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When I first started this blog, I reviewed a book called The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square
by Joseph Ziemian. It was the first of many books about the Warsaw Ghetto that I have reviewed here and these stories about the brave individuals who were part of the resistance never has ceased to awe me.
So when I found The Cats of Krasinski
by Karen Hesse on the library shelf, I thought Wonderful! A nice picture book for older readers who may already have some familiarity with the Holocaust to introduce them to the Warsaw Ghetto and Jewish Resistance in WWII.
As we know, lots of Jewish children of all ages often escaped the Ghetto and lived openly right under the Gestapo's nose, passing for Aryan. Whenever they were able, they smuggled food and other necessities back to family and friends still behind the Ghetto wall.
In Hesse's story, two sisters have escaped the Ghetto and are living hand to mouth in Warsaw. The younger sister has befriended the cats that became homeless when their owners were rounded up to live in the Ghetto. Her older sister, Mira, is working with the resistance. They are expecting some food to arrive by train, carried by other resistance workers, to be stuffed into the holes in the Ghetto wall where it can be found by the Jews still living there.
But word comes that the Gestapo knows about the plan and will be waiting at the train station with trained dogs to arrest the resistance workers and confiscate the food. The young girl gets an idea to distract the Gestapo's dogs when the train arrives. And it works, thanks to the cat of Krasinski Square. The cats are gathered up and let loose just as the train arrives.
The Cats of Krasinksi Square
is an uplifting age appropriate story that has a lot to say to young readers not only about courage and taking risks, but that sometimes kids can come up with ideas that actually work. Told in sparse, lyrical free verse, the story is enhanced by the corresponding illustrations by Wendy Watson. Watson used washed out muted colors in pencil, ink and watercolor that certainly evoke the place and period in her beautifully rendered illustrations.
I thought that putting a merry-go-round in Krasinski Square at the the beginning and end of the book was an interesting touch. Carousels are such iconic symbols of happy children having fun, yet here it is juxtaposed with and accentuating the deplorable conditions that the Nazis forced upon the Jewish children. It makes a very telling comment.
This story is, as Hesse writes in her Author's Note, based on a real event involving cats outsmarting the Gestapo at the train station in Warsaw that caught her attention when she read about it. There is also a historical note about the Warsaw Ghetto and Jewish Resistance that anyone not very familiar with these might want to read.
This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
Of course, after reading Saving Zasha
, we all wondered where she really came from and who was the German soldier she was with. Well, Randi Barrow has written a prequel that pretty much answers those two questions.
begins with the September 1941 Siege of Leningrad. When German soldiers surround the city and cut off all supply lines, life becomes more difficult for everyone living in Leningrad, including Ivan, 12, and his mother, a factory worker. There is never enough food or heat and people are dying of starvation all over the city.
When her apartment is hit by a bomb, an elderly neighbor, called Auntie by everyone, moves in with them and begins to teach Ivan how to survive under siege, lesson she learned in WWI. As winter comes on, and the blockade holds, the three survive on the cans of beans Auntie had hidden away. Then one day, Ivan's mother announces that her job is moving to the Ural Mountains for safety and she must go with it - but without Ivan.
It is decided that Ivan will go live with his Uncle Boris and Auntie will live with her sister-in-law, Galina, as soon as the ice road across the frozen miles long Lake Ladoga can hold the weight of transport trucks and they can leave Leningrad. In January, the ice is finally thick enough and Ivan and Auntie set out on their journey. When no one meets them on the other side of the lake, they are fortunate enough to be offered a ride by a friendly sleigh owner.
At last, they arrive at Galina's home and Ivan settles in there for a few days before going on to Uncle Boris. He meets Polina, a girl about his age, who seems to know every nook and cranny of the area. It turns out that Polina, along with Galina and now Auntie, are working as partisans under the leadership of Petr, and along with other villagers. This is right up Ivan's alley and he too joins the partisans, staying at Galina's instead of traveling on to Uncle Boris.
Not long after this, the Germans arrive. Ivan has been playing his concertina for Auntie and Galina's pleasure and as the Germans roll in, their commander, Major Axel Recht, comes to the door to listen to Ivan play. With him are two German Shepard puppies. And when Commander Recht leaves, he takes Ivan with him.
