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It's summer, 1941 and there is nothing 12 year old Karl Friedmann enjoys more than being part of the Deutsches Jungvolk
, anticipating the day he'll be old enough to join the Hitler Youth. But on the day he wins a badge for achievement during some war games, he is also forced to fight another boy, Johann Weber, whose has just received word that his father was killed in the war. Suddenly, fighting feels more like bullying.
At home, Karl knows his older brother Stefan is the family rebel, always getting into trouble and was even sent away to a boot camp for a week, where the Gestapo had beaten him and shaved his head. When Karl notices an embroidered flower sewn into Stefan's jacket, he wants to know what it means. But before that happens, the Friedmann's receive a telegram that their father has been killed flying for the Luftwaffe
. Their mother falls into a terrible depression, not speaking and refusing to get out of bed, so it is decided that the family would go stay with their grandparents in a village near Cologne.
Once there, Karl is kept out of school to prevent him from participating in Jungvolk activities and it doesn't take Stefan long to hook up with some friends who are also rebellious troublemakers. One day, Karl decides to go out for a ride on his bike, but he has an accident, colliding with the beloved car of Gestapo Commander Gerhard Wolff. Luckily, Karl is wearing Jungvolk
uniform, but Wolff still seems suspicious of the Friedmann family, anyway. Karl also makes friends with Lisa, a girl who isn't afraid to let her hatred of Hitler and his whole Nazi regime be known. And when he notices that the embroidered flower has been cut out of Stefan's jacket, he is more curious than ever about his brother's activities and friends, suspecting anti-Nazi undertakings.
Slowly, Nazi brutality forces Karl to rethink his own beliefs and patriotism. He learns that Lisa's father was taken away one night because of his beliefs and she has no idea where he is or if he is alive. Instead of feeling proud that his father sacrificed his life for the Fatherland like he is supposed to, Karl feels grief and sadness, and wonders what was it all for.
Karl's suspicions that Stefan is involved with a resistance group are conformed when his brother's finally confesses to him that he is a member of the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely bound group of anti-Nazi young people who are trying to enlighten the German people to the truth of Hitler and his ideas. Unfortunately, Commander Wolff also suspects Stefan of resistance activities and periodically shows up to search the house. One night, he finds one of the anti-Nazi leaflet that had been dropped by RAF planes in Karl's copy of Hitler's book Mein Kampf
. Stefan is placed under arrest and taken away.
Now, Karl and Lisa decide to become their own Edelweiss Pirates and paint anti-Nazi messages around their village, and to find a way to free Stefan from Gestapo headquarters. And although they are a resistance group of two, Karl is still wracked with guilt since it is because he chose to save the leaflet without telling anyone and feels it is his fault his brother has been arrested by the Gestapo - again.
Like Dan Smith's last novel, My Friend the Enemy
, My Brother's Secret
is a thought-provoking story loaded with action, excitement, and nail-biting tension. Karl's life felt so simple and straightforward before news of his father's death arrived. But his hesitant feeling about having to fight Johann Weber at the beginning of the novel, clearly indicates that there exists a slight crack in his loyalty to Hitler and everything the Führer
There aren't too many books about young people in Nazi Germany who were involved in the Hitler Youth groups, so it was interesting to read this coming of age novel and to witness Karl's complete turnabout as he begins to see and experience the Nazis for the cruel people that they could be if you opposed them. It is also interesting to see how easily the Nazi could sow an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and suspicion to keep people in line.
Dan Smith always includes nice historical information in his novels which give them such a sense of reality. There weren't many youth resistance groups in Nazi Germany, besides the White Rose (Weiße Rose
in 1942 Munich, and the Edelweiss Pirates (Edelweißpiraten
), who, as Smith demonstrates through Stefan, were not pro-Allies even though they were anti-Nazi. Like Stefan, many young people who were part of the Edelweiss Pirates quit school in order to avoid having to join the Hitler Youth, which was mandatory.
My Brother's Secret
is a well-written, well-researched, eye-opening, gripping novel with a lot of appeal. Karl is a protagonist that goes from unsympathetic to sympathetic as the action unfolds and as he learns valuable lessons about courage, loyalty, friendship and brotherly love.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC sent to me by the publisher, Chicken House Books
(People tend to think of the Swing Kids (Swingjugend
) as a resistance group but they were really a counter-culture group without a political agenda, with a common interest in jazz and dancing.)
