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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

It's 1945, Germany is losing the war it had began in 1939, and now, as the Red Army approaches the East Prussian countryside, thousands of people who can are fleeing to escape the brutality that the Russians have been inflicting on Germans everywhere they go.

Among the refugees trying to reach the seaport city of Gotenhafen, where they hope to board a ship that will evacuate them out of the path of the Russians, are three young people whose paths converge en route.  There is Joana, 21, a Lithuanian nurse who believes she is a murderer; Florian, a Prussian carrying questionable orders from a top Nazi official; and Emilia, 15, a traumatized young Polish girl wearing a pink hat.  Also traveling with them are an elderly shoemaker, one little boy who has just witnessed his grandmother's death, a blind girl named Ingrid and Eva, a large older woman.  A fourth young narrator, Alfred, is a Nazi sailor assigned to the ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff docked in Gotenhafen.

The novel is told in first person alternating points of view by Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred.  Each one has a history and a secret that slowly unfolds through their narration.  Florian is a talented artist who was mentored as a restoration artist by a Nazi, Dr. Lange, at a museum in Königsburg under Prussian Gauleiter Erich Koch supposedly for the purpose of restoring and saving Europe's greatest art treasures.  Now, feeling disillusioned and betrayed by his mentor, he is carrying information about what may have been the Nazi's greatest art plunder, information that the Nazis definitely do not want made public.

Because of her Aryan looks, Joana was repatriated to Germany as a Volksdeutsche (one with German ancestry).  Now, however, even as she works to save lives with her nursing experience, she is racked by guilt regarding a choice she made in 1941, a choice that separated her from her family and their fate in her homeland of Lithuania.

Emilia is the youngest, the most vulnerable and the most traumatized of the four narrators and has already run into the advancing Red Army twice, narrowly escaping with her life.  She no long has a homeland and a family, and to make matters worse, she is traveling without any identification papers, and guarding her secret with her life - literally.

Alfred, a lowly sailor, obsessively writes love letters in his head to a girl back home describing the importance of his work in the German Navy in general and on the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, in particular. Right from the start, Alfred is a smarmy, untrustworthy character, whose shameful secret involves his behavior towards the girl back home.

Salt to the Sea is a character-driven story about a little known maritime tragedy that resulted in the loss of over 9,000 lives, and about 5,000 of them were children.  Each character moves the story forward even as they take the reader back to their past.  I found this to be a compelling novel, even though it lacks a traditional plot.  But I think the structure that Ruta Sepetys uses makes this a more exciting novel, and the way it is structured lets the reader learns everything they need to know straight from the narratives of the four main characters.

The scenes each narrator provides are emotionally harrowing in their detailed descriptions of fleeing refugees and the chaotic aftermath of the torpedoing of a ship.  Just as she did in Between Shades of Grey (my review), Sepetys doesn't spare the reader uncomfortable truths any more than she does her characters when it comes to the horrors of war, but she also reminders us that there are still good, caring people who will never lose their humanity.

Do pay attention to the maps at the beginning and end of the novel to get your bearings of where the refugees traveled from and to.  There is lots of great back matter, including an Author's Note and information about the resources and sources Sepetys used.  This is the kind of information that adds so much the a novel and why characters like the ones drawn here are so realistic and believable.

Although I wasn't too crazy about the very end of the novel, this is still one of the best novels I read this year, and I've a lot of good ones so far.  I particularly loved the way each person introduces themselves to the reader: Joana tells us: Guilt is a hunter; Emilia says: Shame is a hunter; Florian begins: Fate is a hunter; and Alfred: Fear is a hunter.  Right off the bat our curiosity is peaked by knowing these are conflicted characters who feel hunted, the question is why.  And the answers combined with the historical setting make this a truly riveting novel.

A useful Discussion Guide has been made available for download by the publisher, Penguin Books

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an ARC from the publisher

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2. The Anne Frank Case: Simon Wiesenthal's Search for the Truth by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

I am familiar with Anne Frank and also with Simon Wiesenthal, but I had no idea that Wiesenthal had spent years tracking down the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne and all the other people who had been hiding from the Nazis on the upper floors of her father's business for over 2 years.  It is a fascinating story.

After having survived time in a Polish ghetto, several Nazi concentration camps and a forced march, in part because of his artistic skill was needed by the Gestapo, Simon Wiesenthal felt compelled to hunt down the Nazis responsible for the cruel and deadly treatment of Europe's Jews.  It quickly became his life's work, at which he was quite successful.

Then, one night in 1958, Wiesenthal was asked to come to the Landes Theater in Linz, Austria.  A performance of The Diary of Anne Frank had been interrupted by some local teenager who claimed that Anne Frank had never existed, that her diary was a forgery, just made up to get more restitution money.

Wiesenthal's challenge to these teens - if he could find the Gestapo officer who had arrested Anne and the others in the attic fourteen years ago, would that convince them that she had indeed existed and that her story was true? Little did he know that it would take him five years to find a man who was living a mere10 minute walk from Wiesenthal's office.

The Anne Frank Case is a fascinating look at the life and work of Simon Wiesenthal, and how he tracked down Nazi criminals.  Wiesenthal had a photographic memory, which helped him remember many of the names of Nazi officers involved in the Holocaust, plus excellent investigative skills.  Yet, finding the arresting officer of the Franks was a long and arduous process.  He frequently interviewed people from the Netherlands, including the people who were hiding the Franks, and luckily, one remembered being questioned by someone named Silvernagel.  Having a place to start, Wiesenthal began searching telephone books, looking for variations of that name.  But everywhere he looked led to a dead end. He thought about asking Otto Frank, but decided not to, afraid he would ask Wiesenthal to stop the search.

By the time Wiesenthal found the person he was looking for, there was just not enough evidence to prove Karl Silberbauer was guilty of the arrest despite his admission that he had done it, and so he was never brought to trial,  And ironically, Otto Frank did know his name and the reason he didn't help will just knock your socks off.  I know it did mine.

The hunt for Anne Frank's arresting Gestapo officer is not a something I was aware of before, so I found this to be doubly informative book - an excellent introduction to Simon Wiesenthal's life as well as his investigations.  Altogether, he brought more than 1,100 criminals to justice.  

Bill Farnsworth's full page realistic paintings are done in haunting dark hues, adding to the somberness of the subject.

There is a more detail biography about Wiesenthal in the back matter, complete with photographs, as well as additional resources and a glossary.

The Anne Frank Case is a picture book for older readers that will certainly appeal to anyone interested in the Holocaust and Anne Frank.  It is also an excellent addition to books used for introducing the Holocaust in the classroom or home school setting.

A Teaching Guide is available from the publisher, Holiday House.

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

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3. Waiting on Wednesday: The Enemy Above by Michael P. Spradlin and Brave Like My Brother by Marc Tyler Nobleman

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights
upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

My Waiting on Wednesday pick this week is:

The Enemy Above: A Novel of World War II by Michael P. Spradlin
Scholastic, June 28, 2016, 240 pages, age 9+

From Goodreads:

The Germans are closing in.  And twelve-year-old Anton knows his family can't outrun them.  A web of underground caves seems like the perfect place to hide.  But danger lurks above the surface. Ruthless Major Karl Von Duesen of the Gestapo has made it his mission to round up every Jew in the Ukrainian countryside. Anton knows if his community is discovered, they will be sent off to work camps...or worse.

When a surprise invasion catches them off guard, Anton makes a radical decision.  He won't run any longer.  And he won't hide. He will stop being hunted...and start doing some hunting of his own.



Brave Like My Brother by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Scholastic, June 28, 2016, 112 pages, age 7+

From Goodreads:

When Charlie's brother, Joe, is called up to fight in World War II, he promises to write letters to ten-year-old Charlie as often as he can.  It won't make up for not being there to help Charlie out with the neighborhood bullies, but it's all Joe can do.

Life is tough for a soldier, and Joe tells Charlie all about it, from long hikes in endless rain and mud to the stray dog his company adopts.  But when Joe is sent on a secret mission with the one soldier he can't stand, he will have to face risks that place their mission - and their lives - in grave danger.

Charlie knew his brother was strong, but he will discover that Joe is more of a hero than he lets on.  Will Joe's letters give Charlie the strength to stand up for himself and be brave, too?

I've read other books by Marc Tyler Nobleman and really enjoyed them, so I am looking forward to his new book.  Michael P. Spradlin is a new author for me, but his book sounds very interesting.

What are you looking forward to reading?

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4. Girl in the Blue Coat by Monika Hesse

It's 1943, and Hanneke Bakker, 18, has been working as a black market runner in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam for quite a while now and she is good at what she does.  Finding and delivering her customer's requests in the basket of her old bicycle allows Hanneke to keep herself and her parents safe and provided for in a city where everything is rationed.  And since she looks like "the girl Hitler is dreaming of to put on his Aryan posters," Hanneke prides herself on being able to charm her way out of any impromptu Nazi searches.

