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Essentially, a journal about books written for children and young adults about World War II.
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1. Memorial Day 2015

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

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

FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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



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


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



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



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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4. Sunday Funnies #21: The Boy Saboteures

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

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

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

(click images to enlarge)









You can read more True Comics at Comic Books+

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6. Remembering Günter Grass

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

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

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


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

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


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

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






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7. Escape in Time by Ronit Lowenstein-Malz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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11. Echo, a novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March is Women's History Month



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

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

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

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









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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mister Doctor was translated by Paula Ayer

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

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17. Half a Man by Michael Morpurgo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18. Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

When his grandchildren ask about the medal he has received, an elderly Navajo grandfather begins to tell them "the true story of how Navajo Marines helped America win a great war." (pg 1)  He begins his story when, at age 6, he leaves the loving confines of his family's hogan on the Navajo Reservation to be educated in an Navajo mission boarding school, not knowing what to expect.

But it doesn't take long for him to find out.  Arriving at the school, he is immediately stripped of everything Navajo - his beautiful traditional long black hair is shaved off, his Navajo clothes replaced by a uniform, the family's turquoise and silver jewelry he wore is taken never to be seen again and  his Navajo name, Kii Yázhí, becomes the anglicized Ned Begay.  But the worst was being told he could never speak his beloved Navajo language again.  The punishments were harsh for anyone caught speaking Navajo, as Ned discovered one day after greeting one of the teachers in Navajo.  And just to make sure they understand things, the students are continuously reminded that all things Navajo are bad, and their language most of all.

But Ned adjusts to life in the mission school and does very well, eventually returning home and going to the Navajo high school.  It is his hope to become a teacher, one who respects all his Indian students.  But, when Ned is 16, the United States is attacked by the Japanese, and reports of what happened in Pearl Harbor prompt his to want to join the Marines.  But he must wait a year before his parents will give him permission.

When he finally does join the Marines, he finds himself part of a group of other Navajos   Ned finishes boot camp and to his surprise, he and the other Navajos are not given the usual furlough Marines are given afterwards.  Instead, they are taken to an isolated location and Ned fears it will be mission boarding school all over again.

It is school, but it is a far cry from mission school.  In mission school, Ned and the other students would have to secretly speak Navajo, but now, they were being asked to use their sacred language to help the United States win the war against Japan.  It is Ned's job and the job of all the Navajo Marines to turn their language into a secret code.  And they cannot tell a single solitary person about what they are doing.

Eventually, Ned ships out to the Pacific theater where he is a radio operator, trained to both give and receive messages using the code he helped develop.  Ned and the other Marines fight their way across the Pacific theater of Guadalcanal, Bourgainville, Guam Iwo Jima and Okinawa, in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.  All the while, Ned feels pride and satisfaction knowing that his beloved language used as a Navajo code cannot be broken by the Japanese.  Ned serves in the Pacific until the end of the war, but the reader should keep in mind that in 1945, he was still just a teenage boy.

Code Talker is a realistic novel about the war and about the life of the Code Talkers.  Bruchac wrote it using a framing technique, so the young reader knows from the beginning that Ned survived the war.  As an elderly grandfather now, Ned tells his story fluidly and fluently.  Bruchac's plot is tight and straightforward, as is the language used.  Any reference to Navajo culture, custom, or way of life is respectfully explained within the story but without taking the reader away from the story.  For my part, however, I found the narrators voice is so intimate that after a while I begin to feel like I was sitting among his grandchildren listening to his story.  That, to me, is the sign of a really good book.

One important aspect that Bruchac includes is Ned's Navajo religion.  Ned often refers to the Holy People who watch over him and help him.  He also describes different ceremonies, like the protection ceremony called the Blessingway, done before Ned becomes a marine or the Enemyway ceremony, done when Ned returns home from war suffering what we would call PTSD nowadays, and done to put him back in balance with the world.  Each morning, Ned does his morning prayers, using the pollen  he is given in his Blessingway.