On the day that Jolanta brings a little food, some used clothing and a few vaccinations against typhoid fever to 9 year old Anna Bauman's youth circle in the Warsaw Ghetto, she decides to go home with Anna. Quietly talking to her parents, Anna knows something is up.
After Jolanta drops off a paper for Anna's mother one morning, she begins to stay home as her mother makes her memorize a new name and other information. Soon, she is no longer Jewish Anna Bauman, rather she is Catholic Anna Karwolska. A few days later, Anna and her parents go to a home in the ghetto, where Anna is washed clean of ghetto dirt, and soon the leader of her youth circle, Mrs. Rechtman, shows up to take her away.
Wearing a new school uniform, Anna and Mrs. Rechtman go to the administration building, a building that straddles the ghetto and the streets beyond it. Swiftly, Anna is passed to a woman who takes her into an office, where she must hide under the desk and wait for someone to come and get her. The wait is long, but finally a teenage girl carrying a large box arrives and tells Anna to follow her. They walk out of the building to the streets beyond the ghetto. From here, Anna travels with the girl to a farmhouse, where she is surprised to find out that the box she and the girl carried so carefully contains a baby that has also been smuggled out of the Ghetto.
At the farmhouse, Anna is taught the traditions, the prayers and the catechism every Catholic child would know, including when to stand or kneel in church. She is drilled over and over, until she responds automatically to being Ann Karwolska. Afraid she is going to forget who she is and who her family are, Anna only allows herself to be Anna Bauman at night when she is alone in bed.
Eventually, Anna is sent to a Catholic orphanage away from Warsaw. Keeping her secret, Anna adjusts to like in the orphanage, even though one girl, named Klara, seems to be out to get her. Does Klara know her secret? Hopefully not, because one day, Nazis arrive at the orphanage, pillage it and steal all the food that the nuns used for feeding the children, but not before terrorizing everyone.
Eventually, Anna is fostered out to a family that really welcomes her, and where she feels somewhat safe and comfortable. Yet, Anna still makes it a point to remember who she is and where she came from when she is alone at night, never telling anyone her secret. But, as Anna discovers, Stephan, Sophia and their son Jerzy are harboring a secret of their own - a very dangerous secret.
If you have ever wondered what happened to the children that Irena Sendler smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto, this is the book for you. Based on fact, Angela Cerrito has imagined the life of one young girl who survives the Holocaust thanks to the courageous efforts of Sendler and the network of people who were helping her. It is clear from the start that the lady Anna knows as Jolanta is one of the code named used by Sendler.
And while The Safest Lie
doesn't have a lot a action, it does have a lot of suspense, nail-biting tension and shows the reader just how careful and clandestine people in the resistance needed to be. Anna's story is fictional, but Cerrito has certainly captured all the tension, fear, constant hunger, and suffering that the Jewish children experienced during the Holocaust. But she also shows the difficulty and mixed emotions parents must have felt when their children were offered the possibility of safety if they were willing to temporarily give them up.
The Safest Lie
is a work of historical fiction but it is based on the hundreds of transcripted interviews with children who survived the Holocaust that Cerrito read and which give the novel its sense of authenticity. Be sure to read Cerrito's Author's Note
at the end of the book about her meeting Irena Sendler
There is an extensive Educator's Guide
for The Safest Lie
available to download from the publisher, Holiday House
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an ARC received from the publisher.
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
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley
and will be available May 12, 2015.
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
John Birmingham takes up where he left off at the end of Emergence. Dave is enjoying a well-earned rest after the battle of New Orleans while the rest of the world is coming to terms with the fact that monsters (Orcs, dragons, super-sized bugs, you name it) are now among us and wanting to re-subjugate their […]
This novel opens on October 27, 1942. Helmuth Hübener, 17, has been imprisoned on death row in Plotzensee Prison, Berlin, charged with high treason against the Third Reich. He had hoped the court would show lenicency because of his age, but that hope was now gone. Sentenced to death, Helmuth recalls, in a series of flashbacks, the events in his life that led him to this day.