As Hanneke makes the rounds, delivers her goods, she wills herself to remain distant from her customers, no matter how hard they try to befriend her.  But, one day, after delivering the usual black-market tea to her recently widowed customer, Mrs. Janssen, Hanneke is asked to find something different.  In fact, Mrs. Janssen has been harboring a 15 year old Jewish girl named Mirjam Roodvelt in her pantry.  Mirjam had shown up at her door, pale and wearing a too small sky blue coat, after the Nazis had found and killed her family and Mrs. Janssen's husband for hiding them in his factory.  But now, Mirjam has gone missing and Mrs. Janssen would like Hanneke to find her, a job she believes the young woman can do, given her black market skills.

At first reluctant to accept Mrs. Janssen's request, little by little Hanneke finds herself drawn into the mystery of Mirjam's disappearance.  Visiting the Jewish Lyceum where Mirjam went to school, Hanneke is spotted by a woman who works there.  The woman turns out to be Judith, a friend of Hanneke's brother Ollie.  Both are part of the Dutch resistance.  And now, so is Hanneke, whether she wants to be or not.

At the same time she is looking for Mirjam, Hanneke is dealing with her own complicated war-time heartaches. Her best friend from childhood, Elsbeth, has fallen in love with and married a member of the Gestapo, putting a wedge in the friendship.  And Hanneke is trying to cope with the guilt she feels over the loss of her boyfriend Bas, killed in 1940 trying to defend Holland against the Nazi invasion.
Now part of the Dutch resistance, Hanneke discovers just how much she doesn't know about what is going on around her.  It turns out that Mrs. Janssen isn't the only one of her black market customers who are hiding Jews from the Nazis, and that their beautiful movie theater has been turned into a deportation center. Thinking that perhaps she can find Mirjam there, she arranges a visit with Judith to meet her cousin Mina, an acquaintance of Mirjam's.

As Hanneke begins to put together the puzzle that is Mirjam's disappearance, she begins to understand more and more what is going on around her, and how much she has missed by focusing only on Bas and Elsbeth, not even seeking closure, but allowing her to keep her eyes closed.

Does Hanneke find the girl in the blue coat?  And can she come to terms with her own guilt and loss? Girl in the Blue Coat is a complicate story, but one that you will most likely find difficult to put down.

To begin with, Hanneke is a nicely flawed character.  Though her intentions may be good, she acts impulsively, and because she hasn't paid attention to what is happening around her, she often unwittingly puts herself and others in peril.  

And to be truthful, the book is a little flawed as well.  For instance, I never quite figured out why Hanneke decides to look for Mirjam, it just sort of happened.  Was it curiosity?  An attempt to assuage her guilt over Bas?  An inner drive to see if she were as good at her job as she thought she was?  As Hanneke uncovers the ways in which so many others try to sabotage the Nazis and save as many Jews as they can, I asked myself whether her initial motivation to find Mirjam really matters and decided it didn't.  What matters is that she accepts the challenge and that is the first step towards her own healing and enlightenment.  

Narrated in the first person by Hanneke, readers will find themselves completely engrossed as they accompany her on her coming-of-age journey towards self-discovery and recovery.

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

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5. You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airman by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford

What is it like to be a black man and to want something so badly you are willing to put up with racial discrimination, willing to buck the system and prove those who think you lack the intelligence to fly a plane wrong, so very wrong?  What was it like to become a Tuskegee Airman?

In a series of thirty-three poems, Carole Boston Weatherford answers these questions, writing the history of this distinguished band of brothers, the African American pilots who fought for victory on two fronts, one in Europe against Nazism and one at home against racism.

Using a composite "you" that not only addresses the Tuskegee airmen as a whole, but also and immediately invites the reader into their midst, Weatherford begins her history-in-verse, capturing the big and small personal and shared moments and events that mark this period in America.

Weatherford skillfully orchestrates this complex history, beginning with a young boy's desire to fly to becoming one of 2,000 black pilots in the 1938 newly formed Civilian Pilot Training Program - 2,000 out of a total of 400,00 - sent to Tuskegee Institute. Training is rigorous, cadets knowing that

"The eyes of your country are on you;
the hopes of your people
rest on your shoulder."  (pg 10-11)

She then takes the reader along as the men learn and practice their new skills, even as they must still deal with racism and Jim Crow laws at every turn, knowing

"In this war, the enemy is you.
In 1941 and 1942, eleven black men -
if you count the three boys -
were lynched in the United States."  (pg 19)

Weatherford deftly goes beyond the Tuskegee program to include the ways in which other black Americans did what they could to counter the racism of the home front, acts that give impetus to their own training. There is a poem dedicated to Dorie Miller, the Navy cook who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor; another recounts boxer Joe Louis's victories in the ring, his benefit matches to raise money for army and navy relief funds, and his convincing the War Department to admit him and Jackie Robinson to Officer Candidate School

"along with thirteen other men
whom racist policies had barred."  (pg 30)

In another poem, readers learn that singer Lena Horne refused to go on USO tours that barred black servicemen.  And refusing to perform in white-only establishments, too,

"Now Lena pays her own way
to perform for the troops.  When she visits Tuskegee,
she sings, perches on planes, and poses for photos.
How could you not fall for Lena?"  (pg 50)

As the child of a WWII nurse, I personally love that Weatherford even offers up a poem paying homage to the Tuskegee Army Airfield Nurses, finally giving this most unsung group of military nurses some of their due: "it really takes a good nurse to KEEP 'EM FLYING."  (pg 13)

This free verse history is probably one of the best books I have read about the Tuskegee Airmen, simply because there is so much meaning and information to be culled from each poem, yet they are rather sparely written, making each word used important and expressive.  And it all works.

The black and white illustrations were done in collaboration with Weatherford's son, Jeffery Boston Weatherford, an artist in his own right.  For You Can Fly, Jeffery used a technique called scratchboard, which results a much more dramatic illustration than just using, for example, black and white paint/india ink or charcoal on white paper.  Scratchboard results in a textured illustration and these compliment the poems so beautifully, as you can see


I have to admit I am a big fan of Carole Boston Weatherford's free verse histories.  When she came to Bank Street this year, to accept the 2016 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for nonfiction for her amazing book Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, I'm afraid I may have shamelessly fangirled.  So naturally, I was really looking forward to reading this new history-in-verse and let me say, it does not disappoint and I highly recommend it.

Do not miss the Epilogue or the interesting back matter that includes an Author's Note, an extensive Timeline, and a variety of Resources for Further Reading.

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

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6. Journey to Munich (A Maisie Dobbs Mystery #12) by Jacqueline Winspear

I may not have loved the book, but I do love the cover
I'm not quite as devoted a Maisie Dobbs fan as I am Maggie Hope and Flavia de Luce, but I do like to read the occasional novel.  I especially like that time passes and world events are included in the novels, and that they don't take place in a vacuum.

Journey to Munich begins in early spring 1938.  Maisie is still mourning the loss of her husband and has returned to England after having been gone for a long while.  No sooner does she arrive back in London, than she is approached by the British Secret Service and asked to undertake a dangerous, and for Maisie, unusual assignment.  She is to impersonate the daughter of a man who has been incarcerated in Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp in order to get him released.

Leon Donat, who is an engineer, had become involved in publishing academic works and while in Germany to promote them, he made a contribution to a friend's son to keep his underground journal running. Naturally, Donat was arrested for it despite being a British citizen.  And Britain wants him back.  So does the United States.  Donat is also an inventor and had come up with a military landing craft that could be used for an invasion, but the plans are all in his head and everyone knows it is just a matter of time before another war begins.

The Nazis, with the blessing from their Führer Adolf Hitler, and not realizing how valuable he is, are willing to release Donat, but only to a family member.  And his daughter Edwina Donat would be that relative, except she is in hospital suffering from consumption.  So Maisie is to take her place. But before she leaves, she is asked if she will also try to find Elaine Otterburn, the woman who, a few years earlier, was supposed to pilot the plane that killed Maisie's husband who chose to fly it instead. Needless to say, there is bad blood between the two women.  Still, Maisie agrees to the assignment, if only for the sake of the baby that Elaine abandoned.

Naturally, nothing goes as easily or as smoothly as one who like.

I'm sorry to say that I did not enjoy this novel as much as I have other Maisie Dobbs mysteries.  I thought it would never get to the heart of the story - Maisie in Munich, encountering Nazi officials and the ensuing difficulty of getting Donat out of Dachau.  Yet, ironically, she has very little trouble tracking down Elaine Otterburn even though the only information Maisie had was that she lived in Munich.

Don't get me wrong, there are some exciting episodes in Journey to Munich, but they are a bit overwhelmed by Maisie introspection brought on, I think, by the Elaine Otterburn situation.

I felt that Maisie was out of her element as a Secret Service operative, but her talents as an investigator, as a "private inquiry agent" were just too pat here for my taste.  I began to wonder whether Maisie's professional direction would change as the world heads into another war?  Maybe this is the set-up for Maisie-turned-spy.  Time will tell.

If you are a die-hard Maisie Dobbs fan, Journey to Munich probably won't disappoint you. If you are the occasional reader like I am, your experience may not be as wonderful, but do give it a try.  The world of Maisie Dobbs is on the threshold of a whole new era, who knows what experiences she will have.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss/Above the Treeline

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7. The Secret Seder by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

When the Nazis invaded France, it was no longer safe for young Jacques, his father, mother and grandparents to remain in Paris. There were black-booted Nazi soldiers everywhere and even walking too fast could be dangerous for the Jews who still remained there.  Jacques and his parents left Paris to live in a small village and pretend they are Catholic like everyone else.  His grandparents also left Paris, but Jacques doesn't know to where.