Although this is a book that is also about war, and covers some of the harshest, bloodiest fighting in circumstance that are difficult to imagine, it really has a very low key way of handling the combat sections.  They are more focused on Ned and the other marines than in anything else.  And the reader learns how men (and now women) survive in combat, from living in foxholes that had to dig themselves under enemy fire, to making soup in their helmets and constantly dealing with lice and rats

You might be interested in knowing that from the original 29 Code Talkers by the end of the war there were more than 400, including men from the Choctaw, Comanche, Navajo and Hopi tribes, all using their own tribal language.  The Code Talkers were not allowed to speak of their wartime accomplishment until 1969, when their work was declassified.  In 2000, President Clinton awarded the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers the Congressional Gold Medal, and the other Code Talkers the Congressional Silver Medal (which is the medal that sparks Ned's story).  Sadly, in June 2014, the last living Code Talker, Chester Nez, passed away at age.

Do read Code Talker if you are interested in Native Americans, codes and/or WWII.  It may read a little slowly at times, but it is well worth it.  Bruchac includes an Author's Note at the back of the novel, as well as a Selected Bibliography that includes books about Navajos, books about the Code Talkers and books about WWII for anyone interested in more information.

A useful discussion guide for Code Talker is available from the publisher, Scholastic

This short piece will give you a sense of what Ned Begay experienced and his legacy


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

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19. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (A Flavia de Luce Mystery) by Alan Bradley

I knew I was probably pushing the WWII connection with the 7th Flavia de Luce mystery, but, well, I read it and loved it anyway.  And after all, #6, The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, did leave us with a cliffhanger - with Flavia, now 12, banished to Canada and boarding school.  How could I resist?

It is 1951, and very much against her will, Flavia sets sail from her beloved Buckshaw and Bishop's Lacy to Canada in the company of the rather disagreeable Dr. Ryerson Rainsmith, Chairman of the Board of Guardians at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy and his equally disagreeable second wife, Dorsey (hmm. what happened to wife number 1?, Flavia wonders)

But finally, after a long, rough voyage followed by a long train ride, Flavia arrives late one night at Miss Bodycote's in Toronto.  Taken to her room and glad to be out of the Rainsmith's clutches, Flavia no sooner falls asleep when she is pummeled awake by a girl calling her a dirty, rotten traitor.  Determining that it is a case of mistaken identity, her attacker, Patricia Anne Collingwood, tells Flavia that she has noticed three girls in the school have gone missing and she was trying to get to the bottom of it all.

But when the headmistress, Miss Fawlthorne, shows up, Collingwood scurries up the chimney to hide, leaving Flavia to deal with explaining so much noise.  But just as Flavia convinces the headmistress that she was just disoriented and talking to herself, Collingwood crashes out of the chimney, followed by a charred body wrapped in a Union Jack, and with a detached head.  But who does the body belong to? And why was it stuffed up the chimney and for how long?  Could it be one of the three missing girls?  How will Flavia possibly solve this case without the cooperation of her great friend from Bishop Lacy Inspector Hewitt?  After all, Toronto's Inspector Greenhurst doesn't know her, doesn't know her reputation, and things are done differently in Canada, so no help there for Flavia.

Now, you knew that even though Flavia is away from her friends, family and chemistry lab at Buckshaw that murder and mayhem would follow her across the ocean.  Still, I didn't really know what to expect when Bradley decided to take Flavia out of her comfort zone and drop her half way across the world - in a boarding school, no less.  But I was definitely not disappointed with what I read.

Each book gives a little more information about Flavia and her mother.  Miss Bodycote's is the school her mother attended, and it seems that Flavia is destined to follow in her footsteps.  But even though we've learned a lot about Harriet de Luce, she is still something of an enigma to both the reader and to Flavia.  And the mysterious Miss Bodycote's is part of the mystery of Harriet de Luce.  All I can say is that nothing is as it seems in this 7th mystery.