As a young child living in Hamburg, Helmuth hears his grandparents talk about their dislike of the Nazis and their leader, Adolf Hitler and Opa's predictions that Hitler wants war. But Helmuth likes playing with his toy soldiers and thinks maybe he will be a soldier when he is old enough to fight.
But when Hitler seizes power in 1933, Helmuth sees everything around him change. Teachers and schoolmates show their support for the new chancellor and begin harassing the Jewish students, Germans are told to boycott Jewish stores, enforced by SS and SA destroying their businesses. Un-German books and movies are forbidden, and Helmuth is afraid that means Karl May's beloved stories about America's wild west, until his brother Gerhard tells him they are Hitler's favorites, too.
In 1935, Helmuth's mother begins seeing a Nazi named Hugo Hübener. Hugo changes everything in their home and after the two marry, moves the family away from Opa and Oma.
In 1938, at age 12, Helmuth begins a new school, where he is immediately labelled a troublemaker by his teacher, a Nazi. He is punished by having to write an essay with the title "Adolf Hitler: Savior of the Fatherland." Helmuth knows he must bite the bullet and write the essay his teacher expects and in the end, even his teacher has to admit that he is a talented writer. Helmuth is also required to join the Jungvolk
, the younger version of the Hitler Youth.
When his older brother Gerhard is inducted into the army in 1939, he is sent to Paris for training. Once the war begins, Helmuth suspects that the Reich's radio is not giving the German people the truth about what is going on. When Gerhard returns from France, he bring a new forbidden short wave radio back with him., but hides it and tells Helmuth to leave it alone. At first, Helmuth resists the temptation to listen to it, but after a while he can't resist any longer and each night, sets up the radio to hear the BBC broadcasts done in German. And just as he suspected, the German people are indeed being lied to about German successes in the war.
Helmuth, who is a devout Mormon and who practices his faith throughout, convinces his two best friends from church, Rudi Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, to help him create leaflets transcribing the BBC broadcasts to be distributed all over Hamburg.
Helmuth, Rudi and Karl are turned into the Gestapo by a supposed friend, put on trial and sentenced. Helmuth is the only one sentenced to death for high treason. He had promised Rudi and Karl he would take full responsibility, so they were only sentenced to imprisonment for a few years (which were shortened more when Germany lost the war).
It is through the flashbacks, that Bartoletti skillfully shows us Helmuth's development from a child who enthusiastically supports the Nazis to an adolescent who critically questions what he sees going on around him to a courageous young man willing to risk death in order to tell people the truth about Hitler and the Nazis. It makes for a very powerful story.
The Boy Who Dared
is historical fiction based on a true story and is one of the reasons why Helmuth's story is so compelling. I think that it is important for today's readers to understand that not everyone in Germany supported Hitler and his politics, but so many chose to remain silence about their feelings, like Helmuth's mother who told him that silence is how people get on sometimes. (pg 95) In fact, we never really know how Helmuth's mother really feels. She married a Nazi, but her family was basically against Hitler.
At the back of the novel, there are photographs of Helmuth, his friends and family, as well as an extensive, not to be skipped over Author's Note explaining how Bartoletti researched the novel and the people she interviewed.
Helmuth was the youngest resister of the Third Reich to be executed. His story really makes you stop
|Helmuth, age 16|
and think about whether or not you might have had the kind of courage of your convictions that Helmuth had. Did his actions impact anyone who knew him or read the leaflets he wrote? Except for his stepfather, Hugo, who did become a changed man after Helmuth's execution,we will never know, but hopefully Helmuth's story will inspire others to find courage within themselves to speak out against injustice and lies regardless.
If you are moved by The Boy Who Dared
, and would like to know more about what life was like for young people like Helmeth during the Third Reich, then be sure to look at Susan Campbell Bartoletti's excellent nonfiction book Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow.
Scholastic offers an extensive lesson plan/discussion guide for readers of The Boy Who Dared which you can find HERE
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library
By: Elyse Turr,
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, David Ball
, Diary of the Dark Years
, Drieu La Rochelle
, Jean Guehenno
, Nazi Occupation
, Occupied France
, Second Wrold War
, World War II
, Add a tag
By David Ball
If you were a fifty-year-old intellectual, a well-known writer of left-wing articles and literary essays, and your country was occupied by the Nazis and its more-or-less legal government collaborated with them — and now the editor of the leading literary magazine of the time pressed you to contribute an essay to his review, would you do so? Just an essay on Voltaire for the Nouvelle Revue Française, mind you, nothing subversive. Anything at all suspect would be censored anyway.