Now, it is Passover, but having a traditional Seder at home is out of the question with so many soldiers patrolling the village.  There is a plan for Jacques to go with his dad through the village, and up a wooded mountain to a cabin at the summit for a secret Seder. To surprise his dad, Jacques has been secretly practicing the Four Questions that the youngest person at a Seder table asks.

When they arrive at the cabin, there is a group of strangers, all men, sitting around a table with their coat collars pulled up high to cover their heads.  Though most of the traditional symbols that are such an important part of Passover are missing, an old man reads reads the Haggadah, including the Passover story about the exodus of the Jews from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, likening it to the situation that Jews finds themselves in once again under the Nazis.  When it comes time to ask the Four Questions, his father and the other men are surprised and pleased to see that Jacques has kept with Jewish custom and learned them in Hebrew.

At the end of the service, the men leave, never having introduced themselves to each other, but having just shared a courageous act of resistance by daring to have a Seder.  Though the Seder reminded everyone that all over Europe Jews were being murdered, their only parting words to each other are "Next year in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), ending the story on a hopeful note.

The Secret Seder is narrated by Jacques, whose youthful perspective and determination to learn the Four Questions really points to the importance of family, tradition, and religion despite the circumstances the Jewish people found themselves in.

The watercolor illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully really reflects the mood of the story.  In the village, the tone is bright and almost cheerful, except for the frightened expressions on the images of Jacques and his father.  As they climb the mountain, the look of fearful apprehension remains, and the landscape around them becomes darker and darker, increasing the feeling of foreboding.

Doreen Rappaport based The Secret Seder on real events.  There are many true stories of Jews celebrating Passover and other holidays despite the danger of doing so between 1939 and 1945.  I think she has really captured the fear that Jews in hiding lived with during that time, seeking to try to blend in they way Jacques and his family do by trying to act normal in the village, but she has also makes clear what an important part of their lives their religion is to Jews, especially during those dark days.

Back matter includes an author's notes about the book, information about Passover and resources for learning more about it as well as the Holocaust.

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

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8. Weekend Cooking #28: When a war ends...or how I discovered the best peach cobbler ever

Most of us probably like to think that when a war ends the survivors go home and pick up their lives where they left off.  But of course, deep down we know that isn't how it happens. Soldiers come home wounded and often suffering from PTSD, families are torn apart, children are displaced and everyone must still deal with all kinds of loss, and, as you saw in The Seagoing Cowboy, people living in ravaged countries are starving.



After World War II ended, Americans were asked to revive their Victory and Community Gardens in order to help meet the needs of a post-war Europe and Asia.  As Henry Wallace told the National Victory Garden Conference in 1946 "...probably more persons will go hungry during the next four months than in any like period in the world's history."  By then, most Victory Gardens were no longer being used so the 18,500,000 gardeners who has gardened for war were a little surprised when the call went to for them to now garden for peace.   Did Americans rise to the challenge?  You bet they did.


The Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 1946
Besides asking Americans to revive their Victory Gardens, President Truman also called for the production of Emergency Flour.  The idea was to conserve wheat making more of it available to Europe.  What that meant was that all-purpose flour would now contain more bran and wheat germ, both of which are normally not found in flour.  Because Emergency Flour didn't behave the same way all-purpose flour did when used for baking, companies began to put out recipes that were tailored to it:



I've tried these two recipes, though not with Emergency Flour, and they were OK, but my favorite, my absolute favorite is the 1946 Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Crusty Peach Cobbler.  I love Peach Cobbler so much, I started canning my own peaches so I could have it year round.  I found the recipe over at a blog I read called Retro Recipe Attempts and I have been using it ever since.  


As you can see, it has a nice thick biscuity or crusty top layer, which I really love.    

Crusty Peach Cobbler

Ingredients
6 cups fresh peaches (about 3 pounds), peeled, stoned, and thickly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Biscuit Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk, plus additional drops, if necessary
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling (I don't do this, I don't like the biscuit to taste sweet)

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400º.  Arrange the fruit in a greased shallow 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish or 10- to 12-inch oval ceramic gratin dish. Toss with the sugar, zest, lemon juice, and almond extract.
Place the fruit in the hot oven 10 minutes while preparing the shortcake.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Cut in the cold butter with a fork or electric mixer until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Make a well in the center and add the milk and egg, mixing until just evenly moistened; do not over mix (I use a Danish dough whisk, one of my favorite tools, for this).  Working quickly, drop the dough by large tablespoons over the hot peaches so that the edges do not touch the sides of the dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Immediately return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool at least 15 minutes to serve hot, or cool to room temperature and reheat to warm. 


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

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9. Waiting on Wednesday #3: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that highlights
upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

My Waiting on Wednesday pick this week is:

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne
Henry Holt & Co.
June 7, 2016; 272 pages

From Goodreads:

When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy Austrian household. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

Pierrot is quickly taken under Hitler's wing and thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets, and betrayal from which he may never be able to escape.


I'm always curious to read books by John Boyne.  I've reviewed a few of his novels in the past, but after the controversy of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (which I have not reviewed) I always feel hesitant on the one hand, excited on the other.  

What are you looking forward to reading?

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10. The Seagoing Cowboy by Peggy Reiff Miller, illustrated by Claire Ewart

You know how on television you sometimes see ads for an organization called Heifer International?  If you have ever wondered how it all began, your curiosity will find the answer in this charming picture book about one of the first "seagoing cowboys" at the end of World War II.  These are the cowboys who delivered livestock to countries in desperate need to being rebuilding after the war's devastation.

By 1945, Poland had been ravaged.  Its cities and farmland had been bombed badly, the people who had survived were starving and help is desperately needed.  In the United States, a young man who is looking for adventure decides to sign up to become a "seagoing cowboy" along with his friend John.

Their adventure begins with a train ride to the city, where they will board their ship, the Woodstock Victory.  They arrive just as the horses and heifers are being loaded onto the ship.  John is one of the young men assigned to caring  for the horses on their week-long journey to Poland, while our un-named narrator cares for the heifers they were bringing over, heifers that will provide milk, cheese and butter to the hungry Polish people.

Sailing to Poland isn't an easy journey what with seasickness and a bad storm, but at last they arrive at their destination.  The cowboys and their livestock are welcomed with smiles and open arms, especially by the children who want the gum and chocolate the Americans carry (and who can blame them for wanting to things after years of having nothing).  And the cowboys are happy to give, but what really leaves a strong impression and saddens them most is the devastation they witness everywhere they go.

I have to be honest and say that although I have heard of Heifer International, I had never heard of seagoing cowboys, and of sending livestock to Poland and other European countries hard hit by war, so this picture book was a real eye-opener for me.

And I found The Seagoing Cowboy to be a fascinating, reader friendly account of such a little-known part of WWII history.  Although it is a work of fiction, it is made compelling because it is based on some photos that were given to Peggy Reiff Miller by her father.  The photos belonged to her grandfather who had been a seagoing cowboy and they sparked her curiosity about what it was like for the men who volunteered to do this work.  After lots of research and talking to some former seagoing cowboys, Peggy took their stories and wrote about the trip of a composite un-named young man and his adventures in The Seagoing Cowboy.

Claire Ewart's full-color watercolor illustrations are bright, light and airy, reflecting the optimism of the seagoing mission while also capturing the full range of emotions felt by humans and animals alike on this voyage.  I love the little smile on Queenie, the horse that John's father had donated to the program without telling his son and John and Queenie see each other on the ship for the first time.

The Seagoing Cowboy is a wonderful, uplifting story about the men who delivered more than just livestock to those in need, they delivered hope for the future, too. You can discover more about this program in Peggy's Author's Note, along with some photographs she has chosen to share.

Be sure to download the extensive Curriculum Guide proved by the author.

You can also discover much more information and history about the seagoing cowboys on Peggy Reiff Miller's website HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Brethren Press

Please, enjoy the book trailer:

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11. Trapped Behind Nazi Lines: The Story of the U.S. Army Air Force Medical Evacuation Squadron by Eric Braun

Here is a little known harrowing story of courage and survival that could rival any novel written about WWII.

On November 8, 1943, a group of 13 Army medics, 13 Army nurses and a flight crew of 4, most in their late teens and early twenties, set off from Sicily on a plane bound for Bari, Italy to pick up some wounded British soldiers.  Almost immediately, the plane ran into trouble as they flew into a cold, harsh winter storm.  As the plane bucked and dove over the sea below, one of the nurses realized there were only 10 life vests for 30 people.  Then the radio went out and communication was no longer possible with anyone anywhere on the ground.  The plane flew in circles and began to run out of fuel.  As they attempted a landing in a valley, the plane was greeted with antiaircraft artillery.  When they finally crash landed, it was cold and rainy, no one was dressed for the weather or even  knew where they were, and on top of that, men with rifles were running towards them shouting in a language they did not understand.

