facing grumblings from some of his board member who think other art forms should be introduced, a board that wouldn't mind removing Rafe as head of the Academy.

But his Board isn't the only problem Rafe has.  First, Rafe is a vampire and is trying desperatgely to hold on to his sense of humanity even as he is forced to kill in order to live.  Second, Rafe was an art student in the 1930.  He had met and fallen in love with a young Jewish woman, a fellow artist, just before World War II began, and he is still in love with her, although he believes she had perished in the Holocaust.

Tessa Moss is a young art student at the Academy, talented but naive and involved in an unhealthy relationship with another artist, the very narcissistic Lucian Swain.  Rafe never really noticed Tessa's work until one day when he notices a sketch she has done of a woman with a child by a suitcase that has the name Witzotsky written on it.  The woman is covering the eyes of the child with her hand.  Rafe begins to take a special interest in Tessa and her work.

Witzotsky is a familiar name to Rafe and it turns out that Tessa has sketched a picture depicting a relative of hers named Sofia Witzotsky.  And, in fact, Sofia is the very same woman that Rafe was involved with, the same woman he thought he had lost in the Holocaust.  Or had he?  After all, he never really knew what Sofia's fate had actually been?  Before long, Tessa and Rafe are involved with each other, which is against school rules and just the kind of infraction the board could use to remove Rafe from his position as head of the Academy.  But if Tessa can help Rafe discover what really happened to Sofia, maybe it was worth the risk.

Helen Mayles Shankman has written a long, complicated book encompassing two time periods, and a fair amount of different characters.  It is very well written, engaging, compelling and I actually enjoyed the intricacies of the plot twists and turns.  Rafe and Tessa are believable (well, except for the vampire part), well defined, likable characters, each carrying a lot of baggage that goes back to the Holocaust: Rafe may have lost the love of his life, and Tessa has lost one whole family line on her father's side.

The Color of Light is a novel that will definitely please your romantic sensibilities, and your penchant for historical fiction and has all the elements of a good mystery novel all in one long (574 pages) story.   Shankman has a MFA in painting, so her art/artistic descriptions are pretty spot on and you will have no trouble picturing works of art that don't really exist.

My vampire fan days are long behind me and vampires are certainly not something I expected to read about when I started this blog.  And yet, I have certainly read my share of fantasy and science fiction here, so why not vampires?  But the fact that  Rafe Sinclair is a vampire is only a plot device allowing the narrative its dual time frame with him in both time periods as a man his age and it worked.

And generally the YA/Adult books I review here are of the cozy type, but variety is the spice of life and The Color of Life is a spicy novel that could be classified as New Adult/Adult.  What I mean is that it has more sexual content than most of the YA/Adult I review.

My friend Zohar over at Man of La Book recommended The Color of Light to me and I am so glad he did.  And I am paying it forward.

This book is recommended for mature readers age 15+
This book was sent to me by the author

A Reading Group Guide for The Color of Light is available HERE

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3. It's National Bookmobile Day: Bookmobiles in WWII


Yesterday, I went to the library to pick up some books that they had gotten for me through interlibrary loan.  I have always been fortunate enough to live within walking distance of a public library and a short subway ride to one of the greatest research libraries in the country, the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  And since it is National Library Week, I would like to give a shout out to my local library and the librarians who have gotten me many of the books I have used for this blog, as well as my other blog, Randomly Reading:



It may be National Library Week all week long, but April 16th is National Bookmobile Day.  


Bookmobiles have played an important part in providing library services to people to can get to their local library, or in areas that are too rural for a library to be built.  During World War II, bookmobiles helped bring books to factories, where workers who had little enough free time could browse and check out books.
1943 Chicago Public Library Bookmobile (University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, University Archives
 And they played a major role bringing books to people in the armed forces, both here and abroad.
The 31st Division's Mobile Library at Camp Polk, Louisiana 1943
A small mobile library for soldiers stationed in the Middle East
And of course, they were there for schoolchildren and their parents



Two Bookmobiles serving New York City
1942 Bookmobile, Stamford CT
Today, there are just under 1,000 bookmobiles in the United States, still serving people in all different areas, the bustling cities to rural farms.  And then there is the Camel Library Service in Kenya, the mobile library in Zimbabwe pulled by a donkey, an well as in Columbia, South America, in remote areas of Norway there is the book boat, Epos and in Thailand, the bookmobile is an elephant. (Wikipedia)

If you would like to know more about the history of bookmobiles, you might want to visit Orty Ortwein blog, Bookmobiles: A History

Here are some books that feature mobile libraries for young readers:
Picture Books:
Hannah's Bookmobile Christmas by Sally Derby
That Book Woman by Heather Henson
The Book Boat's In by Cynthia Cohen
Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra

Nonfiction:
Biblioburro: a true story from Columbia by Jeanette Winter
My Librarian is a Camel by Margaret Ruurs (nonfiction)
Down Cut Shin Creek: the pack horse librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer (nonfiction)

Chapter Books:
Clara and the Bookwagon by Nancy Smiler Levinson
Mystery of the Bewitched Bookmobile by Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide Pierce

YA/Adult:
Lending a Paw: a Bookmobile Cat Mystery by Laurie Cass
Taliling a Tabby: a Bookmobile Cat Mystery by Laurie Cass

Be sure to visit the ALA National Bookmobile Day 2014 for more resources and activities.  And you can download this nice PDF and put together your own bookmobile, like the one below:

Cardboard Bookmobile bringing books to the toy soldiers


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4. Grandpa's Third Drawer: Unlocking Holocaust Memories written and illustrated by Judy Tal Kopelman

Young Uri loves to visit his grandparents.  He sees his vacations there as a quiet respite from the daily routines and annoyances of life at home, especially his nagging sister.  Grandpa Yuda always has time to play with him, and Grandma Genia loves to pamper him with hot chocolate and homemade cookies.

But Uri's favorite spot in his grandparent's home is Grandpa Yuda's study.  In the study, Uri tells the reader, his Grandpa has a desk with three drawers and he is allowed to keep his pencil case and crayons in the first drawer.   Grandpa  keeps all kinds of little toys he used to play with when he was a boy before the war in the second drawer, and now, he lets Uri play with them.  But the third drawer is always kept locked.  No one, not even Uri, is allowed to open it and Grandpa never talks about what's inside.

Naturally, Uri can't help but wonder about that third drawer - what's in there and why it is a secret.

Then, one cold, rainy winter day, Uri finds himself home alone for a little while and decides to color.  He goes into Grandpa's study to get his crayons, and there in the first drawer is a key, one he is certain would open the third drawer.

Sure enough, when he puts the key into the keyhole and turns it, the drawer opens.  But just then, Grandpa Yuda walks into the room and catches him holding a yellow star with a safety pin, just one of the things Uri found in the drawer.   At first, Grandpa is angry at Uri, but then he decides to tell him about the contents of the locked drawer.

Grandpa tells Uri about being sent to live in a ghetto with his parents and sister Anna, about how hungry he was there, because they were allowed so little food with their ration stamps.  In the drawer, is the doll his mother made for Anna from rags, and the dominoes he made himself from wooden scraps while in the ghetto.

And he tells Uri about the day his family was separated by the Nazis, never to be seen again.   His grandparents were sent to a concentrations camp, while his sister and parents sent somewhere else on trains.  Grandpa Yuda was sent to a labor camp.

Uri tells us they stayed up late that night talking about these events and even afterwards, Uri had lots of questions which Grandpa always took the time to answer while they played with the homemade wooden dominoes.

The Holocaust is a delicate subject and it is hard to know when to talk to young children about it.  For the children, grandchildren and now even the great grandchildren of survivors, that may happen sooner than for other kids, because they may hear things being said, or noticed the number on a grandparent's arm.

Whatever your reasons for starting a conversation about the Holocaust with a younger child, this gentlest of stories would be an ideal way to begin, just as Uri's Grandpa did.  As Grandpa explains what happened to his family, he keeps the focus on his them and not on the Nazis.

The story is told in clear, simple language, and enough details are given for a child to understand what happened to Grandpa's and his family without becoming too graphic to frighten.  This focus on Uri's family history also helps him to feel more connected to them and his Grandfather and is more emotionally age appropriate for a child around Uri's age (which is probably 6 or &).  Details of Nazi atrocities will come later in Uri's life, when he can emotionally handle them better.

Grandpa's Third Drawer was originally published in Israel in 2003, where it won the Ze'ev Prize for Children's Literature.  It is newly translated picture book has now been published for young readers in English.  The artifacts and illustrations used by Kopelman were used courtesy of Beit Theresienstadt Archives, in Givat-Haim Ichud, Israel.

Grandpa's Third Drawer will be available on May 1, 2014.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was an eARC received from Edelweiss

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5. Top Ten Tuesday #14: Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read


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

This week's topic, Top Ten Unique Books I've Read, came just as I was going over all my blog posts and creating a master index of them, before I begin breaking them down into categories.  I realized that over the time I have blogged, I have read a number of unique books for The Children's War, some reviewed, some not, and the last book has nothing to do with WWII, but it is Unique, with a capital U.


1- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - the fantasy novel is told, in part, through the use of old, carefully chosen, unusual photographs and it totally works.

2- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - the story of a young girl in Nazi Germany, told from the point of view of Death.

3- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - this is the story of a friendship in WWII, the first part of the story is told from the point of view of Julie, a spy being held prisoner by the Nazis, the second half is told from the point of view of Maddie, a ferry pilot who goes in search of Julie. This is the book I chose to hand out on World Book Night.


4- Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway? by Avi - the story of a boy in Brooklyn during the war, who is obsessed with radio programs like The Lone Ranger and dreams of being a hero, told entirely in Radio Dialogue.

5- Blitzcat by Robert Westall - Westall was a master storyteller for middle grade books, and in this one, he tells the story of Lord Gort, a female cat who goes searching for her owner, who is serving his country.  She crosses southern England and changing people's lives alone the way.  Westall never anthropomorphizing the cat, but it is written entirely from her point of view - really brilliant.

6- To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - Willis is one of my favorite science fiction writers and another master storyteller, this time travel goes from the future to 1940 Coventry, to Victorian Coventry trying to prevent a rip in the time continuum and it is another brilliant piece of writing.  


7- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - Anne gives the reader a unique, first hand look at what it was like to be a young, Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis with her family in Amsterdam at a time when it was dangerous to be Jewish.

8- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - a favorite on high school banned books lists, this fantasy novel gives a unique perspective on war and especially on the Allied firebombing of Dresden, from the point of view of an American POW being held in that city.  It is stunning in the way it normalizes the brutality of war in four simple words - and so it goes.

9- Vango by Timothee de Fombelle - the first book in a trilogy, it tells the story of Vango as he travels through the 1930s, and the dangerous political climate in Europe of the time unfolds as he tries to prove himself innocent of a crime he has be charged with committing.

And last, a book I am reading right now, that has nothing to do with WWII…but it does have something to do with WWIII


10- The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean Telt by hisself by David Almond - Billy has been kept hidden away in a back room since he was born at the start of "day of endless war & at the moment of disaster."  Now 13, he has come out into a post-apocalyptic world, uneducated but possessing healing power, the question is whether he is an angel or a monster.  This is unique because the entire book, told from Billy's point of view, is completely written phonetically.

What are the Top Ten Most Unique Books you have read?



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6. Hidden Like Anne Frank: Fourteen True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis

Most people are familiar with the story about how and why Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in the attic of her father's business in Amsterdam after Adolf Hitler's army invaded Holland.  The diary she wrote as a young teenager is a priceless artifact of those terrible times.  Anne, her sister Margot, and her mother did not survive after they were captured by the Nazis, only her father lived.  But Anne diary has become a symbol of courage, innocence, and one of the most tragic periods in recent history.

But if you knew Anne and her family were hidden away from the Nazis, you also probably figured that there were more, many, many more that we haven't heard much about.  Indeed, according to Marcel Prins, author of  Hidden Like Anne Frtank, approximately 28,000 Jews went into hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  Of those, around 16,000 survived, and 12,000 did not.  Fascinated by his own mother's story of hiding and surviving, Prins collected stories of other children like her, and the result is Hidden Like Anne Frank, fourteen true stories of surviving the Holocaust by Jewish youths, both boys and girls, stories that are all different, all dangerous, all told in their own words.

Prins begins the book with his own mother's account of going into hiding.  Only 5 at the time, Rita Degen was forced to lie about her age and say she only going on 5, not 6, so that she wouldn't have to wear the required Yellow Star that marked her as Jewish.   She was quickly removed from her first foster family when someone recognized her, but luckily placed by the resistance in another home, where she was wanted.

Frightened by the deportations, Bloeme Emden, 16, was one of the people to be called up.  Her father managed to get it delayed, but that didn't last long.  She was told that if she didn't show up, her parents and younger sister would be taken.  Bloeme managed to get away again, but ultimately ended up in Auschwitz, where she ran into friends from school - Margot and Anne Frank.  Her parents and sister did not survive the Holocaust.

Hiding, constantly needing to change your identity, both name and religion, forced to lie and to live in fear are all part of the stories by these fourteen survivors.  At times, most of these youths managed to survive with the help of the Dutch Resistance, at other times, they simply survived by their own wits using creativity, stealth, craftiness.  Some found themselves in situations where they welcomed and cared for, others were taken advantage of, or terribly mistreated.  They were separated from their families and many never saw them again.  All of their individual stories attest to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Hidden Like Anne Frank is a fascinating, compellingly poignant collection of true stories.  The individual accounts are not very long, but they certainly convey the fear and danger that al Jews in hiding were forced to live with day by day, never knowing if they would see tomorrow or not, if they would see their loved ones again or not.  Prins has included lots of old photographs from the times before and after the children were hidden and at the end of the book, there are recent photographs of each person who contributed their story.

Hidden Like Anne Frank book should have lots of appeal for young readers, many, no doubt, will be drawn to it by Anne's name on the cover.  But it is also a perfect collection for any classroom when students begin studying World War II and the Holocaust.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was received as an eARC from NetGalley

Be sure to visit the website devoted to Hidden like Anne Frank to hear more stories of survival told by these and other survivors.

This is book 1 of my European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader

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7. Movie Matinee #4: Janie (1944)

Lobby Card with Scooper, Dick Lawrence and Janie
Janie Conway is a pretty typical 16 year old girl living in the small town of Hortonville.  She has a high school boyfriend named Scooper and lots of girlfriends, a wiseacre little sister named Elsbeth, a dad, Charles Conway, who is the editor of the town paper and a mom, Lucille Conway, who does war work.

Life looks pretty good for the Conways despite the war.  Until now, that is.  After learning that the Army plans to open a base nearby, Mr. Conway had written an editorial opposing it, worried that so many soldiers around so many impressionable, young energetic, boy crazy girls might not be such a good idea.  Now, he is trying to get special priority from Washington for a new printing press, and his requests are being ignored.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Conway's old friend, Thelma Lawrence, is arriving in Hortonville with her son, a private in the Army and needs a place to stay.  Of course, once they arrive at the house, and Janie meets Private First Class Dick Lawrence, it is instant attraction, much to Scooper's distress.

When Janie's parents make plans to go out for an evening with Mrs. Lawrence, Janie decides to seize the opportunity to see Dick Lawrence alone in the Conway house.  But now some of her girlfriends also have boyfriends in the Army and no place to see them, and since they know Janie is home alone, they all drop by.

Elsbeth, always in the way, is sent off to her grandmother's on what should have been a short bus ride with Dick, but she gets the on the wrong bus intentionally because she likes riding buses.  Dick runs into his old chemistry professor, who also likes to ride buses and hands Elsbeth over to him so he can get back to his evening with Janie.

Scooper, jealous of Dick, calls the Army base and tells them to send over more soldiers, that there is a party going on at the Conway house for them.  Before long, the house is filled with servicemen and their girlfriends, more of Janie's girlfriends, music, singing and dancing.  There are even plenty of wieners to eat and pop to drink.  Before long, the furniture is pushed aside and a long conga line forms.  Janie's quiet evening with Dick turns into the biggest and best party Hortonville has ever seen.

Lobby Card
But all good things must end, especially when the base commander shows up, followed by the police and then your parents.  But this is a light domestic romantic comedy, so all's well that end's well.

I watched Janie on a gloomy, rainy, chilly Sunday afternoon and it really was a fun thing to do.  It is a very fast paced film, and a lighthearted war movie.  Janie, played by Joyce Reynolds, is a bubbly teen, always up to things she would rather her parents didn't know about, like going off to a blanket party (a party where everyone brings their own blanket to sit on, to "smooch" with their boyfriends.  Janie speaks a mysterious lingo with her friends, really just the slang of the day, but it totally bewilders her dad.

This was definitely a feel good movie made for a war weary audience, released on September 2, 1944.  It was highly recommended by movie editors in magazines like Child Life, Calling All Girls and Life, having appeal for both adults and teens.  As much fun as Janie is, though, I can't say it reflects the life of the average American teenage girl in 1944.  And the feminist side of me did bristle somewhat at how boy crazy girls were portrayed.   

Originally a successful Broadway play, Janie was made into a movie by Warner Bros., and directed by Michael Curtiz, who had already won an Academy Award in 1944 for directing a film you may be familiar with called Casablanca.

Hattie McDaniel, another Academy Award winner for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind, plays April, the Conway's maid.  Unfortunately for this favorite talented woman, playing the role of a maid was the part she was always cast as during the war.

Other well known actors who appeared in Janie were Robert Hutton as Dick Lawrence, Edward Arnold as Charles Conway, and Ann Harding as Lucille Conway.  Ironically, it turns out that the irrepressible, but annoying younger sister Elsbeth was played by Clare Foley who made only two movies in her film career: Janie and the 1946 sequel Janie Gets Married.  I could not find any more information about her.

And here is some real trivia:  I used to watch reruns of the original Mickey Mouse Club when they were on late at night and I was still writing papers for grad school.  If you remember the Mickey Mouse Club and happen to catch Janie on TMC, see if you can find Jimmy Dodd, head Mouseketeer and song writer (Hint: he is an uncredited soldier during the party scenes).

This movie is recommended for viewers age 11+
This movie was watched onTurner Movie Classics (it isn't available on DVD yet, but runs pretty frequently on TV.

Enjoy the trailer for Janie after the annoying 30 second ad:

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8. Across a War-Tossed Sea by L.M. Elliott

It's September 1943 near Richmond, Virginia and Bishop brothers, Wesley, 10, and Charles, 14, have been living with the Ratcliff family for over three years now, after being evacuated from war-torn London.  And there is nothing Charles, called Chuck by his American family, would like more than to return home and do his bit for the war, but his parents still refuse to let him.  Besides, Wesley still has frequent nightmares about firebombs hitting their home during the Blitz and about the possibility of being torpedoed by Nazi submarines while crossing the U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic and Charles feels responsible for taking care of him when they happen.

The Ratcliffs are a large farming family.  Patsy, the only girl, is 16 and has a boyfriend named Henry flying missions overseas, next is Bobby, 15, who has become a great pal of Chuck's, followed by Ron, 12, Wesley's real nightmare, and lastly are the twins, Jamie and Johnny, 7.  The war is a constant presence in this novel, making it truly a home front story.

Life isn't always easy for the Bishop brothers.  Ron has always jumped at every opportunity to bully Wesley.  So when Wes ends up skipping two grades and, much to Ron's annoyance, lands in his 7th grade class, the bullying only intensifies.  Charles, who has become quite muscular from farm work, has made it onto the football team along with Bobby.  Everyone must help out on the farm and the work is long and difficult, because of a dWes has a fascination for Native Americans that he has read about and longs to meet one, but when he does, much to his surprise, Mr. Johns is nothing like what he expected.  Wes also befriends a young African American boy, and learns first hand about segregation and prejudice.

And Chuck must come to terms with his feelings about the German POWs that are brought into the area and used to help on the farms, and, ultimately, on the Ratcliff farm as well.  The more he sees them, the angrier he becomes and the more he wants to go home and help.  Chuck is also dealing with a crush he has on Patsy, which is especially hard on him, since he knows that her heart belongs to someone doing just what he wishes he could do.