The answer, for the overwhelming majority of French intellectuals in 1940-44, was “Write the article, of course!” And keep writing, whatever happened to France. Not about the war, of course, or the Occupation—you couldn’t do that—but novels about personal relationships, plays, literary articles and criticism, why not? André Gide kept on publishing his Journal; Sartre finished Being and Nothingness, wrote No Exit and saw it produced on the Paris stage; Simone de Beauvoir published a novel and a philosophical essay; utterly non-fascist writers like Colette, Jean Anouilh, and Marcel Aymé contributed to actively pro-fascist journals. In short, judging from what they wrote at the time, most French writers seem to have lived through four years of Nazi occupation without noticing it. You would think they had never seen the swastika floating from the Eiffel Tower, nor the huge banner hanging over the front of the Chamber of Deputies which housed the French parliament before the war: DEUTSCHLAND SIEGT AN ALLEN FRONTEN (“Germany is winning on all fronts”), nor the booted German soldiers who paraded down the Champs-Ėlysées every day. And apparently never read about the execution of hostages or Résistants reported in the daily papers or on posters in the Paris Metro, and never heard about friends and acquaintances arrested and deported “to the East.”
Paris, deutsche Parole am Bourbon-Palast. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2004-0216-500 / CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons
Jean Guéhenno, whose portrait I have sketched in the first paragraph, was a notable exception. His answer to Drieu La Rochelle, a literary acquaintance of his and the ardently fascistic writer who edited the Nouvelle Revue Française from 1940 to 1943, was silence — and inner rage, which he noted in his diary: “We have no means of telling these gentlemen what we think of their activity. At least they might leave us in peace.” (24 January 1941)
He had resolved to remain silent, not to write a word for a publishing industry under Nazi control, not to “play our jailors’ game,” as he later put it, “to appear as if we were still living and enjoying ourselves as we used to, in the time when we were free.” He remained silent, but he wrote. He kept his diary, where he noted details of ordinary Paris life under occupation (some extraordinary ones, such as the first round-up of Jews in Paris), his thoughts on French literature (especially the great texts he was teaching), and above all his anger at the stupidity, cowardice, and vanity of those of his fellow countrymen who played along with the Nazis, the politicians (Pétain, Laval and company) and “the species of men of letters, [which is] not one of the greatest species in the human race. The man of letters is unable to live out of public view for any length of time; he would sell his soul to see his name ‘appear.’” (30 November 1940) Guéhenno also worked away at his two-volume biography of Rousseau, “the exemplary life of a man who does not surrender,” he notes (17 July 1940) — the very image of Jean Guéhenno himself. He would publish his diary and the Rousseau biography when the war was over and France was free.
Paris, Parade deutscher Soldaten . Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-751-0067-34 / Kropf / CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons
Guéhenno was too well known as an anti-fascist intellectual ever to join one of the Resistance networks which soon sprang up in occupied France. It would have meant his arrest and that of his comrades. He was under surveillance, and he knew it. He taught in some of the elite schools of France, but just being who he was and teaching French literature as he always had was enough to get him “demoted” by the Ministry of Education of the Vichy government. In the last year of the Occupation, he did meet with other writers (his friend François Mauriac, for example) and discuss what they could do, as writers, to keep the spirit of freedom alive in France. They distributed underground literature in Paris. In 1944, Ėditions de Minuit, the remarkable underground publishing house which managed to print so much free-spirited French prose and poetry clandestinely during the last three years of Nazi occupation, put out part of Guéhenno’s diary under the title “In the Prison.” He signed it “Cévennes,” the name of the mountain range in central France where Protestants had hid to resist persecution four centuries earlier. (It also echoed “Vercors,” the name of the mountains where the Resistance had concentrated thousands of armed men, and the pseudonym of Jean Bruller, who founded the house; his novella “The Silence of the Sea” was the first work it published.)