Flavia, thankfully, hasn't changed a bit - she's still too smart, too feisty, too incorrigible in the best of ways.  Is the purpose of Miss Bodycote's to test Flavia's mettle, dropped into a difficult situation, away from things loved and familiar?  To initiate her into Nide and the enjoyment of pheasant sandwiches (don't remember what these mean?  Go back and reread the end of The Dead in their Vaulted Arches).

One word of caution.  Normally, each book gives you enough information about Flavia's past adventures in mystery-solving, but I'm sorry to say that this volume just doesn't stand alone.  Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful fun, but you need a little more background.

It is my understanding there there will be three more Flavia de Luce mysteries still to come and perhaps by the end of book 10, all will be revealed about her life.

If you love mystery series, this is one of the best.

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

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20. Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis and Gary Kelly

February is Black History Month and this year's theme is A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.  It is a good time to look back and reflect on the changes and contributions of African Americans to the fabric of American life in the last century.  

For example, more and more we are learning about the achievements of African American soldiers in World War II.  Books like The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin,  Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone, Double Victory: How African American Women Broke the Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach, and The Double V Campaign: African Americans and World War II by Michael L. Cooper all highlight the contributions these courageous Americans made in the fight for democracy even as they were being denied their basic civil rights.

Now, J. Patrick Lewis and Gary Kelly, the same duo who produced the lovely book And the Soldiers Sang, about the Christmas Truce in 1914 during World War I, have written a book introducing us to the brave and talented unsung heroes of the 15thNew York National Guard, which was later federalized as the 369th Infantry Regiment, soldier that the Germans dubbed the Harlem Hellfighters. "because of their tenacity."

In beautifully lyrical prose, Lewis tells how bandleader James "Big Jim" Reese Europe was recruited to organize a new black regiment in New York.  Traveling around in an open air double-decker bus, his band played on the upper level, while the new recruits lined up below.  Willing to fight like any American, enthusiastic patriotism may have motivated these young men, but racism at home, and in the army resulted in segregation while training and doing the kind of grunt work not given to white soldiers in Europe, even as they entertained tired soldiers with [Jim] Europe's big band jazz sounds.

Each page tells small stories of the 369th: their heroics, homesickness, the bitter cold, the lynchings back home, the fighting on the French front lines.  Extending the narrative are Gary Kelly's dark pastel illustrations.  Kelly's visual representations of the men of the 369th Infantry are both haunting and beautiful.   He has used a palette of earth tones and grays, so appropriate for the battlefields and uniforms of war, but with color in the images of patriotism, such as flags and recruiting posters, and highlighting the reasons we go to war.   Some of Kelly's image may take your breath away with their stark depiction of, for example, the hanging figures, victims of a lynching, or the irony of the shadowy faces of people in a slave ship hull, shackles around their necks, on their voyage to America and slavery next to a soldier heading to Europe to fight for freedom and democracy.

Harlem Hellfighters is an exquisitely rendered labor of love, but readers may find it a little disjointed in places.  Lewis's fact are right, though, and he also includes a Bibliography for readers who might want to know more or those who just want more straightforward nonfiction books about the 369th Regiment.

As a picture book for older readers, Harlem Hellfighters would pair very nicely with Walter Dean Myer's impeccable researched and detailed book The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage written with Bill Miles.  Myer's gives a broader, more historical view of these valiant men.  These would extend and compliment each other adding to our understanding and appreciation of what life was like for African American soldiers in World War I.

Both books is recommended for readers age 10+
Harlem Hellfighters was bought for my personal library


February is Black History Month

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21. Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

It's Women's History Month and this year's theme is Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives, so I thought I would begin the month with a new picture book for older readers that introduces them to the remarkable International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Shortly after I began this blog, I reviewed a wonderful middle grade book by Marilyn Nelson called  Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World.   But where Nelson's book covers the kind of music and the places where the Sweethearts played, Swing Sisters begins at the beginning.