Across a War-Tossed Sea follows the Bishop boys and the Ratcliff family through the year up to and a little beyond the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France in June 1944.  It is a nice home front book that gives a good idea of what life was like for people in the United States, interspersed with letters exchanged between the boys and their parents, giving the reader a good picture of life in England under siege.  In fact, this is really like a series of vignettes all connected to each other.

Given all the things that happened in this novel, I thought it was odd that after living with the Ratcliffs for over three years, the boys would feel like new arrivals and make the kind of mistakes that would most likely happen in their first year.  But that didn't diminish my feelings about the story.

I thought Across a War-Tossed Sea was an exciting, interesting, thought provoking novel documenting life on the home front and the adjustments that had to be made by everyone during World War II.  At the end of the book, there is a very informative Afterword giving a short recap of what was going on in Europe, the evacuation of children overseas that sometimes ended in tragedy and further explaining many of the things referred to in the novel, such as U-boats, V-bombs and secret air bases (a particularly amusing part of the novel, even though it involves a runaway German POW).

Across a War-Tossed Sea is a companion book to Across a War-Torn Sky, which follows what happens to Patsy Ratcliff's boyfriend, Henry Forester, after he is shot down over France on a flying mission for the Air Force.  And, bringing things full circle, they are both companion pieces to A Troubled Peace, and the end of the war.  Luckily, I have not read the two companion books yet, so I have them to look forward to.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an eARC received from Net Galley

Across a War-Tossed Sea will be available on April 1, 2014, meantime have a look at this very nicely done trailer:

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9. Molly Takes Flight by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes

Ever since the war began, Molly has been having a hard time dealing with all the changes it brought in her family.  Her dad is still in Europe with the army, her mom is busy with her Red Cross work, Jill has been volunteering at the Veteran's Hospital, even Ricky has a job mowing lawns in the neighborhood and younger brother Brad is off to camp every day.

Now, it is August and Molly is visiting her grandparents farm by herself for the first time.  Now, here with grandpa, grammy and the familiar smells of her grandmother's kitchen, it feels more like old times to Molly.  Until she realizes that her favorite Aunt Eleanor isn't there and when she asked where she is, Molly is told she is away, "as usual" according to grandpa.

But when Molly and grandpa return to the house after picking a melon from the garden, Aunt Eleanor is home.  Still, Molly's excitement that she will be able to do the same things with Aunt Eleanor this year that they have always done together on the farm quickly turns to disappointment when she is told that her aunt won't be home the next day.

Later that night, while stargazing, Aunt Eleanor tells Molly she has applied to join the WASPS, or Women Airforce Service Pilots, and that, if accepted, she will be testing and transporting planes for the Air Force, and even helping to train pilots.  Molly is not quite as happy about this as Aunt Eleanor would have liked.

Aunt Eleanor leaves early every morning, returning home at suppertime.  Molly spends the next few days alone, feeling lonely without her family at the farm,  angry at the war and now angry at her aunt, and maybe even a little jealous that she wants to spend Molly visit flying instead of with her.  Then, one night, Aunt Eleanor doesn't get home until Molly is already in bed.  When she goes in to see if Molly is awake, Molly's anger gets the best of her and she snaps at her aunt, accusing her of not caring about anything anymore, except flying.

The next morning, Aunt Eleanor wakes Molly up very early and tells her to get dressed.  In the car, when Molly asks where they are going, all she is told is that she'll see.  Arriving at the airfield, Molly and Aunt Eleanor walk over to the plane her aunt has been practicing with.  To her surprise, Molly is handed a helmet, told to put it one and the next thing she knows, she and Aunt Eleanor are flying over grandpa's farm.


Can Molly and Aunt Eleanor be reconciled, now that Molly has had a taste of the exhilaration that flying gives her aunt?

Molly Takes Flight is actually a very small book (just 47 pages), one of five separate short stories that were originally published by the Pleasant Company in 1998 about Molly McIntire, an American girl growing up in WWII (the stories has since been combined into a single book, one for each historical doll).

Written by Valerie Tripp, and illustrated by Nick Backes, who have done a number of the original American Girl stories together, Molly Takes Flight is a well written, well researched short story.   It follows the same format that all the stories about the American Girl historical dolls have - a story followed by several pages giving information about the main theme - in the case the WASP program begun in 1942 and organized by Jacqueline Cochran.

Stars also play an important part in this story.  Molly looks at the North Star each night, just as her dad told her to, and thinks about him.  And she and her aunt star gaze whenever Molly visits the farm.  At the end of Molly Takes Flight, there is a simple, but fun craft project for making a star gazer out of a round oatmeal container.

This copy of Molly Takes Flight is my Kiddo's original one, and it doesn't feel like that long ago we were reading it together, but now I have it put away with her Molly doll and her other American Girl books for the next generation, whenever that happens.  And even though Molly has been retired, her books are still available.

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

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10. Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

For Alfie Summerfield, the first five years of his life had been grand.  He was a happy little boy, and his dad and mum were happy with each other and with him.  His father, Georgie Summerfield, delivered milk and drove a milk float every morning pulled by a horse name Mr. Asquith.  It was Alfie's dream to some day be big enough to ride along side his dad and help.  Alfie's Granny Summerfield, who lived right across the street, always liked to come around for a bit of a gossip.  And Alfie had a best friend, Kalena Janáček, whose father came from Prague and ran the sweet shop.

But all this changed on Alfie's fifth birthday, because on July 29, 1914, World War I officially began and a few days later England joined in.   And even though he promised he wouldn't, Alfie's father immediately enlisted anyway.  Then, Mr. Janáček's store windows were broken and someone wrote on the shop door "No Spies Here!"  Soon enough, the government came and took father and daughter away to an internment camp on the Isle of Man.

At first, letters from Alfie's father arrive regularly, but then they begin to dwindle down and down and after two years, no more letters arrive.  Alfie's mum tells her son it is because his dad is on a secret mission for the government.  But times get hard and Mrs. Summerfield, who already takes in laundry, becomes a Queen's Nurse, which means most of the time Alfie is on his own.  And so, he decides it is time to do his bit.  He steals Mr. Janáček's prized shoe shine box, walks over to King's Cross Station and begins shining shoes three days a week (Alfie still attends school two days a week).

Then one day, almost four years after the war began, something amazing happens.  While shining the shoes of a doctor, the papers he is reading get blown out of his hands.   As he and Alfie scurry around King's Cross to retrieval the papers, Alfie discovers on one of them that his dad is alive and is in a hospital, the same one the doctor works at.  From that point on, Alfie decides that he is going to go get his dad and bring him home.  He is convinced that all that his dad really needs is to come home to recuperate and soon things will be happy again, just like they were before the war.  But on his first trip to the hospital, Alfie is not prepared for what he discovers.

Alfie is one of those quirky characters that Boyne seemed to write so well.  He reminded me a little bit of Barnaby Brocket (The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket) and he was certainly a more realistic 9 year old than was Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  It felt as though Boyne's third boy protagonist has more depth and is a more well developed character than the other two.

Georgie Summerfield is not a well developed as Alfie, but he in interesting nevertheless.   Georgie has the same blind enthusiasm for the war that so many young men had when it first began. The war, the government told them, would be over by Christmas, but by jingo, they didn't say which Christmas and four years later, the reader sees how Georgie's enthusiasm has spiraled down as he lives the realities of the trenches and then suffers the consequences of the enthusiasm.

I did think that the first three quarters of the novel did a really good job of presenting life during World War I on the home front, rather than the trenches, although there is some of that in Georgie's letters home.  The last quarter became a little preposterous, and the end a little predictable, but I thought other things made up for that.

Boyne addresses two issues in Stay Where You Are & Then Leave.  The first is that of conscientious objectors.  As enthusiastic as Georgie was to get into the war, his best friend Joe Patience feels just as strongly about not wanting to fight.  Joe is a compassionate person, who strongly believed that he was not put on earth to kill anyone cost him dearly - loss of lifetime friends, jail time, and beatings.  Boyne delicately presents it all at the same time as making the reader understand Joe's position.

The other issue is that of shell shock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it is called nowadays.  In the novel, the reader sees how skeptical people were about shell shock, believing it to be more cowardice than illness, until it hit home personally for them.  On Alfie's two visits to the hospital his dad is in, as he goes through the wards looking for him, Boyne gives us a very clear picture of what shell shock can do the a person's mind.  I think this part of the story will resonate with many of today's children whose loved one returned from Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from PTSD.

Though somewhat flawed, this is a nice book for anyone who is interested in historical fiction, and especially the impact of WWI on the people left at home.  And yes, you will discover the meaning of the title if you read the book.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an eARC received from Net Galley

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave will be available on March 25, 2014

A person who drives a milk float delivers milk to customers and in 1914 would be delivering it is something that looks like this:


This is my World War I book for my 2014 War Challenge with a Twist hosted by War Through the Generations.
This is book 6 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

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11. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, a Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

After I finished Speaking from Among the Bones, the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery, I had a hard time keeping myself from reading The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, especially since it was sitting on my eReader already, thanks to NetGalley.

And I already knew that although it was set in 1951, the mystery had something to do with WWII.  So, I caved…

When the previous book ended, Flavia de Luce, still 11, and her sisters Feeley (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne) had just received the stunning news from their father that their mother was coming home to Buckshaw.  Harriet de Luce had left on a hiking trip through the Himalayas a year after Flavia was born and had fallen to her death.  Now, her body has been found in an icy crevice and is being returned for burial.  And accompanying Harriet is none other than Winston Churchill.

Two odd things occur while Flavia is standing on the train platform after Harriet's coffin arrived accompanied by much pomp.  First there is Churchill whispering in her ear, cryptically asking if she have developed a taste for Pheasant Sandwiches yet, and second, just as a tall man whispers to her that the Gamekeeper is in jeopardy, he is pushed to his death on the train tracks.

Now, Flavia has two mysteries to solve while trying to sort out her feelings about the mother she never really got to know.  And on top of that, Flavia may have met her match when her younger, smart-as-a -whip cousin Undine arrives accompanied by her mother, Cousin Lena de Luce from Cornwall.