It was a pleasure to live with this honorable, stubborn, cultivated and passionate man for a few years, translating, annotating and presenting his Diary of the Dark Years: 1940-1944 so that today’s English-speaking readers could understand this unique piece of testimony to the inner and outer life of a French intellectual under Nazi Occupation.
David Ball is Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature, Smith College. He is the editor and translator of Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944: Collaboration, Resistance, and Daily Life in Occupied Paris.
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Life hadn't changed much for Mari, 11, and her beloved elkhound dog Odin when the Nazis invaded Norway and some German soldiers moved into her village, Ytre Arna. At least, not until one day in late August when she and Odin ran into two soldiers, nicknamed Scarecrow and The Rat by villagers, while berrying on the side of a mountain. The soldiers were forcing her Jewish neighbor Mr. Meier, to walk at gunpoint despite his being injured and bleeding. Feeling threatened by Odin's growling, Scarecrow tells Mari she will get both of them shot if she can't control her dog.
Mari is the youngest of three children and her family has always treated her in a babyish way, but now things are changing and Mari must change with them. The Nazis have outlawed radios, news sources, even their traditional Norwegian dress; their king has fled to England and the government is being run by a Nazi puppet named Quisling. It is suddenly a whole different world, but at least Mari has her constant companion Odin. Only now, Odin has two enemies and they carry guns.
When Mari goes back to school in September, she is told not to trust anyone, one just doesn't know who has sided with the Nazis and who hasn't. And when older sister Lise comes home from University in Oslo for a visit, she announces that she and her boyfriend will be married sooner than planned. The reason - life is unsafe for unmarried Norwegian girls around the Nazis.
But the biggest surprise for Mari is discovering who is part of the Resistance, who isn't and which citizens are doing their bit to sabotage the Nazis in Ytre Arna whenever they can. And it doesn't take long before Mari, like the rest of her family, even her grandmother, finds herself involved in these clandestine activities as well. But is the price she pays for it just too much?
is a real coming of age story. At first, Mari is a shy, quiet girl who frightens easily, but the reader can see how the circumstances she finds herself in enable her to find the courage and strength to grow and to do what needs to be done, even in the face of overwhelming threat on the part of young impulsive Nazi soldiers.
Resistance stories are among my favorite kind of WWII narratives. While I like the stories of hidden organized armed resisters, I really like to read about the ordinary citizens who loved their country so much that they not only refused to support the occupation, but actively did what they could to make thing more difficult, or even to just annoy their occupiers. Mari, her friends and school children all over Norway wore red hats every do to show their loyalty, and irate the Germans. Norwegians are very patriotic, and were very loyal to King Haakon VII after he escaped the Nazis and that really comes across in Sandy Brehl's debut novel about Mari and her family.
There is lots of Norwegian culture included in Odin's Promise
, particularly around the wedding of Mari's sister Lise, where outright defiance of Nazi orders was the real order of the day. And be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the novel to learn all about how Sandy came up with some of the ideas for Odin's Promise
that give it such a feeling of authenticity. And remember, there is a glossary included in the back matter that will help with both Norwegian and German words used. And, just in case Sandy has peaked your curiosity about Norway and the Resistance in WWII, she has provided at very nice bibliography, including other middle grade novels about set in the same time with similar themes.
is a well written, very well researched novel and will be available on May 17, 2014. But you can read an excerpt on Sandy's website HERE
Or, if you would like to have your own personalized copy of Odin's Promise
, just leave a comment and I will be choosing a winner used Random.org
Please provide a valid email in your comment so I can contact the winner. You will have until May 6, 2014 to enter the giveaway.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the author
is on tour at the following blogs:
April 21 - Erik at The Kid Reviews Books
April 24 - Rochelle Melander at the Write Now! Coach
April 28 - Suzanne Warr at Tales from the Raven
April 29 - Alex Baugh at The Children's War
April 30 - Margo Tanenbaum at The Fourth Musketeer
May 1 - Heidi Grange at Geo Librarian
Mention is made of the sign used by Norwegians to show solidarity and support for Norway and their exiled King Haakon VII. The sign consists of the king's monogram and Churchill's V for victory:
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
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, Elizabeth Wein
, young adult
, prisoner of war
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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
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, leland purvis
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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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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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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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