Now, basically imprisoned in the makeshift Nazi headquarters, it is Ivan's hope to discover useful information he pass on the the partisans. Luckily, the cruel animal trainer who is to teach the puppies to hate and kill Russians, gets news that his son has been injured in fighting, and leaves immediately to be by his side. Ivan convinces the commander that he has experience training dogs and can do the job. And of course, Ivan begins to plot how he can get the puppies, Zasha and Thor, away from Recht's cruelty. This won't be easy - Recht is a sadistic, vengeful man, who loves his whip. And when he forces Ivan to watch a German soldier being whipped for a minor breach, the full extent of his cruelty becomes apparent.
But Ivan's plan of escape may happen sooner that he expects when Recht and his soldiers must leave the village soon to go help in the fighting at Tikhvin where things are not going well for the Germans. Can Ivan succeed in escaping Recht with both of his prized puppies?
This is a nice historical fiction work about Russia in WW2, an area not frequently explored in novels, though lately some really excellent works have been published. Another book depicting the terrible conditions in Russia during the war and how they impacted the ordinary Russians that people this story is always welcome. And certainly all the historical facts in this novel were spot on - the siege of Leningrad, the ice road over Lake Ladoga, the fighting at Tikhvin, a battle that helped turn the tide for the starving people in Leningrad. Be sure to read the Barrow's information and timeline about these things at the end of the book.
But Finding Zasha
left me with very mixed feelings. I actually enjoyed the first part of it quite a bit, but I felt that the story was sometimes forced in order to create a history for Zasha. And I thought that the second half and the ending were rushed in order to get to the end of the war and the point at which Saving Zasha
could begin. Although the story is filled with adventure and danger, I didn't find myself holding my breath at the places where that should have happened.
Sadly, I didn't care much for Ivan, either. Rather than strong and brave, I found him to be too headstrong, impulsive and public to be a partisan. And the other partisans accepting him as one struck me as took simplistic. He was basically an unknown to them and had proved himself trustworthy yet.
Yet, at the end of the day, I would recommend reading Finding Zasha.
It is still a well written novel, and there is much to cull from this book for fans of Zasha and/or Randi Barrow. And I hear there is a third Zasha book on the horizon.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an E-ARC from Net Galley
I found the concept of the ice road very intriguing and so I looked it up. It took Ivan and Auntie quite a long time to cross Lake Ladoga in a truck in Finding Zasha.
The ice road was almost 17 miles long and was constructed under enemy fire in the winter of 1041/42. But it lived up to its nickname The Road of Life during the Siege of Leningrad when it allowed limited food supplies to be brought into the beleaguered city and allowed others to leave if they had places they could go to.
|The Ice Road - April 1942 (you can see the ice|
starting to melt)
By: Stacy A. Nyikos,
Blog: Stacy A. Nyikos
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, Code Name Verity
, world war II
, Elizabeth Wein
, young adult
, prisoner of war
, The Reader
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Code Name Verity
I have the very distinct impression I may be coming a little late to the Code Name Verity
fan club, it's that good. Nonetheless, I can't not write about this story either. It's that riveting. It's historical fiction solidly based in history. It's storyline is so genuine, the reader is left wondering, "did it really happen"? Yet its characters are so relatable to today's young adults, there is no disconnect due to time period. Plus, the author put together an amazing author's note that explains what's real and what's not.
Basic plot line - two young British women, one a pilot, the other nobility, become friends while working in the British war effort. Queenie, the Scottish noble, becomes a spy whom Maddie, the pilot, flies her - as well as broken and repaired planes, other spies, soldiers, etc - around England and ultimately, over the Channel to France, where Queenie is caught and interrogated - first half of the book. The second half is about how Maddie, who had to crash land in France, tries to escape back to England.
The book is brimming over with fast-paced plotting and harrowing, edge of your seat, reading.
The format is interesting in that it is essentially a journal novel written from Queenie's and Maddie's POV. By alternating POV, the reader gets a more well-rounded, yet intimate viewpoint of what is going on both behind enemy lines and allied ones.