If you are a Flavia follower, you already know that Buckshaw, the rundown family estate owned by Harriet and bled dry by His Majesty's Board of Inland Revenue or the Forces of Darkness, as Flavia's father, Haviland de Luce, calls them, is up for sale, since no will of Harriet's was ever found.  So when Flavia gets the cockamamie idea that she can resurrect her dead mother through chemistry, the only thing she manages to accomplish is finding a copy of Harriet's until now missing will in a pocket before she must leave the room.  Can the will save Buchshaw from being sold?

It doesn't take Flavia long to figure out that Harriet didn't have an accidental fatal fall, but like the man on the station platform, she was pushed to her death.  Who pushed Harriet and why they did it add to the mystery of the cryptic Pheasant Sandwiches comment, discovering who the Gamekeeper is and why they are in jeopardy, who pushed the man off the platform and why.  And it all harkens back to World War II.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is a difficult book to properly review without giving too much of the mysteries away, even though by the time I finished reading, I realized that the mysteries were not the central part of the story, merely a vehicle for what was to come next.  Because Book #6 in the Flavia de Luce series is really a transition novel.

And while the mysteries aren't great, the tone of the book is much more serious than usual.  Cousin Undine and her antics happily provides some relief from that.  Undine starts out rather bratty, but ends up as a much better character and a bit of a foil for Flavia.  Which is good since Flavia is not her customary smart-mouthed self.

So, all of the open questions that have followed Flavia throughout the series are answered in this novel.  Flavia is just about ready to turn 12, and not only do we see Flavia changing, but her circumstances do too.  It is the end of the series?  No, indeed.  Bradley has 4 more Flavia de Luce books planned.

Even though The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches was not the usual Flavia mystery, it is still really good.  But, and it's a big BUT, I don't know that it would work well as a stand alone novel.  It might be better to read an earlier Flavia novel first, to get more information and a better feel for recurring characters and circumstances, even though now change is in  the air.

What will the future hold for our young heroine?  I can't wait to see what happens to Flavia de Luce once she turns 12.

This book is recommended for readers 14+
This book is an eARC received from NetGalley

This is book 2 of my 2014 Crusin' Through the Cozies Reading Challenge hosted by Socrates' Book Reviews
This is book 5 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry


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12. The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett

With the fall of France and the war becoming worse for Britain, it was time for the Lockwood children, 12 year old Cecily and Jeremy, 14, to leave London.  So it was off to Heron Hall, to their Uncle Peregrine Lockwood's estate, with their mother, Heloise.

Traveling on the train to the same village were groups of school children also being evacuated from London by the government.  These school children are taken to the town hall and as Cecily watches them leaving one by one with women who were to care for them for the duration, she asks her mother if they couldn't also have a child.  May Bright, 10, seems to fit the bill, despite her indifference towards Cecily.

Feeling powerless and picked on by her brother, Cecily wants someone that she can control and have power over.   But May is an independent child with a mind of her own.  And though she isn't impressed that her new luxurious surroundings at Heron Hall are more than she is accustomed to, it is the vast fields and woods that attract her.  And in among it all are the remains of Snow Castle, a once beautiful castle made of white marble, where she meets two young oddly dressed boys.  At first, believing they are evacuees running away from an unpleasant placement, it soon becomes apparent that something else is going on with these two boys.

When May and Cecily ask Uncle Peregrine about the castle, he begins to tell them, little by little each evening, the haunting story of Richard III, of his brother King Edward IV's death, of his two sons, the eldest of whom is next in line for the throne and how Richard had hidden the two boys in the Tower of London in order to make himself King.

Meanwhile, Jeremy, frustrated that he can't do anything to help the war effort but hid out in the country,   he wants so very much to make his mark on the world.  Each day, Jeremy reads the newspaper accounts of the war, becoming more and more exasperated that he is not there help.  And so one night, he runs away to London. There, he discovers a burning, war torn London that he could never have imagined.  Stunned by what he sees, feeling smaller than ever, Jeremy manages to do the very thing he sets out to do - help the war effort.  It is his coming of age moment and Jeremy returns to Heron Hall a very different boy.

No one can turn a phrase, creating a hauntingly brilliant story quite like Sonya Hartnett can. Gracefully creating lyrical phrases, and characters that are hard to forget as you begin to recognize parts of yourself in each of them.  There is spoiled, selfish Cecily, who, the reader thinks, will grow up to be just like her shallow, socialite mother, Heloise, but who surprises us so often; May, quiet and thoughtful, careful but unafraid, she becomes a favorite of Uncle Peregrine (kindred souls? maybe); Jeremy, on the cusp of becoming a young man and wanting to get there way too soon - all so realistically and captivatingly drawn.

The Children of the King is the story of the powerlessness of children and the people who want to control them - of the two princes at the hands of Richard III who craves power and control, of England's children at the hands of German bombs, sent by a dictator who also craves power and control.  But it is on a smaller scale that we see how little power and control others really have over us unless we let them.  Despite all Cecily's attempt at controlling May, she is the one who remains an independent spirit.  And it is by running away, that Jeremy discovers the power each of us has to change another person's life.

Just as she did in The Midnight Garden, Hartnett once again uses the device of magical realism and of a story within a story.  Here, they is used as a means of connecting past and present, reminding us that the past is never past, it lives in the present or as May tells the two boys in the castle "Everything is connected…We are here because you are here."And the dialectic that Hartnett creates in The Children of the King is just wonderful.

I should tell readers that there are a few graphic descriptions when Jeremy goes back to London, giving a sense of realism, but not graphic enough to scare away middle grade readers.  And one does not need to already know the story of Richard III to understand Uncle Peregrine's story, he weaves in enough of it for readers to understand it perfectly well.

I put off reading this novel because I was afraid that I would be disappointed.  The Midnight Garden was such a brilliant book, had Hartnett set her own bar too high?  No, the bar is high but The Children of the King is right up there.   But, in the end, all I can says is fans of Sonya Hartnett, rejoice!  To those who will be reading her for the first time with this novel, you are lucky ducks.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was and eARC from Net Galley

The Children of the King will be available on March 25, 2014

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13. Victory Through Kilowatts: Daylight Saving Time (The Most Wonderful Day of the Year - for me, anyway)

SPRING AHEAD

Tomorrow we go back on daylight saving time, with the exception of Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation which does observe DST), Hawaii and other overseas territories.  Not everyone welcomes Daylight Saving Time, but for people like me who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) it is the most wonderful time of the year.  And this winter has been a SAD winter of epic proportions, by now affecting even those who normally don't have SAD.

From: Wikimedia
But of course Daylight Saving wasn't instituted so that people with SAD could begin to feel better.  In fact, a dayligh saving scheme of sorts was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin, who observed 1- that each day the sun rose earlier and earlier and 2- that Parisians who stayed up late and slept late into the morning were wasting daylight in the morning and candles at night.  Around 1784, Franklin proposed a rather tongue in cheek idea of how Parisians could save candles and utilize daylight.  Remember, Franklin was the guy who gave up the adage  "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

From: Wikimedia
The next person to suggest saving daylight was an Englishman named William Willett in 1905.  Now it was Londoners who were observed sleeping late on beautiful summer mornings.  His idea was simply to advance the clock in the summer so it would be lighter longer and he wouldn't have to end his golf game so early when dusk came.  Willet's idea didn't meet with much support, though.

But, during World War I, the Germans decided to institute Sommerzeit (Daylight Saving) on April 30, 1916 as a means of saving coal for the war effort.  It didn't take long for the Britain and other Allied countries in Europe to follow the Germans.  Despite entering the war in 1917, the US, however, didn't change their clocks until 1918.

Changing clocks results in all kinds of problems in farming, manufacturing, railroad schedule, etc., so when World War I came to an end, Daylight Saving pretty much did as well - quickly.

From: Library of Congress
World War I
But soon the world found itself at war again and the idea of Daylight Saving came to the fore again.  In Britain, the clocks in winter were set one hour ahead of GMT(Greenwich Mean Time) and in the summer, they adopted British Double Summer Time or BDST, setting the clocks two hours ahead of GMT (and I must confess, an idea that has a great deal of appeal to me).

In the US, President Roosevelt signed a law the created "War Time" which would advance time by one hour for the duration of the war.  War Time lasted from February 9, 1942 until September 30, 1945.  The aim was to save energy in order to speed up war production and it was estimated that 736,282,000 kilowatt hours of electricity for the war.  In fact, at the end of the war, it was estimated that 4,800,000,000 kilowatt hours were saved.  I don't know much about kilowatts, but I guess this is a pretty impressive amount.

While War Time ended, Daylight Saving didn't.  It continued in a haphazard manner until 1966, when President Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act.  This made the beginning and end of DST uniform in the states that chose to observe it.  DST began the last Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday in October.

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act which changes the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time again.  Since then, there have been a few other changes, but now we spring forward the second Sunday in March, and my fellow SAD sufferers, more daylight is ours until the first Sunday in November.

From: Library of Congress
World War I
If Daylight Saving Time is about to begin, can Spring be far behind, despite the forcast of more snow and cold next week?

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14. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

When the United States went to war in 1941, a lot of people immediately signed up to serve their country.  After all, they were Americans and their country was now in peril.  And so millions of Americans went to war to fight to defend the freedoms they enjoyed so much.  African Americans signed up to defend their country as well, but things weren't quite the same for them.  Instead of receiving the honor and respect they deserved, African Americans faced the same discrimination and segregation in the armed forces that they had lived with in civilian life.  And, naturally, they were given the lowest jobs available.  In the Navy, that usually meant serving in the mess as a cook or being on permanent clean up detail.

But in 1943, the Navy sent a group of African Americans to Port Chicago in northern California.  There, they loaded huge cargoes of ammunition onto waiting ships.  The men immediately noticed that only African Americans were doing this potentially dangerous job, although they had to be supervised by white Naval officers, since the Navy didn't have an black officers.

Then, on July 17, 1944 at 10:18 PM, as a second shift of men were loading the ammunition, an explosion occurred that was felt for miles around and which killed 320 men instantly.  Among that number were 202 African Americans.  At first, everyone thought the explosion was an enemy attack, but they soon realized what had happened.