One of the men spoke a little English and told the Americans they were in Albania.  Luckily for them, the Albanians were anti-Nazi guerrilla fighters, unluckily for them, the area was surrounded by German soldiers.  Not knowing if they could trust these partisans, the Americans nevertheless decided to follow them through the woods, and after hiking for hours in the pouring rain, arrived at the village of Gjolen.  There, they were feed some dry cornbread and sour white cheese.

Thus began the harrowing 63 day journey to reach their destination at Bari, Italy.  In-between, the meds and nurses had to hike between 600 and 1,000 miles in bitter cold, snowy weather to reach the Albania coast only 60 miles away.  Along the way, they were at the mercy of the partisans, some who were honest and treated them as kindly as possible under the circumstances. some not terribly trustworthy and others just scared villagers who would put them up for a night, but wanted them gone the next day.  Everyone knew that If anyone in Albania was caught helping the Allies, they would be immediately killed by the Nazis and their villages burned down - and there was proof all around them that this threat was real.

Trapped Behind Nazi Lines is an exciting account of this rescue of the flight crew and the 26 medical personnel of the 807th.  I have to be honest and say that given the obstacles these men and woman encountered, drawbacks like starvation, inadequate clothing, worm out shoes, I am in awe that every single one of the survived their ordeal.

Eric Braun used various sources, including books written by one of the medics and one of the nurses, to recreate a vivid, detailed account of what life was like for the two months these soldiers were caught behind enemy lines.  One of the things that surprised me was that for a country occupied by Nazi soldiers, there were some British SOE agents there who were able to help the Americans escape. The other surprise was the age of the medics and nurses.  I kept having to remind myself that these were really collage-age kids and not seasoned soldiers, yet they acted and reacted like more mature adults given the dangerous situations they found themselves in.

Trapped Behind Nazi Lines is a work of nonfiction that is sure to appeal to middle grade reader, and even YA readers who like history, but will also please kids looking for an action-packed story, all the more  exciting because it really happened.

Back matter included lots of photographs of the Americans, a map, a timeline, select bibliography, internet sites and more.

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

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12. Waiting on Wednesday #2: Skating with the Statue of Liberty by Susan Lynn Meyer

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that highlights
upcoming releases we can wait to read.

I haven't participated in Waiting on Wednesday in a long time, but hope to be more regular from now on.  This week, my pre-publication selection is:

Skating with the Statue of Liberty by Susan Lynn Meyer
Publication date: April 12, 2016
Random House

From Goodreads:

In this gripping and poignant companion to Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner Black Radishes (my review), Gustave faces racism and anti-Semitism in New York City during World War II, but ultimately finds friendship and hope.

It is January 1942, and Gustave, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy, has made it to America at last. After escaping with his family from Nazi-occupied France, after traveling through Spain and Portugal and across the Atlantic Ocean, he no longer has to worry about being captured by the Germans. But life is not easy in America, either.

Gustave feels out of place in New York. His clothes are all wrong, he can barely speak English, and he is worried about his best friend, Marcel, who is in grave danger back in France. Then there is September Rose, the most interesting girl in school, who for some reason doesn’t seem to want to be friends with him. Gustave is starting to notice that not everyone in America is treated equally, and his new country isn’t everything he’d expected. But he isn’t giving up.

Skating with the Statue of Liberty, the brilliant companion to Susan Lynn Meyer’s debut novel, Black Radishes, was inspired by her father’s stories about his first months in America. It is a gripping look at one boy’s life that is at once honest and hopeful.
 


I knew there was going to be a companion to Black Radishes, and I am excited to read Skating with the Statue of Liberty to see how Gustave and his family are getting on in America.

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13. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

It's 1940 and it's time for the three Bateson children, Katherine, 12, Robbie and Amelie to be evacuated to Rookskill Castle in Scotland.  Their father had already left for Europe, on a secret mission for MI6,  but not before he makes arrangements for a new school to be set up for them and other evacuees at the castle.

Before they leave, Kat's Great-Aunt Margaret takes her aside and gives her a gift - a silver chatelaine with its three hanging charms, a scissor, a thimble and a pen.  This chatelaine was a precious family heirloom that Great-Aunt Margaret always wore pinned to her belt.  But with the gift came a warming - the chatelaine can keep them safe because it is magical, but there is always a price to pay for the use of magic.  Logical Kat is skeptical about magic, but reluctantly accepts the chatelaine anyway.

Arriving at the castle, the children meet Lady Eleanor., who Kat notices also wears a chatelaine laden with charms and hidden from view.  She tells them that Gregor, Lord Craig, who is distantly related to the Batesons, is quite ill and must be left completely along. The children are forbidden to wander the castle and the castle grounds and are to stay either in the hallway where their rooms are located or in their rooms, which will be locked every night.   Eventually, they also meet the other students - Peter, an American slightly older than Kat, Isabella, Colin and Jorry.

It doesn't take long for Kat to begin to think the castle and the cold, aloof Lady Eleanor are very strange, as are the maid Marie, Cook, Hugo the driver who also helps around the castle, and Mr. Storm, their history instructor.  Storm is way overly interested in historical artifacts, especially chatelaines.  But when Kat begins to notices some strange goings on about the castle, and discovers a wireless in the cellar, she begins to suspect that the castle is harboring a German spy.  And who are the children that seem to mysteriously come and go, and then there's Jorry's sudden disappearance, even after his parents come looking for him.

The novel occasionally flashes back to 1745 and the story of Leonora, a young girl who was married to the lord of Rookskill Castle, for the purpose producing a child.  When she fails to do that, she goes to a person only referred to as the magister, who magically helps her get a child, but, of course, there is always a price to pay for using magic and she must pay the magister, a payment that brings us right back to 1940s Scotland.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is a dark and sinister tale about the forces of good and evil, and I have to confess I  really loved reading it.  Their are the typical tropes of creepy fantasy - weird nighttime noises, ghostlike children appearing and disappearing, a creepy, evil woman, secret passages and spells cast to confuse.  To me, it felt very Gaimanesque and I mean that as compliment.

Kat is a wonderful character whose logical mind has a hard time accepting that magic might just be real.  On the other hand, her logical mind also mean that she has a real talent for decoding encrypted messages, something that really comes in handy in this novel.

All the ends relating to this story are tied up by the end of the novel, but there is the hint of a possible sequel because the denouement just isn't a neat and clean as it could be and leaves room for a lot of speculation about Kat's future.

Let me just mention here, for those who may not know this, but Adolf Hitler and the men he surrounded himself with had a serious interest in the occult.

I found this to be an original, spine tingly story, even though at times, I know I figured out things before a young readers might.  Readers who have already zipped through the Harry Potter books and want more will probably also enjoy The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.  I know I did.   

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an ARC received from the publisher

OK, I really loved this novel and it's great fantasy, so I have no problem with willingly suspending any disbelief to enjoy a good story.  But when I read that Kat's father told her to keep calm and carry on, I did feel I needed to remind readers that that was a slogan that was never used in WWII.  The slogan was designed for a very special purpose, which you can read all about in my post Keep Calm and (fill in the blank)  The fact that Kat's father used the slogan - I chalk up to coincidence.  Keep calm became a kind of mantra for Kat and one she often needed.


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14. Happy Easter


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15. A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shawn K. Stout

It's only June, but the summer of 1939 does not look very promising as far as Frankie Baum, 11, is concerned.  Her sister and best friend Joan, "the just-barely-older of the two," is getting to spend the summer at Aunt Dottie's farm in New Jersey, where Frankie is sure she will be having the best summer ever, while she's stuck at home in Hagerstown, MD with older sister Elizabeth, called Princess by their parents.

And ever worse, Frankie is expected to work in her father's newly purchased restaurant, a long neglected Alpine-style relict of years ago, now with only weeks to get it cleaned up and running again to become his dream of "An Eating Place of Wide Renown."  Opening day is planned for July 5th.  Sure enough, at the restaurant, Frankie is sent to the kitchen to work, a dirty, messy job, while Princess gets to work the cash register.

Frankie is vaguely aware of war talk among the townspeople, of anti-German feelings that are beginning to brew, but she has never really considered her family to be German, even though her father's parents immigrated from Germany.  But when Hermann Baum is approached by the cigar smoking president of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Sullen Waterford Price, and refuses to let himself be bullied into becoming at paid member of the chamber, he makes a formidable enemy, one all too aware of his German roots.

Price is also running for mayor of Hagerstown, so when Hermann also refuses to put his election poster in his front window, Price begins looking for just the dirty information he needs to start spreading rumors that Hermann Baum is quite possibly a spy and Nazi sympathizer.

To make matters even more complicated, Hermann decides to throw his own  pre-opening day Fourth of July party for friends, family and even his African American staff and their families.  Hermann has always treated his kitchen staff fairly, despite living in a state where Jim Crow is in effect.  That, coupled with the German flyer that has mysteriously fallen into the hands of Mr. Price, are all that is needed for a boycott of Hermann's party.

Frankie has overheard quite a bit while working in the kitchen, and decides to do some investigating of her own about what is going on.  But she also finds herself doubting her father's innocence.  When no one shows up at her father's party, she goes to the town's celebration to try and find out what is going on.  When Hermann shows up looking for her, he collapses.  And the Baum family's life is changed forever.