One of the aspects of the writing that most appealed to me is that Wein made each character human. That is, each has wants and desires, both abominable and universal. It's an interesting aspect to this particular novel. It wasn't easy to hate anyone flat out, except one secondary, but high-ranking Nazi official. Wein did a great job of character development, and in so doing, in bringing to life the intricacies of war and how enemy and ally aren't as one-dimensional as the history books of my young adult years painted them. The effect is something akin to that of The Reader
, remaining long after the story itself is finished and begging for further discussion.
For other great Fall diversions, stop by Barrie Summy's website
It has been almost a year since I reviewed Velva Jean Learns to Fly
by Jennifer Niven. As you may recall, Velva Jean married at 16, learned to drive and at 18, drove from North Carolina to Nashville by herself, leaving her husband and hoping to a sing at the Grand Ol' Opry. Talk about coming of age.
But then World War II began and VelvaJean found herself in the WASP Program (Women's Airforce Service Pilots.) Now, in Becoming Clementine
, it is June 16, 1944, Velva Jean is 21 and a seasoned pilot. So seasoned that she has just become the first woman to fly a B-17 Flying Fortress across the Atlantic Ocean to Preswick Airfield, Scotland. Proud of her accomplishment, she also has an ulterior motive for accepting this challenge - her beloved brother Johnny Clay, a paratrooper, hasn't been heard from since October 18, 1943 and Velva Jean is on a personal mission to find him.
As luck would have it, Preswick has been short of pilots since D-Day, less than two weeks earlier and Velva Jean decides getting to Europe would be the best way to find Johnny Clay, so she convinces all relevant authorities to let her copilot a mission to France. On July 13, she gets orders to fly to Roun, dropping supplies and a team of OSS agents and returning immediately to base.
Naturally, over France, the plane is hit by enemy ground fire and badly damaged though still flying. Then, when they finally find the place to make their drop, they realize it has been compromised by Germans. In an attempt to avoid them and singing "My Darling Clementine" to keep herself calm, the plane nevertheless crashes. Velva Jean's flight crew is killed. The team of five she was to drop does survive, but, angry and disgusted, they want to leave Velva Jean behind and try to find their own way.
Well, they may have wanted to leave Velva Jean, but she was a woman with a mission and a strong will. Eventually, the survivors meet up with a member of the resistance and that begins their journey through occupied France with the aid of the Underground, eventually ending in Paris. Through all this, Velva Jean finds herself more and more attracted to the leader of the OSS team, Émile Gravais and eventually this becomes a mutual attraction.
In Paris, Velva Jean is given a new identity, Clementine Roux, an American who married a Frenchman, unable to return to the US after the war began and her husband was killed. Now, she is pulled into the mission Gravais and his team are to accomplish - rescuing an important agent code-named Swan being held in a woman's prison in Paris.
Velva Jean alias Clementine's new mission: get herself picked up and sent to the same prison. Is that what happens? No, it isn't. And don't think for a moment she has forgotten about Johnny Clay.
One of the things I found very interesting in Becoming Clementine
was how difficult it was for Velva Jean to embrace her new identity as Clementine Roux. It is a testament to her strong sense of who she is that made Velva Jean want to keep surfacing, even in the face of danger.
I did feel that some of the technical bits about planes and things like that could have used some editing, mostly because I have no idea what I was reading about. Confession: I thought skipping those bits but actually read on, all the while realizing that my fear of flying was getting the best of me and that some readers would find this fascinating.
has something for everyone: excitement, espionage, romance (but not much sex, none explicit), action, but it also has violence, lots of it and cursing, lots of that, so be warned. It is a gritty, fact-paced novel but I felt it may still have the same level of YA appeal that Velva Jean Learns to Fly
had even since it is still a coming of age story of sorts. After all she had been through, it was hard to realize the Velva Jean is only 22 by the end of this novel.
And yes, there will be a fourth Velva Jean novel in autumn 2013.
This book is recommended for readers age 18+ and sophisticated teens with an interest in WWII
This book was received as an E-ARC through Net Galley
For another review of Becoming Clementine
at So Much So Many So Few
, followed by a wonderful interview with the author Jennifer Niven
By: Alex Baugh,
Margi Preus has written lots of books for young people, including the Heart of a Samurai, a 2011 Newbery Honor Award winner. This fall she has another wonderful book coming out about a young boys participation in the Norwegian Resistance in World War II.