A few weeks after being moved to another port, the surviving men were ordered back to loading ammunition.  Afraid of what had happened to their friends at Port Chicago, 258 African American sailors refused to obey the order.  In fact, they were willing to obey any other order, but that one.   After being told to pack their gear, they were crowded onto a prison barge.  Eventually, most of the men would return to their jobs.  In the end, 50 sailors would be charged with mutiny and court marshaled.  And in the trial that followed, they would be found guilty, even though it was clear that the trial was biased, the judge taking the word of the white officers over that of the black sailors.

NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall watched the trial closely and when the guilty verdict was announced, immediately started preparing an appeal.  And though the appeal was not successful, the 50 sailors were eventually returned to active service, though they carried the stigma of mutiny throughout their lives.

And yet, Steven Sheinkin contends, these 50 sailors did more for changing the civil rights of African Americans serving their country than they are given credit for, eventually helping to remove the practice of discrimination and segregation in ALL branches of the armed services.

Sheinkin has done it again.  First with Bomb: the Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, now with The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights.  The moment I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.  Sheinkin has once again written an exciting nonfiction narrative about a little know part of American history.  In The Port Chicago 50, he brings to life many of the men involved, especially Joe Small, whom the Navy considered to be the ringleader of the mutiny.  You will meet other unforgettable men in this book, some heroic, some a bit scoundrelly.   But they will all rivet you to their story.

As with all good nonfiction, there are plenty of photographs throughout the book, along with the names of each of the 50 sailors listed in the front matter.  Back matter includes extensive source notes, as well as works cited, a list of oral histories and documentaries used and the records of the U.S. Navy regarding the Port Chicago explosion and subsequent trial.

The Port Chicago 50 is a well written, well documented addition to the history of African Americans, their history of the Navy and the history of Civil Rights and a book not to be missed.

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

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15. The Great Escape by Megan Rix

Robert Edwards, 12, and sister Lucy, 9, love their three pets - rambunctious Jack Russell terrier Buster, older, wiser sheepdog Rose, and Tiger, a marmalade cat who loves his creature comforts.  But now, it is September 1939, war has been declared and London might be unsafe once it really gets under way.   Mr. Edwards is a reconnaissance pilot for the RAF and Mrs. Edwards is a nurse on a floating hospital on the Thames.  And so, the children are to be evacuated to their grandmother's in Devon.  This is the farm where Rose used to herd sheep before the children's grandfather died suddenly and it is a place that Rose longs to return to.

But before Robert and Lucy travel to Devon, it is decided that neighbor Mrs. Harris will keep their pets for which she will receive some remuneration unbeknownst to her husband.  Trouble is, Mr. Harris doesn't like animals and resents the money needed to feed and care for the pets when he could be spending it in the pub.  And so, it is off to the animal shelter to have them put down behind his wife's back.

The line is long and before they get inside, the animals manage to escape from Mr. Harris and run away.  Now that they are on their own, where to go?  Rose seems to have an idea, but it is a long way home.

Believing their pets are safe and well cared for, Robert and Lucy arrive in Devon, only to be met by their grandmother's neighbors, the Fosters.  Their grandmother hasn't been acting right lately, and the Fosters thought it would be better for Robert and Lucy to stay with them.

As the children settle in with the Fosters, Buster, Rose and Tiger begin their long trek across southern England in the direction of Devon.  Learning to work as a team, they manage to find enough to eat most of the time, but as the weather gets colder, the trip becomes harder and harder.  Along the way, each animal is caught and cared for by someone, until they decide it is time to rejoin their companions and resume their trip west.

Will the children and pets ever be safely and happily reunited?

The Great Escape is a heartwarming, exciting novel.  It is an adventure story about courage, survival and loyalty.  And not just the loyalty of pets to their owners, but of friends and family to each other and to their pets, as well.

The story reminded me somewhat of Robert Westall's book Blitzcat, about a black cat that goes looking for its true human, a pilot in the RAF during WW2.  But unlike Blitzcat, The Great Escape alternates between the animal's journey, the children struggling to adjust to new circumstances especially to their new school and their grandmother's increasing dementia, their friend Michael, who has been allowed to remain in London and help his father with his activities at NARPAC (National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee) and who is frantic over the disappearance of his friend's pets.  Michael is also an animal lover and is upset at the growing number of pets that are not roaming the streets of London or being put down by people frightened by rumors that when the Nazis invade, they will infect the animals with rabies.

Part of Rix's purpose in The Great Escape is to make readers aware of the fate of these wartime animals.  She writes in her Afterword that over 400,000 cats and dogs are put down with only 4 days time at the start of the war.  Ironically, by Christmas, there was a shortage of dogs that could be trained for search and rescue purposes once bombing began.  You can guess that Rix is an animal lover in the same vein as Robert, Lucy and Michael.

The Great Escape is a perfect novel for any animal lover and perhaps an eye opener for those folks who might no love animals as much.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

I have only come across one other story for young readers about NARPAC in WW2 and that was in an old Girl's Own Annual, Volume 62, published circa 1940 and called Nancy and NARPAC by Phyllis Matthewman.  If anyone knows of other NARPAC stories for young readers, I would appreciate hearing about it.

A list of Megan Rix's Top 10 Wartime Animal Books can be found HERE 


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16. Escape from Berlin by Irene N. Watts

Escape from Berlin is an omnibus of three of novels, each of which had been previously published by Irene N. Watts, and have now been reprinted for the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport on December 1, 2013.

The Kindertransport was a short-lived program that rescued 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany and other occupied countries in the 9 months before the outbreak of WWII.  Arranged by British Jews and Quakers, the Kindertransport began on December 1, 1938, spurred on by the devastation of Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938 when Jewish stores, building and synagogues, as well as Jewish homes and schools were destroyed and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The first novel, Good-bye, Marianne, tells the story of Marianne Kohn, 11.  It begins on a day shortly after Kristallnacht, when she arrives at school dreading a math test, only to find herself locked out of the building with no explanation.  Her father, a book seller, has already disappeared and she and her mother don't know where he is.  They later find out that he was picked up on Kristallnacht and had escaped on his way to a concentration camp and has been living in hiding ever since.  Mrs. Kohn volunteers at an orphanage and one day tells Marianne that the orphans are being allowed to leave Germany and go to foster families in England.

Now that she isn't in school, Marianne becomes friends with Ernest, who is visiting the landlady of the Kohn's building with his mother, and who can't wait to be old enough to join the Hitler Youth.  Eventually, the Kohn's are told that Jews can no longer live in their apartment and must move out.

As luck would have it, one of the children is unable to travel with this first Kindertransport and Mrs. Kohn secures the spot for Marianne, who really doesn't want to go, but agrees to for her mother's sake.  Just as the train is leaving Berlin, Marianne is asked to look after a little girl.  Sophie Mandel, 7, and Marianne bond during the trip, but lose track of each other once they are in England and sent to different families.

Remember Me is the second novel and it follows Marianne's life as an refugee in England.  And life with the Abercrombie Jones' is anything but pleasant, despite their wealth.  Their goal for Marianne, whom they now call Mary Anne, is to become a servant once she turns 14.  She is given a cold room in the servants area and is expected to help out Gladys, their present servant, with various chores as part of her training.  Mrs. Abercrombie Jones criticizes everything about Marianne, even her German accent.  In addition, she has no regard for the fact that Marianne is Jewish and forces her to go to church and eat pork.

But at school, Marianne meets Bridget O'Malley and soon the girls are good friends and concocting a plan for bringing Marianne's parents to England, making flyers to slip under doors in the hope someone will need her mother's services.  Soon though, Bridget will be going to another school and the girls dread being separated, until some luck comes Marianne's way and she is offered a scholarship to the same school.

But Marianne and Bridget are finally separated when they are evacuated because of war.  Marianne is sent to Wales, where she is first placed in a Methodist home for unwed mothers.  But she is cast out when they discover she is Jewish.  Next, Marianne is sent to a family that has just lost a daughter and see Marianne as a replacement, even changing her name.  When their delusion is broken, they, too, turn on her.  Fortunately, Mr. Evans, in charge of billeting evacuees, likes Marianne very much, but he must find another place for her, which turns out to be a wonderful surprise for her.

Finding Sophie begins with Sophie Mandel, now 14 years old, filling in for the reader what had happened to her immediately after parting from Marianne in 1938, as well as recalling memories of her life in Germany before she left on the Kindertransport.  Lucky Sophie went to live with her mother's old friend, Aunt Em and was loved and well taken care throughout the war.  After 6 years living in England, Sophie has become fully assimilated to life there.

But now that the war is almost over, Sophie is afraid she will be sent back to live with her parents in Germany, whom she no longer thinks about very much, and realizes she doesn't even remember how to speak  German.  Now she must struggle with the guilt of not wanting to leave England and Aunt Em.

On VE day, May 8, 1945, as Sophie and her best friend Mandy wait in front of Buckingham Palace with thousands of other people waiting for the Royal family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill to come out, she notices a young nurse looking at her oddly and has a strange sensation she know the nurse.

In alternating chapters, the reader also catches up with Marianne, now a young women in nurses' training.  She also thought she recognized someone on VE day at Buckingham Palace.  As it turns out, Sophie is a Junior Red Cross volunteer at a hospital, and one Saturday, she is put on a different floor, where she and Marianne finally recognize each other.  Sophie has some difficult times ahead of her now that the war is over, and Marianne and her still best friend Bridget provide the understanding moral support young Sophie needs now.

These three interwoven stories give the reader such a good picture of what the Kindertransport was like for these young refugees.  Some were welcomed with open arms, others faced the same kind of racism and hate they had experienced in their homeland, still other, like Marianne, were seen a free labor.  All three stories are realistically and poignantly written.  Watts was part of the first Kindertransport at the same age as Sophie, and perhaps that is why she was able to capture so palpably the fear and reluctance   Marianne and Sophie felt leaving their homes and parents for the unknown.