In 1909, near Jackson, Mississippi a school/orphanage called Piney Woods Country Life School was started by Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones for African American girls.

The girls were educated, housed, clothed and fed and in return they all did chores to help keep things running smoothly and well.  In 1939, Dr. Jones started a band that he called the Sweethearts with some musically talented girls to help raise money for the school.  The music they played was called swing or big band music, by either name it was Jazz and people couldn't get enough of it.

Dean describes how the girls stayed together after leaving Piney Woods, hoping to make a living as musicians.  They would live, sleep, eat and play music, traveling around from gig to gig in a bus they called Big Bertha.  Band members came and went, and before long the band was no longer made up of only African American women, but included many races and nationalities.  As a result, they decided to call themselves the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

But while the band hit the big time, they still didn't get paid as much as their male counterparts nor were they taken as seriously, no matter how good they were.  Not only that, Dean points out, but in the Jim Crow south, because they were interracial now, traveling and performing became risky and she includes some of those scary, dangerous incidents they faced.

In 1945, as World War II was winding down, the Sweethearts found themselves on a USO tour thanks to a letter writing campaign by African American soldiers.  But sadly, the Sweethearts disbanded after the war and the members went their separate ways.

Dean does an excellent job of introducing the Sweethearts to her young readers and the difficulties an all-women's interracial band faced back in the 1940s balancing it with positive events and the strong bonds of friendship among all the members.

Cepeda's colorful acrylic and oil painted illustrations match the energy of the music the Sweethearts played with a bright rainbow palette of greens, pinks, purples, yellows, blues and orange.

So many wonderful books are coming out now introducing young readers to some of the greatest artists and musicians of the 20th century and this book is such a welcome addition.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was bought for my personal library

You can see for yourself just how good the Sweethearts were in their heyday:

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22. Remembering Mal Peet

Mal Peet 1947-2015
Today, the sad news came over the Internet that Mal Peet has passed away.  Award winning Mal Peet has been a favorite children's and YA writer of mine for a long long time and I always looked forward to his informative reviews and interviews in the Children's Book section of The Guardian.

Mal Peet's WWII novel Tamar: a Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal was one of the most intelligent YA books I have reviewed here at The Children's War and I am reposting it today in remembrance of him and in the hope that it will entice readers who aren't familiar with this wonderful writer to read his books or if you are familiar with him, you will take a moment to remember him.

You can also read his many articles, reviews and interviews at The Guardian HERE


Tamar is one of those stories that is difficult to talk about without giving too much away and spoiling the twist that comes at the end of the novel.  And Tamaris well worth the read just to get to that.  It begins in 1979, when William Hyde asks his son Jan if he and his wife would consider using the name Tamar for their expected baby, to which they happily respond in the affirmative.  It is this daughter, Tamar, who narratives the story that follows.

The story then switches to 1945, introducing Dart and Tamar, undercover names (based on English rivers) for two Dutch born, British trained agents for the SOE (Special Operations Executive) just as they are about to parachute into the Nazi-occupied  Netherlands to work with the Dutch Resistance in an attempt to reorganize it during that terrible Hunger Winter when so many people died of starvation.  Once inside Holland, Dart, who is the team's radio operator, operates under the name Dr. Ernest Lubbers, living and setting up his radio at the local mental asylum.  Tamar, under the name of Christiaan Boogart, is fortunate enough to be placed in the home of Marijke Maatens.  Tamar/Christiaan and Marijke have been lovers for a while, but when Dart/Lubbers realizes what is going on between them, he becomes very angry and jealous.  He has also fallen in love with Marjike.