Shadow on the Mountain
begins in October 1940, five months after the German invasion and occupation of Denmark and Norway on April 19, 1940 and finishes just before the war ends. It is written from the perspective of Espen, 14, his younger sister Ingrid, his former best friend Kjell and his newest enemy Askel.
While riding his bike one evening, Espen is stopped by a car full of Nazis. As they search his rucksack, Espen notices that Kjell is sitting in the car and wonders why. Eventually, the soldiers let him go on his way, believing he is on his way to visit his uncle. In reality, Espen is carrying coded information for the Norwegian Resistance, his first task as part of this group. After successfully delivering his information, he receives his code name - Odin, after the Norse god. And so begins Espen's new life as a boy to the world, an operative to the Resistance.
Ingrid has been keeping a diary of the events going on in her village since the Nazis arrival, even though it is illegal to write or read anything against the regime. But Ingrid has also stolen some ration cards and uses them to help feed some of the starving prisoners held by the Germans.
Kjell denies having been in the German car when Espen was stopped, but seems to have sympathetic leanings towards the Nazis. Or does he really? Well, suddenly his grandmother has no trouble getting the medication she needs so badly despite shortages.
But there is no doubt that the naturally mean-spirited Askel is completely sympathetic to the Nazis and that he hates Espen, especially after the joke he played on him during a soccer game. Now his goal is to move up the ranks with the Nazis and to catch Espen at the illegal activities Askel suspects him of taking part in.
The novel runs until the end of the war and follows the lives and activities of each of these characters, though it is Espen who is the novel's main protagonist. Preus has set the tension bar quite high and succeeded in producing a well researched, well documented work of historical fiction that had me on the edge of my seat in a number of places. Each passing year is introduced with a quote relevant to the situation in Norway, by either a Nazi or an anti-Nazi Norwegian and is followed they the activities of each of the four characters.
I read an uncorrected proof of Shadow on the Mountain
, but when it is published in September 2012 it will be chock full of relevant photos, maps and other bit of archival information and I can't wait to see them. There is also pronunciation guide for Norwegian names and words, followed by a brief history of the Germans in Norway in WWII and, because more Norwegians were not sympathetic to the Nazis, the resistance organizations that sprang up as a result. Norway was important to the Nazi cause, and when Hitler talked about the perfect Aryans he was really speaking about the Norwegians, with their blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin. It was his hope that Germany and Norwegians would marry and produce a real master race together. All of this comes out in Shadow on the Mountain
At the end of the novel, Preus has written about the events in the story and their real-life counterparts.
Do you feel resistance when you step into the water?A hesitation, perhaps, to put your foot in?A reluctance to jump?And once you’ve entered the water and started writing, do you feel the page resisting the words that you try to write?Do you feel the words themselves resisting you?Resistance can take many forms.In Steve Pressfield’s Do The Work! Overcome Resistance and get out of your own way, he
By: David Elzey,
Blog: The Excelsior File
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, graphic novel
, carla jablonski
, leland purvis
, first second
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written by Carla Jablonski
art by Leland Purvis
First Second 2010
This graphic novel set during the Occupation of France by the Nazis in World War II shows the work of the Resistance movement through the eyes of children who find themselves in the thick of things.
Teen Paul finds himself the man of the house when his father is taken away by the German Occupying forces. When they Germans
By: Chris Singer
Blog: Book Dads
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, Contributor: Chris Singer
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Resistance (Book 1) by Carla Jablonski (Illustrated by Leland Purvis)
Review by: Chris Singer
About the author:
Carla Jablonski is a novelist, performer, and playwright. She has written dozens of best-selling books for teenage and middle-grade readers.Her fiction has been translated into ten languages, and her plays have been performed in New York, Philadelphia, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Her most recent books Thicker than Water and Silent Echoes were selected for the New York Public Llibraries “Books for the Teen Age” list.
About the illustrator:
Leland Purvis is a self-taught comics artist and writer. His major works include the anthology VOX, a creator-owned series called PUBO, and a graphic-novel biography of physicist Niels Bohr, Suspended In Language, written by Jim Ottaviani. Recent works include graphic novels in the Turning Points series from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, a cat, and a turtle.