Each of the books in Escape from Berlin were previously published as stand alone novels, but I think reading them together gives a much clearer, deeper appreciation of what Marianne and Sophie went through.  Finding Sophie is much more of a coming of age story than either Good-bye, Marianne and Remember Me because she is so young when she arrives in England and at just the right age of finding out who she really is when the war ends.

Escape from Berlin is a book that will appeal to anyone who like good historical fiction and I highly recommend it.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was an E-ARC received from NetGalley

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17. No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler

No long ago it was announced that the Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who had hold out 29 years in the Philippine jungle, refusing to believe that WWII had ended and that Japan had lost the war, passed away at 91 years old.  But Onoda wasn't the only holdout.  Soichi Yokoi was stationed on Guam when the war ended, but he also refused to believe that Japan had lost the war and hid out in an dug out underground cave for 28 years.  He had refused to surrender, believing he has dishonored the Emperor.  He was discovered in 1972 while fishing in the Talofofo River by two hunters.

It is 1972 and Kiko Chargalauf, a 15 year old Charmorro boy who must suddenly deal with a lot of things in his life.  His older brother Sammy, who he has always looked up to, is off flying dangerous missions in Vietnam for the US Air Force; his parents have recently bought a tourist souvenir shop and must work long and hard to try and make a success of it; and his grandfather is slowly succumbing to Lytico-Bodig,    a disease occurring only in Guam, it is similar to Alzheimer's disease.  And on top of all these troubles, Kiko has a crush on a girl named Daphne, but is too scared to ask her out.

At the same time, not far from Kiko's home, a WWII Japanese soldier has been hiding out for 28 years, his body bent from living is a cramped underground cave.  Though he hates the idea of giving up, Isamu Seto wants to escape his cave, where he is haunted by the ghosts of his two fallen comrades and tries to comfort himself with childhood memories, though the voice of his father telling him he is weak and can't do anything right constantly intrudes on his thoughts.

When Kiko sees his grandfather attacking a Japanese man, he inadvertently learns that his mother had been raped by a Japanese soldier during WW2.  As Kiko's anger intensifies, Seto begins to make mistakes, leaving indications that he is hiding out in the jungle.  But though the Charmorro's are accustomed to finding "stragglers" there, Kiko becomes more suspicious and more interested than usual - providing a perfect opportunity for avenging his mother's rape.

In No Surrender Soldier, Christine Kohler has drawn from Yokoi's story to create an historical fiction  novel in which she manages to seamlessly blend fact and fiction, exploring the wide-ranging thoughts, feelings and emotions of both Kiko and Seto.  The chapter alternate between Kiko and Seto, with Kiko's told in the first person using internal and external dialogue to move his story along.  Seto's story is told in the third person, mostly using internal thoughts and memories.  But the form highlights their parallel doubts, fears and feeling of unworthiness.  I thought it was an interesting choice, but one that makes it definitely Kiko's story.  After all, it is an coming of age novel, though in an odd way, Seto also comes of age.

I found Kiko to be an engaging narrator and I think you will find him to be a very likable teen struggling with issues not so different from today's teens.  I found myself feeling pity and sadness for Seto for wasting 28 years of his life living in an underground tunnel so small, he couldn't even stand up.  I began to feel claustrophobic while reading Seto's chapters.  It wasn't to the point that I ever wanted to put the book down but I could palpably feel the cramped, narrowness of his entire life.

This is a debut YA novel for Kohler and she has clearly done some intensive research, not just about stragglers, but about life on Guam in 1972.  She portrays the culture and customs of the Charmorro people with sensitivity and thoughtfulness.  There is one rather graphic scene where Kiko and his grandfather slaughter a pig for a saint's day celebration, but raise pigs for food is/was part of the life of Charmorro people.

No Surrender Soldier is an unusual, compelling, well written novel that should resonate with today's young readers despite the historical setting.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was provided by the author

This is book 3 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

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18. 2014 Black History Month


February is Black History Month and this year's theme is Civil Rights in America.  Yesterday, when I went to pick up the new book I had on hold at the library, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin, I started thinking about the all of the excellent books I have read depicting the experience of African American men, women and children during World War II.

It has been said that the African American men and women who served and worked on the home front and combat fronts in World War II helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  Their fight for equality is often referred to as The Double Victory Campaign because they were fighting  racism at home and fascism overseas.  In 1997, the Department of Defense created this video documenting the contributions of African Americans in WW2 even as they faced discrimination and disrespect.  Narrated by James Earl Jones, it includes oral histories from some of the combat veterans still living at that time.  It is 1 hour long, but it is well worth watching.



Here are some of the books I have reviewed that you may find interesting after watching African Americans in World War II: A Legacy of Patriotism and Valor:

The Double Victory Campaign: African Americans and World War II by Michael Cooper
A history of African American men and women who fought for victory for their country and for their own equality at home and in the armed services in WWII.

Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach
How the Double Victory Campaign was also waged on the home front and in the Women;s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) by women in WWII.

The story of America's first black paratroopers.



Of the 26 stories, one is the fascinating story about the wartime spying done by Josephine Baker, an African American entertainer living in France.

I include this book because on of the choices readers can make is to become a Tuskegee Airman.


Jump into the Sky by Shelly Pearsall
A nice companion novel to Courage Has No Color, about a boy whose father in a Triple Nickels.

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis
A novel about a woman who became part of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion and the only African American women who served overseas.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
A novel about a young African American women who wants to the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots), but it is only open to white women.  She gets accepted by passing for white, but eventually problems arise.

 Caleb's War by David L. Dudley   
A young African American boy faces discrimination even as he befriend a white German POW is has more freedom that he does.


Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson
A picture book about a boy who dreams of flying and grows up to become a Tuskegee Airman.

Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson
In this beautiful picture, a young girl awaits the return of her mother who has gone North to work on the railroad because of the shortage of male workers who have gone to war.



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19. A Family Secret by Eric Heuvel

Eric Heuvel's first book, The Search, told the story of Esther Hecht and her parents during the Holocaust.  Esther was the only one family member to survive and she had moved to the United States after the war ended.  But she always wondered what happened to her best friend Helena Van Dort.  Although Helena wasn't a Jew, Esther never knew if she had survived the war or not.

In A Family Secret, the reader already knows that Helena did survive if the reader has read The Search.  But Helena has never spoken to anyone abut about that happened during the Holocaust in the Netherlands, and especially not about her friend Esther or her father, a collaborator.

Now, though, her grandson Jeroen wants to look in her attic for things to sell at the flea market to celebrate Dutch Queen's Day on April 30th.  Going through all the things that have accumulated in the attic, Jeroen comes across some old items from the 1930s and 1940s - a yellow star with Jood (Jew) on it, old newspapers from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, an old scrapbook of newspaper cutting from before and during the war, and an old photograph of two young girls - his grandmother and a girl named Esther.

Downstairs, Jeroen asks about these items and his grandmother begin to tell him about her experiences during the war.  In a series of flashbacks, she tells him about how, when the people in her building discovered that a Jewish family from Germany was about to move in, there was grumbling by some that the Dutch borders should have been closed to refugees.  But as soon as Helena meets Esther Hecht, the two girls become best friends.

As their friendship grows, Esther tells Helena more and more about how things are in Germany, beginning in 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor and started blaming the Jews for Germany's problems.  The more he blamed the Jews, the more anti-Semitic Germany became.  Laws were passed limiting Jewish activity and depriving Jews of their livelihood, their education, their privileges and their civil rights.  Luckily, Esther's father had a friend in Holland who sponsored their move to Amsterdam.

But when Germany invades Poland in 1939 and war is declared, everything changes in Holland, as well.  The Hechts try to flee again, but are turned back.  Helena's father had been a policeman, but when Germany invades the Netherlands in 1940, he begins working for the Nazis, even joining the Dutch Nazi Party.  Helena's brother Theo is also a strong supporter of the Nazis and joins the Wehrmacht when Hitler tries to invade Russia.  Her other brother, Wim, takes the opposite path and joins the Dutch Resistance.

On the day that Esther's parents are rounded up with other Jews, Esther is at school.  Helena's father is in charge of the roundup and tells Mr. Hecht he will wait for Esther to come home and bring her to her parents on the transport.  But, after an argument with Helena about what he has done, her father storms out of the house to look for Esther.

When he returns, he refuses to talk about what and Helena never knew what Esther's fate, whether she had died in the Holocaust or not.  Helena spent her life ashamed of her father's collaboration and always wondering about Esther.

Jeroen finally finds enough stuff to sell for Dutch Queen's Day on April 30th, and on May 4, he goes to see his grandmother again.  Helena had wanted to attend a Memorial Day Service, but she had sprained her ankle and so Jeroen goes in her place.

While there, a women tells about how she survived the Holocaust and during her story, she mentions her best friend Helena.  Jeroen recognizes parts of what she says and introduces himself to her.

And you know from The Search, it is Esther and she and Helena are reunited.

Just as he did in The Search, Heuvel doesn't hold back in A Family Secret, creating another graphic novel that is sensitive and dynamic but also factual.  There is really no surprise ending in either of the novels and, the reader knows from the start that the two friends meet again and even if you didn't read it, the ending of both novels is really predictiable.  What is interesting and important in these two graphic novels are the two different sides of the girl's experiences under the Nazis and the authentic information that Heuvel provides while telling Esther and Helens's stories.

Graphic novels have become such excellent vehicles for histocial fiction, and have evolved so much since they first gainted in popularity, making them a great way to introduce young readers to the difficult subject like the Holocaust.

Eric Heuvel is a first rate cartoonist but I believe that to date, A Family Secret and The Search are the only works of his translated into English.  His graphics are very clear and well done, and leave no room for ambiguity as to who is who or what time period he is depicting.  And the same translator of The Search, Lorraine T, Miller, has also once again proiduced an excellent translation from the original Dutch that totally supports the illustrations.

A Family Secret and The Search are two graphic novels that shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in the Holocaust.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was borrowed from the library at Bank Street School

There is a helpful Teacher's Guide PDF available for The Search, A Family Secret and Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures for use together or separately.