The narrative moves to the spring of 1995.  Jan Hyde's daughter Tamar Hyde is now 15.  Her father has be missing for a few years and her beloved grandmother, Marijke, has recently passed away, after being placed in a nursing home because she was seemingly suffering from dementia.  Now, her grandfather has just committed suicide.  As a result of that, Tamar finds herself in possession of a box full of his World War II memorabilia.  Tamar knew that her Grandad "was fascinated by riddles and codes and conundrums of labyrinths, by the origin of place names, by grammar, by slang, by jokes...by anything that might mean something else.  He lived in a world that was slippery, changeable, fluid." (pg 111)  And so Tamar begins a journey to figure out that codes messages her Grandad has left regarding his life and suicide.

From here on the story alternates between 1945 and 1995 as events unfold and characters are explained.  I don't want to say too much more at this point and risk an unintended spoiler, which can so easily happen with suspense novels you feel enthusiastic about. 

Tamar is an exciting, suspenseful, very sophisticated and often gritty YA novel, but it is definitely not going to be everyones cup of tea.  A lot of readers said they had a hard time getting into the story, while others complained that it was big (379 pages)  and too slow moving, while other readers thought it was a 5 star story.  I tend to be on the side of the 5 star folks.   

Peet's teenage narrator proves to be quite formidable.  One would almost think beyond her 15 years, but given Tamar's life experiences so far, maybe her formidability is completely understandable.  Through her voice, Peet details her discoveries in a very straightforward style, clean and clear, yet it is all done in such lyrical prose that sometimes it often made me almost forget the subtext of the title.  Without my realizing that he had done it, Peet has taken that subtext espionage, passion and betrayal, wound and woven them together in a story that left me unsuspecting until the very end and then totally surprised.  In fact, after I finished it, I thought the whole novel is really a reflection of of William Hyde's love of all things enigma and that, I think, that is what makes Tamar such an unusual story.  And yet, all along the way, Tamar gives us innocent (?) hints about where things are going. 

The book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was bought for my personal library

Walker Books Australia has a very nice teacher's guide here.

This book was awarded the following well-deserved honors:

2005 Carnegie Medal
206 Wirral Paper Back of the Year
2008 ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
2011 De Gouden Lijst

Thank You, Mal

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23. Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler's Army by Georg Rauch, translated by Phyllis Rauch

There aren't many first hand accounts of men who fought as soldiers in the German army during World War II, particularly not for young adult readers, which makes Unlikely Warrior so much more compelling and interesting to read.  Georg Rauch really takes the reader inside this relatively unknown world and give us an opportunity to see what life was like on German side of things.  Georg divides his story into three distinct parts.

The first part deals with Rauch's training for the army and his family history.  In February 1943, 18 years old Vienna-born Georg doesn't really want to be a soldier in Hitler's army , but when his draft notice arrives, he has no choice.  Reporting for training, his radio building and Morse Code hobby skills means he can train as a radio operator and telegraphist.

Now, for most Germans being in the army wasn't anything special - every able bodied male was conscripted, especially after the heavy losses they suffered on the Eastern Front at Stalingrad - expect for one thing: in Hitler's German Reich, Georg Rauch was consider to be Jewish in Hitler's Reich: Georg's maternal grandmother was Jewish, which meant his mother was Jewish, and so was he.

Sent to train in Brno, Czechoslovakia, the now Funker (radio operator) Rauch is chosen along with a few other men to be promoted to officer status.  But because he is a Mischling (a person of mixed blood), Georg believes he will not be able to serve in officer capacity and reports this to this superior officer.

Not long after, Georg finds himself at the dreaded Eastern front as a radio and telegraph operator.  Ironically, Hitler's Jewish soldier is awarded the Iron Cross in August 1944.

The second part of Rauch's story covers the time he spent in Russian labor camps as a POW and this is the most difficult  section to read.  Shortly after receiving his medal,  Rauch is captured by the Russians and spends the rest of the war as a POW.  The details of being a prisoner of war are harrowing, but despite many close calls, starvation, illness and injury, Rauch manages to survive the war and the Russian POW camps, unlike many of his fellow soldiers.