A Tiny Piece of Sky is a wonderful coming of age story.  Frankie's character develops slowly over the course of the novel as she encounters different people and situations.  The story is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator in a rather conversational style, and who seems to be right in the thick of things, more aware of what is going on in the world than Frankie is.  To get some of Frankie and even Joan's mindset, there are also first person letters they write to each other, which tend to create more mystery about Hermann Baum's heritage than information.

The story takes place over June, July and August 1939.  There aren't many pre-World War II home front stories for young readers, making this all that much more interesting.  Stout looks at both racism and xenophobia through the lens of Frankie's summer.  Frankie hasn't really paid attention to the racism and discrimination towards the African American community in Hagerstown, until she starts working in the restaurant.  But the character of Mr. Stannum, the restaurant's new manager, opens her eyes when she witnesses the way he treats the black kitchen staff with such cruelty and contempt, even refusing to allow them to use the bathroom he uses.  

You  also don't find many books for young readers that are about the kind of treatment that German Americans experienced in the 1930s and 1940s as the possibility of war with Germany became more of a possibility.  Most people don't realize they were also discriminated against. though to a far lesser extent than Japanese Americans.  What makes this an interesting theme here is that Stout shows how easily people can change their attitudes towards of friends and even fathers when doubt begins to take hold.  For that reason,  A Tiny Piece of Sky is not just good historical fiction, but also resonates so loudly in today's world. 

The other part of what makes A Tiny Piece of Sky such an interesting, realistic novel is that much of the material comes from Shawn Stout's own family and the restaurant they owned in Hagerstown, which she writes about in her Author's Note at the end of the novel.  Be sure to read it when you read this excellent novel.

Teachers can find an extensive Teaching Guide for A Tiny Piece of Sky HERE

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

Used with permission: the original menu from Shawn Stout's grandparent's restaurant.
Click to enlarge and check out the prices listed.


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16. The Tortoise and the Soldier : A Story of Courage and Friendship in World War I written and illustrated by Michael Foreman

It's the early 1950s and office boy Trevor Roberts just wants to be a full-fledged reporter for his hometown paper, the Lowestoft Journal, but so far, he only get reporting jobs once in a blue moon, and usually not very interesting.  One March morning, Trevor is sent out to see if Mr. Friston's tortoise has woken up from his winter hibernation.  Little did Trevor know that that would be the beginning of a long friendship and a wonderful article for the newspaper.

Slowly, over a series of weekends, Trevor peddles out to the two converted railroad cars that Henry Frisson's lives in and hears the story of how he acquired his tortoise, whom he named Ali Pasha, during World War I.  Told in a series of flashbacks and using his saved wartime memorabilia, including his diary, Henry recalls wanting to see the world as a boy, and joining the Royal Navy hoping to realize his dreams.  But shortly after, WWI breaks out and Henry's ship, HMS Implacable, heads straight for Gallipoli.  There, Henry finds himself on shore and in the trenches, charged with the duty of removing wounded and dead soldiers from the battlefield, ironically in the company of the Turkish soldiers they were fighting with.

It is in the midst of fighting one day that Henry is knocked down into a shallow crater by a shell blast, followed by a hard object hitting his head.  It turned out to be a tortoise whom Henry befriends while waiting for the fighting to end.  Henry decides to rescue the tortoise and sneaks it on to the HMS Implacable, hiding it in his battleship station, the Number Two Gun turret.  Because Henry found his tortoise on the Gallipoli Peninsula, which was part of the Ottoman Empire then, he decides to name it Ali Pasha, after one of its rulers.

From Gallipoli, the HMS Implacable heads to the Suez Canal, and eventually back to England.  And Ali Pasha go home with Henry, where the two lived out their days together.

I always know that when I pick up a Micheal Foreman book, I am going to like the story and the artwork equally and The Tortoise and the Soldier is no exception.  Here is a wonderful, lifelong story that begins on the battlefield of one of the worst campaigns in WWI and continues of over 70 years.

And though the center of the story is about Henry and Ali Pasha, there is a lot of story relating to Henry's family, his school days, his brothers fighting in Europe, and mostly centrally, his relationship with the other sailors assigned to Number Two Gun turret.  Foreman subtly shows the reader how important it is to be able to not just get along with those who live in such close proximity to one, but also how much better it is if you really like each other and work together.  As Henry tells Trevor, his shipmates would bring Ali Pasha treats from their own meals in the hope that he would bring them luck.

Perhaps the best message a young reader can take away from this story, is that the enemy, in this case the soldiers from Turkey, are really at bottom no different from Henry and his mates, a important discovery he makes during a short cease fire to collect the dead.

This is a very pleasant story, one told for the most part with a light touch, but make no mistake about it, Foreman doesn't sugar-coat what happens in war, on the sea and in the battle field.  Recognizing oneself in the enemy, and realizing how deadly war is are both good reasons for kids to read this book.  But so is the enduring friendship between man and tortoise.

The Tortoise and the Soldier is historical fiction based on the lives of the real Henry Friston and Ali Pasha.  Foreman includes information, photos and other artifacts about both man and tortoise, as well as his own personal story knowing Henry during WWII.   But it is Foreman's own watercolor illustrations that really enhance and give depth to the tale he is telling:
Henry meets Ali Pasha
This is a wonderful story that is sure to appeal to many middle grade readers.

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

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17. Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency by Linda Crotta Brennan

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932 and served until his untimely death in 1945.   When he came into office, the country was in the throes of the worst depression the world had suffered to date; at his death the country was just coming to the end of World War II.  So much happened during Roosevelt's presidency and Linda Crotta Brennan has chronicled it all in this slim, but informative book.  

Brennan begins with some background information including a brief account of Roosevelt's childhood and education, his famous family (President Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin's future wife Eleanor were distance relatives) and his early rise into the political scene.  But in 1921, Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio and though most people thought that his career in politics was over, Roosevelt was determined to continue on his planned course in politics.

In 1929, the stock market crash sent the country into a depression, with people hungry and out of work everywhere.  President Hubert Hoover did little to help the country get on it feet again, and in 1932, Roosevelt was elected president, taking over the reigns from Hoover.

Elected to four terms in office, Brennan explains how Roosevelt led the country out of the depression with a variety of social programs for putting people back to work.  Not all of these programs were welcomed by Congress and he was forced to issue Executive Orders a total of 3,522 times.  Before the depression was completely over, however, the world was at war, and Roosevelt once again had to come up with some clever ways to help Britain, while keeping the United States out of the conflict.

But on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the US entered the war.  Roosevelt's time in office was often met with dissension in Congress and with the people, but his presidency was really marred by Executive Order 3066, forcing Japanese American to be removed to internment camps.

The book ends with Roosevelt's sudden death and the swearing in of Harry Truman as the next president and his first few months in office.  

Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency is chock full of information about our 32nd President, some of it already known, some of it a behind the scenes look at his life.  There are abundant archival photographs and insets that offer additional information, including on one polio, a disease many kids may not even know about anymore.  It is a very well researched work, ideal for upper level middle graders and high school kids studying American History.  The language and explanations are straightforward and easy to understand, including some complex concepts.

The back matter includes a timeline, source notes, a Glossary, and Selected Bibliography along with Further Information.

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

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18. Lizzie and the Lost Baby by Cheryl Blackford

When 10 year-old Lizzie and her 7 year-old brother Peter are put on a train to be evacuated to Yorkshire at the beginning of World War II, neither are very happy about leaving the mum and Nana behind in Hull.  Both would rather risk the German's bombs than leave home.  In York, the children are chosen by Madge and Fred and then are placed in the home of Madge's very depressed sister Elsie, who has lost both her husband and her young baby Alice within a year of each other.

Young Elijah, part of a clan of Travelers, also called Gypsies, has a secret known only to the very mean-spirited Bill.  The Travelers are not very welcomes wherever they go, and the Yorkshire moors are no different.  As they prepare to leave and go the the big fair, Elijah's mother asks him to take baby Rose with him when he goes to check their snares to see if they caught anything.  But half way there, Elijah is confronted by Bill, who demands he leave Rose in order to go catch rabbits with him, or he will tell Elijah's secret.

Out walking, Lizzie and Peter hear Rose crying and not seeing anyone around, take the baby home with them.  Elsie, seeing the baby, believes that it is her Alice returned and immediately comes out of her depression and transforms into a relatively pleasant person.  But word is out that the Travelers are looking for a lost baby.  Elijah's mother, beside herself with worry and grief, wanders around looking for her when she comes upon Elsie pushing a baby carriage.  Elijah immediately realizes that Lissie knows something about the missing Rose, but can he get a gorgio or one of the settled or non-traveling people to help him get the baby back to her rightful mother, given how much the local people dislike the Gypsies?

First of all, this is not really a book about WWII.  The war is the way Lizzie and Peter end up in a place where she is faced with a mortal dilemma among strangers whose behavior is questionable. Lizzie has a much clearer, more defined sense of right and wrong than the adults around her, who have let prejudice blur the lines between the two. Had she been in a place where she knew with the people around her, it most likely would have been a very different story because of their possible influence over her, but distance and unfamiliarity put her on neutral, more objective footing as far as the locals and the Gypsies are concerned and make this a workable story.