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20. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

I have absolutely no real  justification for reviewing this book here at The Children's War except that I read it, I loved, I can't believe I waited this long to read a Flavia de Luce novel, and if I really want to push the envelope, I could say it is a nice post-war mystery.  But I am reviewing it mostly because I am participating in the 2014 Crusin' with the Cozies Reading Challenge and didn't have a true WWII mystery on hand.

Speaking From Among the Bones begins in Spring 1951 and the rural English village of Bishop's Lacey is still trying to recover from the war.  Now, it is about to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of St. Tankred, their patron saint and the namesake of the villages CofE church, where he is buried.  And to celebrate, the saint is going to be exhumed from his tomb.  Naturally, Flavia de Luce, 11, amateur sleuth, is very curious to see the body of the saint when the tomb is open.

But before that happens, the church organist goes missing and Flavia's older sister, Feeley (short for Ophelia) is called in to substitute until he returns.  But Feeley has been complaining that the organ has been sounding wonky lately.  When Flavia shows up at the church to investigate the wonky sound in the organ, she arrives just in time for the exhumation.  Naturally, she sticks around.

So, when St. Tankred's tomb won't open easily, it is Flavia who is the only one small enough to crawl in to see why it is stuck.  And what she finds is the organist, Mr. Collicott, dead and wearing an old wartime gas mask.  But who and why would anyone want to kill someone as ordinary as a church organist.

At the same time that Flavia is working on the mystery of Mr. Collicott's murder, things in her own life have become very unstable, and there is a good chance she could lose her beloved first-rate chemistry lab and library left by her Uncle Tar.  The de Luce's live in an enormous old manor called Buckshaw, left to Flavia's mother, Harriet.  Flavia lived in the west wing, while her father, sister Feeley and Daffy live in the east wing.  Harriet has been missing for years now after a skiing accident in the Alps when Flavia was a baby, and the government is bleeding her father financially dry with inheritance taxes, which has caused him to sink into a severe depression" "His Majesty's Board of Inland Revenue had done to Father what the Empire of Japan had failed to do.  They had caused him to give up hope."

Of course, things get more and more complicated as Flavia goes around on her bicycle named Gladys, trying to piece together the mystery of Mr. Collicut's murder, and trying to ignore all the problems at home.  And along the way, she discovers some information about her missing mother's past.  There are also real some other surprises in store for Flavia, but none like the one at the end of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book so much, so why, oh why did I wait so long to get to know Flavia?  An 11 year old who loves chemistry, poisons being her speciality.  Talk about intelligent, eccentric and precocious, a natural born busy-body, and yet so likable.  Totally appealing to a girl who cut her mystery reading teeth on Nancy Drew and moved on from there.

Speaking From Among the Bones is the 5th Flavia mystery in the series.  Amazingly enough, it really stands alone.  The author, Alan Bradley, has managed to write a book that includes just enough information about the past so that you can go back and read the other four novels without having had them spoiled, yet you have enough background to understand this book.

And although the Flavia mysteries are marketed as adult books, they are the kind of mystery that has a great deal of teen-appeal, and maybe even some precocius pre-teens would enjoy them.

I liked Speaking From Among the Bones so much, that I immediately bought the first 4 novels to catch up (I already have Number 6 on my e-reader, thanks to NetGalley) and I have never ever done that before.  I think that with the exception of the Dorothy Sayer's Peter Wimsey mysteries, the Flavia de Luce mysteries are English eccentricity at its finest.

This book is recommended for readers 14+
This book is and E-ARC received from NetGalley

This is book 1 of my 2014 Crusin' Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge hosted by Socrates' Book Reviews

This is book 2 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

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21. Susan Marcus Bends the Rules by Jane Cutler

It all happened because of the war.  If it hadn't been for the war, Susan Marcus's dad wouldn't have lost his job when his boss's son was killed in action.  And Susan wouldn't have had to move to St. Louis, Missouri because of her dad's new job, leaving behind her best friend Marv and his sister Rose in the Bronx, probably never to see them again.

And when they got to St. Louis, it didn't seem like their were any kids on her new block until one day there was knock on the door, a girl her age bearing a plate of homemade welcome cookies.  Marlene lives just down the street from Susan, with her mother and little sister Liz and her two grandmothers.  Now friends, Susan and Marlene begin playing together, except when Marlene is off with her other friends.  That's when Susan meets Loretta, the black girl who secretly lives in the basement with her mother in Susan's building.  Secretly, because Jim Crow laws forbide blacks and whites to live in the same building.  And before long, Susan learns the Loretta's mother Irene is pretending to be Luther, the building's janitor.  But as Susan's father explains, it's hard to find a place to live because of the war, so mum's the word about Irene.

Summer in St. Louis is hot and sticky.  One day,  Loretta invites Marlene and Susan into her makeshift home in the basement where it remains cool and comfortable.  The three girls become secret friends and often play games there.  One hot Sunday, Susan, her parents, Marlene and Liz head over to the town swimming pool.  Before they leave, Susan asks if Loretta can come along.  Her dad says no, but he will explain later.  A week later, Susan remembers to ask about that day and learns about Jim Crow.

Jim Crow makes her angry, and she wants to do something but what?  Meantime, Susan also feels the bite of prejudice when one of Marlene's grandmothers makes disparaing remarks about Susan's family being Jewish.  Now, Susan is even more determined to do something.

The three girls concoct a plan that isn't exactly against Jim Crow laws, it just bends them a little by doing something that people just don't do.  The buses in St. Louis are integrated to the point where people can sit anyplace they want.  But by what might be called silent mutual agreement, blacks and whites never sit together.  The plan is to ride side by side: Marlene, Loretta, Susan.  And they plan to integrate one restaurant - the small Chinese restaurant that Susan and her parents liked to eat in after going to the movies.

But when the girls witness just how cruel and dangerous hated can be, have they biten off more than they can chew with their plan?

For the most part, I like Susan Marcus Bends the Rules.  I liked the idea of bending not breaking the law in this case, because breaking could have had some serious consequences and not by law enforcement.  This is a mild, though engaging novel, long on period details.  Just hanging out and talking, roller skating, playing monopoly and jacks are all things girls did back in 1943.  Not having to worry about blackout curtains or air raid sirens because the enemy would never get as far as the middle of the country to bomb it where also nice touches that I have forgotten about.  Men sittting around listening to ball games on the radio, while women playing bridge, kids not being closely watched as they are today also added to the historical realism of the novel.

I thought the characterization of Susan worked, but her family and friends were not terribly well fleshed out.  They felt very two dimentional to me and are what I think of as 'functional characters' - existing for the purpose of moving Susan's story along, but not really developed themselves.  I should mention, despite this, the characterization of Loretta was well handled and avoided the usual stereotypical depiction of African American.  She and her mother may have been poor, but they didn't speak in a dialect that was incomprehensible and seems to be the way people believe all African Americans spoke in the past.

I thought it was interesting that the strongest expressions of hate and bigotry in the novel is against the Chinese people who owned the restaurant and others who owned the Chinese Laundry and who were mistaken for being Japanese.  I would have expected to see it against the Loretta because she is African American or even Susan because she is a Jewish girl from New York (with an accent she is trying to lose), particulary since it is Jim Crow laws they are bending.  Too confusing for young readers?  Maybe, but it would work nicely in school as a supplemental text about WW2.  It could help begin lots of conversations about life on the home front.

In the long run, Susan Marcus Bends the Rules has enough merit to recommend it and will probably be very well liked by the age group it is meant for.

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

This book is supposed to be available in March 2014 but it appears to be available now.

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22. I Survived #9: I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 by Lauren Tarshis

Living inside the Jewish ghetto in Esties, Poland is difficult for everyone, but especially for Max Rosen, 11, and his younger sister Zena.  Their mother had died a while ago, and then, the Nazis had taken away their father in the middle of the night.  The children are scared and hungry.  Before she disappeared, his Aunt Hannah had told Max not to let the Nazis take his hope away, too, but that is pretty hard to keep hold of now.

When Max and Zena noticed a bush full of ripe raspberries just outside the barbed wire fence that surrounded the ghetto, they couldn't resist them.  But they couldn't reach any, so, with the coast clear of any Nazi soldiers,  Max decides to slip under the barbed wire just for a moment to get some berries for Zena.  And those berries are good, right up until the moment that a Nazi soldier points his rifle at Max's head.

Barking commands, the Nazi marches Max away from the ghetto.  On the way, Max and the soldier hear a noise and both realize that Zena is following them.  When the soldier aims his rifle at her, Max, with sudden, angry strength, throws himself at the soldier, who falls and gets shot in the leg when his rifle goes off.  Max and Zena take off as quickly as they can run.

They decide to rest in a wheat field, but are woken up by a farmer with a rifle, who orders Max and Zena to follow him.  But the farmer has kind look in his eye and tells them they have to go, the Nazis will be searching the area soon, a train load of supplies had been blown up that night and they were angry and  looking for the people who did it.  He feeds them, then takes them to his hayloft, where there is a secret compartment for them to hide in.

Sure enough, the Nazis arrive, bringing their vicious dog to sniff out anyone hiding.  But the farmer seems to be on good terms with them and, after they do a cursory search, he manages to get the Nazis out of the barn.

Shortly after they drive off the farmer lets the kids out of their hiding place and, what a surprise, after he removes two planks of wood, out step three shadowy figures, each with a rifle over their shoulder.  Surprised, Max realizes that they are the men who blew up the train.  But that isn't the only surprise these resistance fighters have for Max and Zena.

I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 is the 9th book in the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis.  Like its eight predecessors, it is intentionally told from the point of view of a young person, much like the one who would be reading this book.  Though he is often afraid and confused by what is happening, Max is, nevertheless, a nice role model of strength and resilience in the face of fear and danger for readers of this book.  And a great older brother, always conscious of having to watch out for and protect his younger, still impetus sister.

But the other part of this story are the partisans.  What courageous people, to risk everything, to live in secrecy in the forests and woods of Europe in order to help thwart the Nazis.

I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 is chapter book with very fast-paced action.  There is some violence in the novel, but it is kept to a minimum and not terribly graphic.  This is historical fiction, but when I read the part of the title that says "the Nazi Invasion, 1944" and then discovered that Max and Zena were living in a ghetto in Poland, I was sent back to my history books.  I thought all the ghettos were liquidated by 1943, but it turns out the some ghettos in Poland were actually converted to concentration camps until the people in them could be moved to a death camp.  So, I did, indeed, learn something new in this novel.