Part Three covers the end of the war and Rauch's long trek home to find his hopefully still living family.  Each part of Rauch's wartime journey is an intriguing window into the life of a German soldier.  Being 1/4 Jewish doesn't really seem to impact his time at the front or as a POW, as much as his refusal to serve as an officer does.  On the other hand, it doesn't make Rauch feel like an enemy, and one certainly would not think of him as a Nazi, not if he is 1/4 Jewish, nor does he (or any of the German soldiers he writes about) ever behave with the kind of cruelty we associate with Hitler's soldiers and so it becomes easy to read his story and emphasize with it.

Georg Rauch's easy writing style pulls the readers right into his life and his open honesty about his himself and how he feels about everything is refreshing.  He has penned a fascinating memoir is based in part on his own recollections and in part on letters he had written to his mother while in the army, letters she carefully numbered and tucked away.  Because the letters were written in situ, they make Rauch's experiences sound much more immediate and realistic than had he written his story complete from memory.  To add to the authenticity of his story, photographs of Rauch and his family are included.  Rauch's wife Phyllis has done an excellent readable translation of Unlikely Warrior from the German, perhaps so well done because it was a labor of love.

After the war, Rauch went on to fulfill his dream of being an artist, living in Mexico with his wife, who translated his memoir.  Sadly, Georg Rauch passed away in 2006 and never saw this wonderful Young Adult version of his story in print.

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

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24. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert

When we think of partisans and resisters to the Nazis, most of us don't usually think about women.  After all, it was a hard, dangerous business to fight such a cruel regime.  But, as we learned from Kathryn Atwood's informative book, Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance and Rescue, many women were willing to risk everything, including their lives, to fight for what they believed to be right.

Now, Joanne D. Gilbert has written a book that tells us about even more brave women and since March is Women's History Month and this year's theme is Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives, it seems a perfect time to showcase Women of Valor.

Between 2012 and 2014, Gilbert interviewed four women who had lived with their families in Poland, but who, through different circumstances, had found their way in the surrounding forests and either joined partisan groups or found other ways of resistance when the Nazis occupied their country.

Manya Barman Auster Feldman had lived a religious, comfortable life with her parents, 3 sisters and 2 brothers in Dombrovitsa in eastern Poland until Hitler invaded it in 1939.  Suddenly, life became harder and harder and eventually all of Dombrovitsa's Jewish families were crowded into a two block ghetto.  When it appeared likely that the ghetto was going to be liquidated, Manya's father decided her, Manya, her older sister and two brothers would try to escape into the forest, leaving behind her mother and two little sisters.  Walking all night, they found the Kovpak partisan headquarters, where they were sent to different battalions.  Manya, still just a teenager, soon learned how to fight, steal, sabotage the Germans efforts, and nurse the sick and wounded.  Her story, as are all the stories included in Woman of Valor, is harrowing and amazing at the same time, and Manya herself credits luck for her many narrow escapes from death while she fought with the partisans.

Faye Brysk Schulman was also living a comfortable, religious life with her family in Lenin, Poland.  Her  older brother had learned photography and had enlisted Faye to help him.  It was her knowledge of photography that saved Faye's life when the ghetto they had been forced to live in was about to be liquidated, it was her job to take the photos that the Nazis demanded she take.  In September 1942, Soviet partisans stormed through Lenin, and warmed the remaining Jews to run.  Faye, still a teenager,  found the partisans, joined the Molotavia Brigade, where she spent the war years fighting, nursing and photographing events whenever she could steal, make or find what she needed.