Lizzie and the Lost Baby is a quiet story, without a lot of action, but it certainly asks questions about how people act in stressful times.  The dislike and mistrust the locals and Travelers have for each other is an interesting issue given the war that is being fought at the time.  Prejudice is evident on both sides, and you have to wonder it could ever be resolved, though the novel does end on a hopeful note regarding that.

This story reminded me of so many of the girls' novels I read that were written in the early 1940s in England, and in which the tension between locals and Gypsies were part of the main story.
Interestingly enough, the Gypsies (they were never called Travelers) were depicted in a much more sympathetic light than the locals, just as they are here.  Life and learn: because the name Travelers is used in Lizzie and the Lost Baby, I thought that perhaps they are English or Irish, although the use of the words like gorgio and kushti (meaning good, fine) would indicate that they were Romani.  Turns out that the names Gypsy, Traveller and Romani are interchangeable.

All in all, Lizzie and the Lost Baby is a interesting novel for readers who like historical fiction, but don't expect a real home front story.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from a friend.

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19. Top Ten Tuesday #18: Top Ten Books I've recently added to my TBR


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

Today's Top Ten Topic is the Top Ten Books I've recently added to my TBR.  Since I haven't read any of these yet, I am including the Goodreads description for each.


1) American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

Connor’s grandmother leaves his dad a letter when she dies, and the letter’s confession shakes their tight-knit Italian-American family: The man who raised Dad is not his birth father.
 
But the only clues to this birth father’s identity are a class ring and a pair of pilot’s wings. And so Connor takes it upon himself to investigate—a pursuit that becomes even more pressing when Dad is hospitalized after a stroke. What Connor discovers will lead him and his father to a new, richer understanding of race, identity, and each other.





2) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are  Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.




3) Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who was who? by the Anne Frank House

For two years during the Second World War, young, Jewish Anne Frank lived in hiding from the Nazis. Everything she experienced, thought, and felt, she confided in her diary. She was just as frank in her descriptions of the seven other people in the Annex and of the five helpers who endangered their own lives to look after them. Years later, Anne Frank’s diary became world famous. The Secret Annex was so well set up that the hiders survived there for over two years. Who were these people, how did they meet, and what happened to them?
 
This book shows the background and organization of the Annex and the personal stories of all involved, as well as their relationships and their fates. It also offers many never-before-published photographs. The result is an extraordinary group portrait that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.




4) Journey to Munich (Maisie Dobbs #12) by Jacqueline Winspear

Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in this thrilling tale of danger and intrigue—the twelfth novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s New York Times bestselling “series that seems to get better with each entry” (Wall Street Journal).

It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas.





5) The Bettanys on the Home Front by Helen Barber

1914, and the Bettany family—fourteen-year-old twins Madge and Dick and their little sister Joey—are enjoying a seaside holiday with their guardian. But the news is disturbing and their happy time is cut short by the announcement that war has been declared.

Back home in Taverton, Madge is faced with a rapidly changing world. With Guardian away on war business and Aunt Josie preoccupied with her own family, it falls to Madge to hold the household together without neglecting the all-important world of school and the challenge of a new form which seems to have no place for her. But what is Nanny’s mysterious secret, and is she a proper person to care for Joey?




6) My Name is not Friday by Jon Walter

Well-mannered Samuel and his mischievous younger brother Joshua are free black boys living in an orphanage during the end of the Civil War. Samuel takes the blame for Joshua's latest prank, and the consequence is worse than he could ever imagine. He's taken from the orphanage to the South, given a new name -- Friday -- and sold into slavery. What follows is a heartbreaking but hopeful account of Samuel's journey from freedom, to captivity, and back again.


7) Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein

Welcome, boys and girls, readers of all ages, to the first-ever Library Olympiad! Kyle and his teammates are back, and the world-famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, is at it again! 
 
This time Mr. Lemoncello has invited teams from all across America to compete in the first ever LIBRARY OLYMPICS. Will it be fun? Like the commercials say. . . HELLO? It’s a Lemoncello! But something suspicious is going on . . . books are missing from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. Is someone trying to CENSOR what the kids are reading?! In between figuring out mind-boggling challenges, the kids will have to band together to get to the bottom of this mystery.
 
Now it’s not just a game—can Mr. Lemoncello find the real defenders of books and champions of libraries? Packed with puzzles, clues, and thrilling surprises, this is a deliciously fun, action-packed sequel to the New York Times bestselling Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Let the games begin!





8) The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked... and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth - or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.



9) Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.
 





10) Women in Black History: Stories of Courage, Faith, and Resilience by Tricia Williams Jackson

Within the pages of American history are the stories of remarkable African American women who have defied the odds, taken a stand for justice, and made incredible strides despite opposition from the culture around them. Now young readers can discover their exciting true stories in this eye-opening collection. 
From well-known figures like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks to women rarely found in any history book, "Women in Black History" explores the lives of writers, athletes, singers, activists, and educators who have made an indelible mark on our country and our culture. Perfect for kids, but also for adults who like to read about important figures and unsung heroes, this collection will delight, surprise, and challenge readers.


What's are your Top Ten TBR books?

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20. War in My Town by E. Graziani

Even as late as March 1940,  life in her small mountain village of Eglio, in northern Tuscany was still relatively pleasant for 11 year-old Bruna Pucci Guazzelli , despite the war in Europe and not having ever met her father, living in Brazil.  Bruno is the youngest of her siblings - two brothers - Cesar, 25; Alcide, 17;  and four sisters - Aurelia, 27; Eleonora, 23;  Pina, 21; Mery, 15.  Eglio is a village where everyone knows everyone else, and whenever hard times hit, the villagers rally to help one another.

But when Mussolini declared war on Britain that France on June 10, 1940, things all over Italy begin to change.  First, all the Italian men and eldest sons were drafted into the army.  For the Guazzelli family, that meant Cesar, followed by Alcide, who is sent to the Russian Front; meanwhile, for the eldest girls, it meant working away from home, either as cooks for other people, or for Eleonora, working in an orphanage.

At first, Bruna says, most Italians supported Mussolini and his alliance with Adolf Hitler, but as rationing, separation and hardship begin to take their toll on the home front, and after learning that even the Italian army fighting for Mussolini is so poorly supplied as the war escalates, people begin to turn against him.  In September, 1943, Mussolini is removed from power and Italy forms a new alliance with the Allies.

These are major events, but Bruna and the rest of the people of Eglio still remain relatively isolated from the fighting in Italy and the rest of Europe, mainly because Eglio is a far removed mountain village, so no one really expects anything to happen there.

Elio, Northern Tuscany, Italy
That is until the spring of 1944, when the Nazis arrive and life for the villagers changes drastically.  Elgio lay in a direct path of what was called the Gothic Line, one of the last fronts in WWII.  First, all food and blankets and even houses are taken by the German soldiers, and because they know where the Germans are, it doesn't take long for Allied bombing to begin.  But, when the villagers of Eglio are used as human shields in a last ditch effort by the Nazis, not everyone is lucky enough to survive the arrival of the Allies.

War in My Town is a fictionalized version of author E. Graziani's mother Bruna's true story.  It is told in the first person by the young Bruna, as she recounts the events that impacted her family and her neighbors between 1940 and 1945.

Bruna's personal story is emotional and compelling, but as the title indicates, it is really more about her town and the people who lived there.  That being said, I am sorry to say I found the writing style to be very dry and it was hard to stay focused.   I also found the  chronology of historical events to be confusing at times and found myself having  to backtrack a lot.

Despite that, I would still recommend this book simply because there aren't many narratives about life in Italy during WWII and since War in My Town is based on actual experience, it gives a more realistic picture of what life was like then.

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

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21. Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? by The Anne Frank House

In 2005, the United Nations issued a declaration stating that January 27th would be designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It only seems fitting to remember the victims of the Holocaust with a new book
about the secret annex where Anne Frank, her family and four other people hid from the Nazis in the annex of her father's business at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam for more than two years.

Anne is a young girl whose short life has resonated in the lives of so many young people since her diary was first published.  The Diary of a Young Girl.  It is a moving account of Anne's life in the Annex, in which readers discover Anne's humorous side, her mischievous side, her budding sexuality, her hopes and dreams.

But Anne wasn't alone and although she mentions names and incidents in her diary, what do we really know about the other people in the Annex?  Or the helpers on the outside?  What did the people in the annex do all day?  What did they eat? Where did their food and other needed items come from?

The decision to hide from the Nazis, to live in such close quarters for more than 2 years, from July 1942 to August 1944, couldn't have been an easy one to make and definitely requited a plan, detailed organization, and the help of trusted people who could provide them with food and other necessities.  

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who is a comprehensive book that brings it all together so that we may understand the risks and dangers everyone connected to Prinsengracht 263 faced on a daily basis.

The book begins with a very brief history of post WWI Germany, Adolf Hitler's rise to becoming the German chancellor in 1933, blaming the Jews for all of the country's problems.  Otto Frank immediately decided to leave Germany and settle in the Netherlands.  There he set up his business at Prinsengracht 263.  But in 1940, after Germany invaded the Netherlands, they immediately put anti-Jewish regulations in place, making life harder and harder for all Jews living there, until, in 1942, Otto Frank moved his family once again - directly into hiding.