The novel is well-written, the characters fleshed out mostly by Max's memories of what life was like before the Nazis invaded, so we also get to know what his father and his Aunt Hannah were like back then.  There are some coincidences in the story, which I never find realistic, even though I know they do happen...occasionally.

This is a nice book for young readers who like historical fiction, who are interested in WWII and who may be learning about the Holocaust in school.  There is a nice, age appropriate Holocaust and World War II timeline, as well as a list of resources for readers who may want more information, and includes a link to the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation where you can read about what real Jewish partisans did to sabotage the Nazis, a resource I used all the time.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was received as an E-ARC from Netgalley 

This book will be available February 25, 2014

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23. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

We are used to the idea of young people going through an identity crisis, but imagine what it must be like for 60 year old Sookie Poole of  Point Clear, Alabama when it happened to her.  And it wasn't just because she finally got all three daughters through their weddings and was faced with empty nest syndrome.

Instead, Sookie's crisis came first in the form of a phone call, followed by an envelope addressed to her mother, Mrs. Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, from the Texas Office of Public Health Services.  In it, was a letter from a woman in Mexico, and some medical records and...Sookie's adoption papers.  Adopted?  Sookie is floored.

And she does not want to deal with this.

But eventually, circumstances, her husband Earle's support and her own curiosity lead Sookie on a journey of discovery that takes her back to Stanislaw Jurdabralinski, a Polish Catholic immigrant who settled in Pulaski Wisconsin in 1909, married a woman named Linka and had one son, Wencent called Wink, and four daughters, Fritzi, twins Gertrude and Tula, and lastly, Sophie.  Well, Stanislaw Jurdabralinski opened a filling station in Pulaski in the 1920s called Winks Phillips 66 and all the children had to help out.  They were a family that couldn't be any more different than the "genteel" Krackenberry's, who belonged to only the "right" organizations and only socialized with the best people.  And yet, it was a world Sookie never felt at home in.

Back to the Jurdabralinskis. In the 1930s, flying was still quite a novelty and skywriting was a popular way to advertise.  In 1938, the people of Pulaski were expecting a skywriter and cleared land behind Winks Phillips 66 for the plane to land.  When Billy Bevins finally arrives, it is quite special, but then he asks Fritzi out for a date and flies her to Milwaukee.  Fritzi is imediately hooked on flying and soon she is flying and doing aerial stunts, including wing walking, with Billy.

But how did Sookie end up being adopted in Texas?

When the Second World War broke out and the US finally entered it in 1941, Wink enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII, so when Stanislaw develops TB and has to go to a sanatorium, the girls take over the filling station, even learning about the mechanics of automobiles.  It is a successful enterprise, but with gas rationing, they eventually have to close it down.  Fritzi wants to do her bit for the war, but she isn't satisfied with something like factory work, so she applies to the Army Air Corps.  She is turned down, but when the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC, is formed, Fritzi goes off to Texas to ferry planes for the armed forces.  Eventually, Gertrude and Sophie follow in her footsteps, so for a while, there are three Jurdabralinski sisters in Texas.

But which one was Sookie's mother?

As long as you don't read ahead, I think you will get a genuine surprise at the end of the book when you discover the answer to that question.

I haven't reviewed an adult book on this blog in a long time, but I always enjoy reading Fannie Flagg's novels and this one lived up to my expectations of an interesting, entertaining story.  As you might have guessed, The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion takes place in two time periods, but Flagg switches from one to the other so seamlessly that you never get a jarred feeling or lose sense of what is going on.  In fact, the parallel storylines, as you might expect, eventually come together.

It was interesting watching a 60 year old woman going through another coming of age stage, but as she assimilated information about the Jurdabralinski family, she seemed to break away from the constraints of her adopted family and really come into her own.  Her adopted mother, Lenore Krackenberry, is probably one of the most narcissistic characters I have ever read.  She is so pretentious and feels so superior to others that she garners not sympathetic reaction throughout the book.

Flagg balances her novel with humor, seriousness, information, and mystery, so there is something for everyone in The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion.   In the last few years, a very nice body of really good fiction has begun to form around women who flew planes in World War II and this is one that definitely has a place in it.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was purchased for my personal library

This is book 1 of my 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry

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24. The Search by Eric Heuvel, Rund van der Rol and Lies Schippers


Esther Hecht always wondered about happened to her parents after they were picked up by the Nazis and she never saw or heard from them again.  She assumed they had perished in the Holocaust just as 6 million other Jews had.  Now, so many years later, she wants to visit her son in Amsterdam and attend her grandson's Bar Mitzvah, but she also wants to see her long time friend Helena.

After the Bar Mitzvah, Esther, her son and grandson, Daniel begin their trip into her past.  As they travel,  Esther begins to tels Daniel about her experiences as a Jew in Hitler's Europe.

When Hitler rose to power in Germany in the 1930s, life became very difficult and dangerous for all the German Jews living there.  But after Kristalnacht, young Esther's parents decided to leave and move to the Netherlands.  There, Esther became friends with Helena, a Christian girl her age.  They both had crushes on Bob Canter, a handsome boy who lived in their apartment building.  Things went well for Esther and her parents, until the Nazis invaded Holland.

Esther and Helena remained friends, but life became harder and harder once again.  After her parents were picked up in a raid one night by the Gestapo in Amsterdam, young Esther is warned by Helena's father to get away.  She went to a friend of her father's who helped her find a place to hide.  There she met other Jews also being hidden, and is taught farm chores by the farmer's son Barend.  One day the Nazis came but Esther managed to get away.   As she runs, she hears shots being fired but doesn't know if anyone was hit.

Barend is the first person Esther and her son and grandson visit and he fills her in on what happened after she escaped.

After wandering around the forest for a while, Esther found people who welcomed her and she remained there until the end of the war.  Returning to Amsterdam to look for her parents, she ran into Bob Canter, her old crush now a concentration camp survivor.  Bob tells her that her parents both died in the Holocaust.  Eventually, Esther migrated to the United States and lost touch with Bob.

Esther's grandson looks Bob up and finds him living in Israel.  A few days later, they are on their way to visit Bob, who fills in all the blanks about her terrible parent's fate, a story well worth reading.
Feeling like she has now really lost her parents and her past, Esther leaves Bob's in absolute despair.

When she finally gets to meet Helena, there is more disturbing information but there is also a pleasant surprise waiting for her, thanks to the action of a true best friend.

The Search is a sensitive yet dynamic and informative graphic novel.   Heuvel doesn't hold back on the plight of Esther to survive or atrocities Bob describes which were inflicted on the Jews in concentration camps by the Nazis, but he does temper it by framing the story in the present, and including the sons and grandsons of Esther and Helena.  And even though the story jumps back and forth between past and present, it is not confusing in the least.

The other nice thing is that each character is distinct from the others, so there is no confusing who is who, which can often happen in graphic novels.  In part, it is because they are also drawn distinctively and a large color palette is used.
The Search page 15
In fact, the illustrations help tell and carry the story along as they should since space is limited in graphic novels.  This is a form that also appeals to young readers, making it a great way to introduce the Holocaust in either the classroom or for home schooling purposes.

The Search was originally written in Dutch, but I think that the translation done by Lorraine T. Miller is quite well done, since the story doesn't feel forced nor does any of the continuity feel lost, giving the whole story a nature feeling and flow that lets the story unfold without jarring the reader.

There is a companion book to The Search called A Family Secret, which is about Esther's friend Helena and which I will be reviewing soon, so watch this space.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was purchased for my personal library

There is a helpful Teacher's Guide PDF available for The Search, A Family Secret and Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures (my review) for use together or separately.


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25. The Right Fight (World War II Book I) by Chris Lynch

Roman Bucyk loves three things: baseball, his girlfriend Hannah and his country.  Roman also knows that because of an ankle injury, he is never going to make to the big leagues, and he has even been slowly working his way down the batting lineup of the Cenreville Red Sox, his team in the Eastern Shore Baseball League.  Roman may love baseball, but he knows his major league career aspirations are over.

Since it also looks like the United States is preparing to enter the war soon,  Roman, along with some other members of the League, has enlisted in the army. Now, it's the very last game of the Sox season, tomorrow the league will no longer exist and Roman will be off to boot camp.  What to do?  He decides to ask Hannah to marry him, and she says yes.

During basic training, Roman is trained in tank warfare, and he turns out to have a real talent for driving  one.  Most of the time is spent on training and more training in the Carolinas and Louisiana, but Roman is chomping at the bit to get into real warfare.  And when the US finally does enter the war, he is sent to do more training in Ireland. After months and months of training under all kinds of conditions, Roman finally gets to fight Nazis in North Africa.

But war doesn't turn out to be what Roman thought it would be.  There is nothing romantic about living and sleeping sitting up in a cold tank day and night.  In fact, it is pretty scary the first time they come under attack, and each time after that.  From Algeria to Tunisia to Italy, amid all the loss and destruction, the introspective Roman realizes that the most important thing about the war is getting home to Hannah alive.  But the war has really just begun, and Roman has more fighting to do before going home can happen.

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I am not big on battle field books.  My interest is really on home front stories, yet I was pleasantly surprised when I read The Right Fight.  Chris Lynch really knows his way around the front lines and gives us a novel and a hero that will hold you captivated.

Roman goes to war with the same kind of ideologically naive patriotism and impatience to get to the front that causes many young men to enlist.  Yet, once he is part of the fighting, once reality hits him square in the eye, life changes.  Amid death and destruction, a heroic Roman emerges, heroic not so much because of his talented tank driving and loyalty to his tank mates, but because of his dawning realization that even though war is a dangerous, ugly business, he is determined to see it through and get home to his beloved Hannah and the kind of life he is defending.  

I am actually looking forward to reading Lynch's next WWII book, and I think I will chose one of his books about Vietnam for my War Through the Generations reading challenge.  And that is a great endorsement from someone who, as I said before, does not really like these kinds of books.

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

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