Even though the rest of her family was Polish,  Lola Leser Lieber Schar Schwartz was born in Hungary/Czechoslovakia.  In 1938, when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, the Polish passports of her immediate family were no longer acceptable there.  The Lesers, including Lola, quickly fled to Poland and their extended family.  Little did Lola dream that after being continuously on the run from the Germans, hiding in all kinds of weather and places, including under a tree in the forest, it would be her Hungarian/Czechoslovakian birth that would save not just her life, but many others when she received official documents exempting her from the same treatment as the Polish Jews.  Needless to say, these documents sparked a flurry of forging more "official" documents for other Jews in peril.  Later, when her husband Mechel Lieber was arrested, Lola was even brave enough to go the Adolf Eichmann's office to try to convince him that it was a mistake.  Lola was indeed a woman of great courage.

Miriam Miasnik Brysk is the youngest of the women interviewed.  Only 4 years old when the war started, Miriam's family left Warsaw, Poland for Lida, her father's home then under Russian rule.  But when the Germans arrived in Lida in 1941, it didn't take long for persecutions to begin.  The Miasniks were fortunate because Miriam's father was a surgeon and the Nazis needed him.  In 1942, Miriam and her parents escaped the Lida ghetto with the help of a partisan group that decided they needed a doctor more than the Nazis did.  Miriam spent the rest of the war going from place to place with the partisans.  Her hair was cut off and she was dressed like a boy, had not formal education until after the war, but did possess her own gun for a while.  And she helped out wherever she could, even taking apart machine guns, cleaning them and putting them back together.

As each woman tells her story, it feels as though she is speaking to you personally, making this a very readable book and I highly recommend it.  As they wove their stories, each remembered in great detail what their lives were like before and under the Nazi reign of terror and each acted with remarkable courage.  Sadly, they all lost almost all the members of their families, often witnessing their murders.  Glibert doesn't let them stop at the end of the war, but we also learn about their lives after and up to the present.  Interestingly, they all found ways to express their Holocaust experiences though art later in life.

These are only four stories about acts of resistance, however, and, as Gilbert reminds us in Epilogue, most of the women who chose to resist the Nazis perished, taking the details of their courageous deeds with them, reminding us that what we do know about women resisters is really just the tip of the iceberg.  But let all these brave women, known and unknown, be an inspiration to us all in the face of oppression.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Gihon River Press

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25. Remembering Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett 1947-2015
Back in 2010, when I decided to start this blog, I knew I was taking a big risk given the focus of it.  I decided I needed to start with the best,  so naturally, I turned to Terry Pratchett.  Like all his fans, I was already familiar with Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, but of course and as wonderful as it is, it just didn't fit my focus.  I decided to begin my blog with a not very well known book called Johnny and the Bomb.

Written in the early 1990s, Johnny and the Bomb is the third novel in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy that includes Only You Can Save Mankind and Johnny and the Dead.  I liked Johnny and the Bomb so much, I reposted it in 2013, and in 2014, I listed it as one of my Top Ten books about friendship, writing "I loved the friendship between Johnny, Yo-less, Bigmac and Wobbler, three modern boys who time travel back to 1941 and the night of the Blackberry Blitz.  This is friendship as only Pratchett can write it - funny, serious, dangerous, slapstick.." and I might add, very tongue in cheek.  If you haven't read the Johnny Maxwell series, you might want to give them a try.

I already knew that Terry had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and when Clarion Books published a volume of his early short stories, Dragons at the Crumbling Castle, and having some first hand experience with Alzheimer's, I also knew his writing days were over.  But I still wasn't prepared for yesterday's sad news the Terry had passed away.  Especially not so close to learning the sad news that Mal Peet, another favorite author, had passed away on March 2, 2015.  Both men were such brilliant creative writers, the world is now a sadder place without them.

There are any number of tributes online to Terry, but I think the one published by Neil Gaiman and Ursula le Guin published in The Guardian say it best.

It's hard to say good-bye to an author that I like so much and who has given me hours and hours of reading pleasure, so instead I will just say Thank You for sharing your wonderful, exciting imagination with the rest of the world and for starting me off on my personal blog adventure.

Thank You, Terry

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