The book continues with description of the daily routine of the hiders, food and it distribution, and other daily discomforts, how holidays and birthdays were celebrated.  Even a detailed description of the building they were hiding in.

This is followed with detailed biographies of all the people in hiding, those that helped them, other people who worked in or around Prinsengracht 263, even the cats are included.  Any one of those peripheral people could have (and may have) turned in the people in the annex to the Nazis if they became aware of their presence.

Anne Frank and her diary have held the attention of readers, young and old, since it was first published, but the publication of Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? gives readers a more detailed, more rounded out picture of who each individual was, making them more human and less the shadowy people we know from the diary.  

It's hard to imagine what it must have been like to be cut off from everyone and everything for more than two years, never going outside, never even breathing fresh air from an open window, and living in silence day by day.  This is an ideal book to be used in conjunction with Anne's diary as a way of introducing the Holocaust to young readers.

The book also contains an abundance of photographs, some never before published of everyone and everything related to the secret annex, including photos of all the helpers.  There are also maps, including one of the concentration camps that the hiders were sent to after being discovered, a Concise Timeline along with the Lifeline of helpers and hiders, and a useful Glossary, a list of Sources, and suggestions for further reading.

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? is available only as an ebook.

And on this 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Day,  please take a moment today to think about all those who were victims of this tragedy, those who didn't survive as well as those who did.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Open Road Media

Curious about Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who?  Here's an excerpt you can read:

Excerpt
“Daily Life in the Secret Annex”

                  “At a quarter to seven, the alarm clock went off in the Secret Annex. The eight occupants would get up and wash before the warehouse workers arrived at half past eight. After that, they had to keep noise to a minimum. They walked in slippers, avoided the creaking stairs, and didn’t use any running water. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, or quarreling was absolutely forbidden. To kill time, the eight would spend the morning reading and studying. Some did needlework, while others prepared the next meal. Miep, working in the office on the first floor, along with Johannes, Victor, and Bep, would go upstairs to the Secret Annex to pick up the shopping list.

“It’s twelve thirty. The whole gang breathes a sigh of relief,” Anne wrote. At noon, the warehouse workers went home for lunch and the annex occupants could relax a little. The helpers from the office usually dropped in, and Jan Gies sometimes joined them. At one o’clock, they all listened to the BBC on the illegal “little baby radio” before having lunch. After the lunch break, the helpers went back downstairs and most of the occupants took naps. Anne often “used this time to write in her diary. Silence prevailed for the rest of the afternoon: Potatoes were peeled, quiet chores done for the office, and reading and studying continued, while below, the helpers worked in the office. Miep and Bep would slip out during the afternoon or after office hours to work their way through the shopping list, which usually included food, clothing, soap, and even birthday presents.

When the warehouse workers left at around half past five, Bep gave the occupants a sign. As the helpers returned to their own spouses or families, the Secret Annex came to life: Someone would grab the warehouse key and fetch the bread, typewriters were carried upstairs, potatoes were set to boil, and the cat door in the coal storage bin was opened for Peter’s cat, Mouschi. Everyone had his or her own task. After dinner, they sometimes played a game. At around nine o’clock, the occupants prepared for bed, with much shuffling of chairs and “the folding open of beds. They took turns going to the bathroom. Anne, being the youngest, went first. Fritz stayed up late studying Spanish in the office downstairs. By about midnight, all of the people in the Secret Annex would be fast asleep.

On Saturday mornings, the warehouse workers would put in half a day’s work, but in the afternoons and on Sundays, the Secret Annex occupants took time for a full sponge baths in a tub, each in his or her own favorite spot in the building. The laundry was done then, too, and the Secret Annex was scrubbed and tidied. There were businesses located in the two adjacent buildings, so during the weekends, the occupants didn’t have to be quite so cautious. But the curtains always remained closed.”


More Curious about Who Was Who?
Five anecdotes behind the faces of the Secret Annex

• While everyone was assigned chores, Peter was instructed to haul the heavy bags from the greengrocer up to the attic. On one occasion, “one of them suddenly split open and a torrent of brown beans went cascading down the stairs. It was weeks before the last beans were found, they had been wedged into every nook and cranny of the stairwell.”

• The Annex’s Romeo and Juliet: Anne Frank’s roommate and the eldest occupant of the Secret Annex, Fritz Pfeffer - the only one without family or loved one at his side - was gripped with loneliness. His evenings were filled with writing letters to his “Lotte,” his great love Charlotte Kaletta, a Catholic woman whom he was forbidden to marry due to the Nuremberg Race Laws. He relied on Miep to serve as messenger to deliver the letters where he professed that Charlotte’s love will strengthen him.

• Miep was deemed the pack mule and carrier pigeon for the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annex. “Every Saturday, she also brought along five library books, which the Secret Annex occupants eagerly looked forward to. ‘Ordinary people don’t know how much books can mean to someone who’s cooped up,’ Anne wrote.”

• After the betrayal that led to the Secret Annex’s exposure and the inhabitants’ arrest, the ladies were sent to Westerbork transit camp where they “were forced to dismantle batteries, a dirty and dangerous business. The workday began at five o’clock in the morning. Seated at long tables, the women broke open batteries in order to remove the carbon rods. Then they picked out the sticky brown mass, which contained poisonous ammonium chloride. Finally, all the components were separated for use in the arms industry.”

• When Frank Otto, Anne’s father and lone survivor, returned to the Secret Annex, he “found the rooms practically empty and abandoned. For him, that emptiness symbolized the loss of his fellow sufferers who had not returned from the camps. For this reason, Otto later decided that the Secret Annex should remain this state.” 

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22. Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer

It's June 1964 and Sara Barry, 18, has been living at the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls ever since she was a baby.  But now, after a fire completely destroys the building, it is time for Sara to strike out on her own.  Before she does that, Mrs. Hazelton, the home's matron, decides it is time for Sara to discover who she is.  All she has to give Sara is a certificate from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, a doctor's note written in a foreign language and a small Star of David on a chain.

It seems that Sara's mother, whose name was Karen Frankel,  had been in Auschwitz, had actually survived until the camp was liberated, but then succumbed to TB in a DP or displaced persons camp shortly afterwards.  Sara was born in Germany soon after the war ended, and sent to the home in Canada.  Her Jewish background is a complete surprise to her.

Now, armed with the $138.00 gift from Mrs. Hazelton and her own savings from her waitress job, Sara decides to go to Germany and try to find the doctor who signed the certificate that sent her to Canada.  Perhaps he has some information about her mother and father.

Arriving in Germany, Sara immediately heads to Föhrenwald, site of the former DP camp and easily locates Dr. Gunther Pearlman, the doctor who had certified her healthy to travel, even though she actually had TB as well.  But as soon as the doctor sees the papers she has with her, he turns on her and tells Sara to get out and go back to Canada, he has no information that would help her.  Dr. Pearlman does make a one night reservation at a small inn run by an older lady named Frau Klein, and asks his helper, Peter, a boy around the same age as Sara, to escort her there.

Dr. Pearlman may want Sara to leave the next day, but Sara has other plans and with Peter's help, and Frau Klein's kindness, she decides to stay for the rest of the week.  Luckily, Peter speaks perfect English (as does Dr. Pearlman), so he can translate for her.  Sara quickly discovers that Föhrenwald is still home to many Jewish survivors and their children, including Frau Klein, the doctor and Peter's parents.

But uncovering information about her parents isn't easy in the country that just wants to forget about what had happened there.  Yet, perseverance does pay off and while all the loose ends are neatly tied up by the end of the novel, some of what Sara discovers is difficult for her to accept, and I have to admit, I wasn't expecting the ending to twist the way it did.

I found this is a very interesting example of a post-war historical fiction novel.  By setting it in the 1960s, Kathy Kacer shows the reader a world that wants to forget what happened, others who, like Sara, really don't know about what happened under Hitler's tyranny, even as racial prejudice is still openly practiced.  Mrs. Hazelton didn't keep Sara's Jewish identity secret because she didn't like Jews, but because she wanted to protect her from any lingering anti-Semetism.  And Luke, Sara's loser boyfriend in Canada, proves the point, with his hatred of Jews and blacks, seen in the way he goes after Sara's friend Malou.

Stone on a Grave is an emotional, insightful novel about a young woman trying to discover who she really is.  It was named a 2016 Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Reader category and I am happy to say that I will be interviewing Kathy Kacer as part of the Sydney Taylor Blog Tour  February 11, 2016 on my blog Randomly Reading.  You can find a complete list of winners and the blog tour schedule HERE

Be sure to read the Author's Note for more information about the aftermath of the Holocaust.

In the Benevolent Home, Sara was one of a group of girls Mrs. Hazelton considered to be her "special seven."  Like Sara, each girl is given whatever information Mrs. Hazelton has about who they really are, plus $138.00 she had put aside for them to start them on their way.   Sara's story is part of a seven book YA series called Secrets that follows each girl on their journey towards self-discovery. Each novel is written by a different author, providing a variety of stories and insights.