About the book:
Fighting on a secret front of World War II, Paul and Marie’s bucolic French country town is almost untouched by the ravages of WWII, but the siblings still live in the shadow of war. Their father is a Prisoner of War, kept hostage by the Germans. When their friend Henri’s parents disappear and Henri goes into hiding because of his Jewish ancestry, Paul and Marie realize they must take a stand. But how can they convince the French Resistance that even children can help in their fight against injustice?
Resistance is the first voulme of a trilogy written by acclaimed teen author Carla Jablonski and illustrated by Leland Purvis.
My take on the book:
This is a really good introduction for middle school readers about life during the Nazi occupation of France. The beauty of the story is Jablonski’s choice to tell the story from the point-of-view of children. She does an excellent job of portraying the characters of Paul, Marie and Henri. Though often brave in their participation with the Resistance, you also see them squabble, bicker, complain and cry — just like your average kid. It’s the realistic portrayal of the children which I really appreciated. Although the children become part of the Resistance and are taking part in dangerous activities, you don’t see them acting like mini-adults. You see their weaknesses but also see the skills they bring to the Resistance (For example, Marie has an excellent memory and is very observant while Paul is a talented artist).
Jablonski also does an excellent job of portraying the underlying tensions of life under occupation, where you’re never exactly sure who you can trust and once-trusted friends may now be your enemy. This aspect of the book is particularly compelling and I think a really good introduction for students about the idea of what exactly living under occupation is and how different lif
I'm a "to-do" list person. I have lists on my computer sticky notes. I have lists in my notebook. I have lists in my BlackBerry. Do this. Do that. Don't forget that. Don't forget this. And, of course, I shuffle and hussle and most things don't get done.
To me, everything is a "to-do" item. I learned once that if you put things on your "to-do" list that you know you'll actually do and can cross off, it'll make you feel like you accomplish things during the course of the day. Like blogging today. I know I'm going to do it, so "blog" goes on the list because I know I'll cross it off. But where's the prioritization?
That's the problem with me...I'm a reactionist, if that's even a word. I react to what I need to do at that moment, or where my monkey mind (a Buddhist term meaning "unsettled") thoughts take me. You know, those random thoughts that come to you during the day that you have to stop everything to Google the information before you lose the train of thought.
Okay...maybe that's a 44 year old thing. LOL!!
In my attempt to become more organized, less reactionist, and less of a do-it-at-the-last-minute person, I read a fantastic book called THE WAR OF ART: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. It's a brilliant book that's changed my life.
It talks about what keeps us from our art is Resistance. Resistance is anything that keeps us from our art. Resistance comes in many forms. Resistance is there to keep us from reaching our potential and seeing our dreams fulfilled. Resistance is self-doubt, procrastination, focusing on the wrong things, getting involved in television shows, online games, Facebooking, or anything else that keeps your attention away from your art. It takes the form of your relationship, your friendships, your job, your chores, anything. It's evil and you have to overcome it. Resistance keeps you from your artistic potential.
So, for me, my goal in 2011 is to beat the crap to of Resistance. For me, that includes not wasting time, not getting sucked into online dramas on Facebook, or spending way too much time trying to beat my high score in Bejeweled Blitz. I will stick to the "to-do" lists...doing what is IMPORTANT and not what is URGENT (as the book recommends) and focusing on my art. Manuscripts, proposals, new ideas, new characters, new words. That's what matters.
What is keeping you from your art? What is your Resistance?
Marley = )
Ghosts don't hang up their sheets after Halloween!
GHOST HUNTRESS series - The Awakening, The Guidance,
The Reason, The Counseling - available now!
By: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Blevis and Andrea
Blog: Just One More Book Children's Book Podcast
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, All ages
, Fairy tales and legends
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, War and peace
, Life Skills
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Author: Margaret Shannon
Illustrator: Margaret Shannon
Published: 2006 Houghton Mifflin Canda Ltd
ISBN: 0618737448 Chapters.ca Amazon.com
Brimming with mystique and echoes of Sendak, this fresh fairy tale subtly, yet powerfully, casts light on the costs of safety and the value of freedom. Our whole family is entranced by this fabulous book.
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