This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library


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23. Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante (a Maggie Hope Mystery #5) by Susan Elia MacNeal

It's Christmastime1941 and the United States has been at war for just a few weeks.  Elated that they will finally have an alley in their fight against the Nazi war machine, Winston Churchill and his entourage, including John Sterling and David Greene, has just arrived in Washington DC after a long, harrowing Atlantic Ocean crossing dodging Nazi submarines and rough seas.

Naturally, because Churchill needs hope, he has also brought along Maggie Hope, one of his Special Operations Executives cum typist.  And it doesn't take long for Maggie to get involved in a murder mystery.

Eleanor Roosevelt's temporary secretary Blanche Balfour hasn't shown up for work, didn't even call in, and now, the President's wife is worried about her.  Churchill volunteers Maggie to help Mrs. Roosevelt because "she's an excellent secretary and helpful in all sorts of...situations."  Which is good, since the two women discover Blanche's body in her bathtub with her wrists slashed when they arrive at her apartment.   Quick thinking Maggie anonymously telephones the police, and noticing a notepad, wisely takes it with her.  Back at the White House, Maggie softly rubs the notepad with a pencil, revealing what looks to be a suicide note from Blanche, except that it isn't her handwriting.

The note claims that Mrs. Roosevelt made unwanted advances at Blanche, trying to kiss her, which, of course, the First Lady denies vehemently.  But the suicide note is only a ruse designed to turn people against the Roosevelts and discredit them., thereby jeopardizing their wartime support.  There are those who are also very unhappy with Mrs. Roosevelt's interfering in the upcoming execution of a young black Virginia sharecropper, Wendel Cotton, for killing a white sharecropper.  The First Lady and Wendel's lawyer, Andrea Martin, believe his trial was a sham, consisting of 12 white men who could pay the $1.50 poll tax.

But why would anyone want to besmirch the Roosevelt's using the Wendel Cotton execution as their fodder?  Trust me, it isn't for the obvious reasons.

Mrs. Roosevelt's problem is the central Maggie Hope mystery, but there are other story lines making this a busy novel and these will be, I assume, expanded upon in future books.  There is the increasing/decreasing/increasing sexual tension between Maggie and John Sterling, who despite having adjoining hotel rooms, never seem to be able to get together.  And there is a storyline about Clara Hess, Maggie's mother and Nazi spy, and one about the effort the Germans put into building a rocket (a precursor to the eventual V-bombs the Nazis lobed at England in 1944-45?).  And now that the US is in the war, there is the more intense relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt.

There is also a nice bit about Walt Disney and his wartime propaganda.   No longer able to fly with the RAF, John Sterling has been developing a gremlin story, those pesky little creatures that plague the pilots on the RAF by sabotaging their planes and Disney is very interested in it (The Gremlins was Roald Dahl's first children's book.  Dahl was also an RAF pilot, and later posted in Washington DC.  His story was published in 1943 by Disney).

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante is every bit as well-written and well-researched as the four other Maggie Hope mysteries, but I have to admit I didn't enjoy reading it as much.  I think it is because there was too much going on and not enough mystery.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed all the interesting people and pop culture bits that MacNeal included, maybe because the story takes place in Washington DC, a place near and dear to my heart and because I know American pop culture so well.  But, I will be glad when Maggie returns to Britain, where they seem to have better mysteries.

Oh, yes, in Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante readers get to finally meet the infamous Aunt Edith and, let me say, she is a trip.

MacNeal has touched on several themes that will definitely resonate with today's readers and, even though it isn't my favorite Maggie Hope, I still highly recommend reading this fifth book in the series.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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24. Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

It's March 1942 and for 10 year-old Manami Tanaka, walking on the beach near her home on Bainbridge Island, Washington with her grandfather and their dog Yujiin before they walk together to school is always a treat.  Except now, there is war and there are warships carrying soldiers passing by.

At school, Manami is told it is her last day, the last day for all the Japanese students.  Instead of school, Manami, her mother, father and grandfather must register in order to be sent away to an unknown place taking only what they can carry.  Grandfather has made arrangement for Yujiin to be picked up by their minister, since not pets are allowed to go with them.  Unable to leave him behind, Manami hides the little dog inside her coat and no one notices until they are far from home.  A soldier puts Yujiin in a crate and he is left behind.

Traumatized by all that she has just experienced, unable to bear the pain of losing Yujiin and the hurt it has caused her grandfather, Yujiin finds herself unable to speak.  Eventually, the Tanaka's arrive at a half built Manzanar internment camp, where they must share one small room with a women and her many children.  Mr. Tanaka joins the building team responsible for constructing new barracks as more and more Japanese family arrive.  Mrs. Tanaka takes a job working in the kitchens.  Both parents are thankful that their older children, Ron and Keiko, are still away at college, but Manami writes and asks them to come to Manzanar.  The letters get lost, but soon Ron arrives.

Eventually, a school opens and Ron takes a teaching job there, which makes Manami very happy.  She begins to believe that Ron got her letter to him because it was caught by the wind which blows all the time.  Still unable to find her voice, and living with unbearable guilt over what happened to their dog, Manami begins to think she sees Yujiin looking for her around the camp.  Realizing he isn't really there, Manami begins to write letters to Yujiin to come to her in the camp and releases them into the wind.

Anyone who has ever lost a pet tragically will understand Manami's heartbreak - but she is dealing not just her own feelings, but also having to see her grandfather's heartbreak as well.   And this heartbreak is compounded by the sudden loss of everything she ever knew, and removal to a hostile, unfriendly crowded place surrounded by barbed wire and guards with guns, and all because of her Japanese heritage.  I can't even imagine how a 10 year old could cope with all that even with a strong, understanding family like the Tanakas.

Lois Sepahban has drawn realistic, believable characters, who even under these terrible circumstances show a level of courage, dignity, and resiliency that is admirable, and who despite the worst circumstances, manage to thrive, like Mrs. Tanaka's garden.  It's a short novel, told entirely on the first person from Manani's point of view, which accounts for the lack of many things that went on around her but she which has no knowledge of.  In fact, Paper Wishes almost feels like a novella, and yet, the writing is so expressive, so emotional, it almost reads like poetry.

Paper Wishes is Sepahban's debut middle grade novel, though she has a number of nonfiction works to her credit.  It is an excellent work of historical fiction, though it is not a history book about Manzanar, but rather about the traumatizing effects displacement, discrimination and loss have on one young girl and her family.  And it is a novel that will certainly resonate with today's readers.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the novel.

You find more information about the Japanese people from Bainbridge Island who were deported to internment camps HERE

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

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25. American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

For Connor Bianchini, 16, much of his life has always revolved around his family and the family's restaurant, Mama Lucia's Home Cooking.  And he has always known exactly who is - half Irish on his mother's side of the family, half Italian on his father's.  But just before Nonna Lucia passed away, she gave Connor's father Tony a ring, some pilot's wings, and a letter explaining the her Italian husband was not his father.  His father was an American pilot named Ace, with whom she had an great love affair.

After his father gives him the gold ring, Connor begins thinking about the man who loved his grandmother so much.  The ring becomes a reminder for Connor to wonder who he is and it doesn't take long for him to start researching it to try to find his real grandfather's identity.  Engraved on the ring are the words The Forcean 1940 and the initials MS, providing a good place to start.

The rest of the Bianchini rally around Tony, providing family support and acceptance of his new half-brother status, but Tony has been thrown quite a loop.  With the help of a librarian at the local college, a book called The Forcean, which he thought might be related to the ring, was borrowed through inter-library loan.  When the book arrives, it turns out to be a college yearbook from Wilberforce University - one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).

Already depressed over losing his mother and the family's matriarch, Tony has a stroke after finding out that his real father was African American.  While he is in the hospital recovering, Connor continues his investigations into his mysterious African American grandfather, and his grandmother great love.

Connor, unlike his half-brother Carlo, immediately embraces his new heritage and decides to write his senior honors paper on the Tuskegee Airmen after discovering that his grandfather had most likely been one, stationed in Italy at one point.

Nonna Lucia left quite a legacy for her family and it is interesting to see how the rest of the family handled it.  How would you have handled news that you are not who you think you are?

I have always loved Marilyn Nelson's stories in verse, but this one just didn't do it for me.  I would have much preferred a novel about the grandfather, and his experiences both before and after his time as a Tuskegee Airman in Italy and his affair with Nonna Lucia, how he might have dealt with issues around race and prejudice.  And while books about biracial families are so needed right now, the Bianchini's just felt too unreal for me, even Connor.

Much of the story revolves around Connor's driving lessons, first with his father and later his mother. Driving is, of course, a nice coming-of-age-entering-adulthood trope.  It is Connor who now becomes the caretaker, caring for his father much of the time after his stroke, helping him heal both physically and emotionally and enabling him to come to terms with his new identity with the information he has learned about Tuskegee Airmen for his honors paper.

The part of the book I really did like was the last sections in which we get to read Connor's paper, complete with photographs of actual Tuskegee Airmen, and the only indication of what Connor and his dad are doing in in the chapter heading and yet, it all worked.

Despite my objections, I still think this is a book that should be read by all.  And do read the Author's Note at the back of the novel, where Nelson explains how she came to write a novel from the perspective of a white teenage boy.  

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

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