Sunday, January 22, 2017

My Favorite Books about Resistance in World War II

When I was writing my dissertation, I spent a lot of time reading books about National Socialism, everything from Hitler's Mein Kampf to the 8 volumes of Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression covering the Nuremberg Trials.  I learned a lot from all that reading, but what it all boiled down to for me is that
Silence is Acceptance 

So, this past Saturday, I put on my walking shoes and my pink hat and joined a few of my fellow New Yorkers for the Women's March. It was called the Women's March, but there were men, women and children, there were people from all walks of life, all economic brackets, all education levels, all races and religions and there was a true feeling of solidarity among the people. It was the first time I have felt any real hope since November.

Still feeling energized when I got home, I went back to a post I had published right after the election on The Children's War and I decided to expand it and repost it here. The post was all the books I have read and reviewed with the theme of resistance in World War II. I have always said that resistance books are one of my favorite kind of stories and I truly believe that resistance can make a difference, that it can bring about real change. I hope you will find these useful. With the exception of two novels, the links included are to my reviews.

1-  Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood
2-  Women Heroes of World War II - The Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival by Kathryn J. Atwood
3-  Irena's Children: A True Story of Courage by Tilar J. Mazzeo, adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell
4-  Sky:A True Story of Courage during World War II by Hanneke Ippisch
5-  The Plot to Kill Hitler - Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia McCormick
6-  We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman
7-  Hidden Like Anne Frank: Fourteen True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis
8-  Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent by Pearl Witherington Cornioley
9-  The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth & John Sherrill
10- His Name was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II by Louise Borden
11- Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson
12- Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Glibert
13- The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
14- Essie: The True Story of a Teenage Fighter in the Bielski Partisans by Essie Shor and Andrea Zakin
1-   Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
2-   Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin 
3-   The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
4-   The Klipfish Code by Mary Casanova 
5-   Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven
6-   Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
7-   Resistance (Book 1); Defiance (Book 2); Victory (Book 3) by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis
8-   Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer
9-   The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito
10- The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
11- My Mother's Secret by J.L. Witterick
12- The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse
13- Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow
14- Odin's Promise by Sandy Brehl
15- Bjorn's Gift by Sandy Brehl
16- Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw
17- Hitler's Canary by Sandi Toksvig
18- My Brother's Secret by Dan Smith
19- A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
20- Uncle Misha's Partisans by Yuri Suhl
21- On the Edge of the Fjord by Alta Halverson
22- Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang
23- The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone

Multicultural Children's Book Day - Twitter Party and Book Bundle Giveaways

Please join us for our Multicultural Children's Book Day
Win 1 of 12 Book Bundles! Giving away Book Bundles every 6 minutes!
Twitter Party
Friday, January 27th
9 pm to 10 pm EST
Hashtag: #ReadYourWorld
We will be discussing the state of children's book publishing and giving away diversity book bundles every six minutes! We invite EVERYONE to join us: authors, publishers, parents, caregivers, librarians, KidLit lovers. You don't have to be an author or publisher sponsor to join us! Let's talk about our favorite multicultural and diverse children's books, authors, and illustrators!

How do you join the Twitter party? Just use hashtag #ReadYourWorld to find us. When you tweet, use the hashtag so everyone can find you!

Register below to be able to win!!

Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heroes and Heroines

The Book of Heroes: Tales of History's Most Daring Guys
by Crispin Boyer
National Geographic Kids, 2016, 176 pages, age 8+
I've been thinking a lot about heroes and heroines these days. After all, these are the people we look up to, people who have accomplished great thing, led great events, or are or were great leaders, folks who inspire us for one reason or another to be better than we are. Just look at our 44th president. As his term comes to an end, he leaves with the same grace, integrity, intelligence, and class with which he began his presidency back in 2009. Small wonder it is his picture that introduces all the heroes in this book:

Obama isn't your hero? Not to worry, this book is packed with real life heroes in all walks of life. Men who have done the right thing, who are courageous and have even risked everything to do what they did. From Sitting Bull, who fought for the rights and freedom of native peoples, to Nelson Mandala, who spent 27 years in prison for challenging South Africa's discriminatory laws and then, when freed, became it's president, to the firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center attacks, to Captain Sully Sullenberger, who saved the lives of a plane full of passengers when he has to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River after two birds crashed into the plane's engines. After exploring the idea of what makes a hero, the book is divided into eight chapters as follows:
1- Leading Men
2- Legendary Lads
3- Game Changers
4- Heroes for Hire
5- Peace Heroes
6- Action Heroes
7- Inspiring Minds
8- Outstanding Animals
There are copious color and black and white photographs, as well as drawings and other illustrations to accompany each hero. And the variety of heroes included in this book range from world leaders, to sports figures, to literary characters (yes, Harry Potter in included, after all, he fought the evil Voldemort), people who spent their lives working for equality and human rights, scientists who have made our lives better and healthier, spies, warriors, and even some very heroic animals. And it isn't just about men. There are inserts entitled Gutsy Gals that introduce some of the women who are every bit as heroic as the men. The Book of Heroes is an excellent beginning guide for young readers to discover interesting information about people they admire as well as those they are not familiar with. The heroic figures covered in this book are sure to inspire, and to that end, there is a section about how even young readers can be everyday heroes.
The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals
By Stephanie Warren Drimmer
National Geographic Kids, 2016, 176 pages, age 8+
Here is a very relevant book for today's world. As we have learned with the release of the book and movie Hidden Figures, there are a lot of heroic women out there that we just don't know anything about. Well, here is a book that can help remedy that. Following the same format as it's companion book about, this one introduces the reader to a variety of brave women who managed to accomplish so much despite the gender, race, and religious constraints they had to deal with and who were so often erased from history. One of my favorites heroines is Billy Jean King, who not only played and won the famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs in 1973, but ultimately did so much for women's sports. Malala Yousafzai, who despite being shot by the Taliban for her outspoken opinions about women's right to an education at age 15, has continued to champion for this right. Inspiring people are so important for kids to learn about.  I was also happy to see that two of my heroines that have been so since I was a girl and first read about them are included in this book:

Each person entry is accompanied by either a color or black and while photograph or other form of illustration and drawing, and there is an abundance of them. After an Introduction covering the seven most common traits that make a heroine, the book is divided
into eight chapters as follows:
1- Leading Ladies
2- Gritty Girls
3- Heroines on the Job
4- Legendary Ladies
5- Daring Dames
6- Peace Heroines
7- Ladies in Lab Coats
8- Outstanding Animals
There are a wide variety of women included in this book - reporters who worked on the front lines, women who worked helped break codes in WWII at Bletchley Park, others who helped the poor, the sick and animals who need champions to save them. I liked that Emma Watson was included not because she played Hermione Granger, the smartest student at Hogwarts, but for her work as Global Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. And there is a nice two page spread about Harriet Tubman, who was born a slave, escaped and spent her life helping other slaves escape to freedom. This book is a nice starting point for kids who want to discover inspiring women. This book also ends with a section on how young readers can also become everyday heroines and the very first suggestion is to find more heroines. Let me suggest three women who were not in the book, but who certainly deserve the title inspiring heroines:
Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, the three African American female NASA mathematicians, hidden and segregated despite their contributions.

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is a weekly celebration of 
nonfiction books hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy 

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill


On Sacrifice Day every year, the elders of the Protectorate visits the home of the newest newborn baby, takes it from its willing parents, and leaves it as an offering in the same spot in the forest. It is a ritual that, the Protectorate and all the townspeople believe will keep them safe from the witch who lives in the forest.

Meantime, the witch who lives in the forest prepares to go to the same spot she goes to every year to rescue the baby that has been left there. Not fully understanding why the babies has been left, she nevertheless find a new home for them away from the Protectorate. Then, one year, the ritual is interrupted. First, the mother of the sacrifice baby has a fierce love for her new daughter, and doesn't want to relinquish it to the elders. When they take it anyway, she is so distraught, she went mad wand was locked away in a high tower, living under the perhaps too watchful eye of Sister Ignatia.

Meanwhile, the witch, Xan, found the baby in the usual spot. But this baby was different, she had a crescent moon on her forehead, just like her mother had, and it was that such people were special. Xan finds herself rather enchanted by this baby and delays returning to her home so long she runs out of food and is forced to feed her gossamer threads of starlight. But when the moon rose, Xan didn't notice she has feed the baby moonlight and had enmagicked her. Xan names the baby Luna, and decides to her her grandmother.

Luna and Xan lived happily in the witch's home along with Glerk, the ancient bog monster and Fryrian, a tiny dragon, until Luna approached age 13. The witch had already started to feel her age and her magic was weakening, but Luna, who didn't know she had been enmagicked, had magical abilities that were totally out of control.

Back in the Protectorate, a young Protectorate-in-training and nephew of the Grand Elder, Antain, has decided to put an end to the Day of Sacrifice. He has been haunted by what happened when Luna was taken from her mother, and since his baby is the next sacrifice, he makes a plan to hide in the forest on Sacrifice Day to kill the witch. Luna's-grief stricken mother has remained locked up in a tower, but now she manages to escape, convinced that her daughter is alive somewhere in the forest. Luna, afraid something has happened to Xan, who has gone to pick up that years baby, decides to follow her through the forest. How this all plays out is the stuff of great middle grade fantasy.

I began reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon and simply could not put it down. It was just that good.  There are all kinds of twists and turns, secrets and truths, questions and delayed answers, but it all plays out so well. Luna is a charming preadolescent going through all the usual changes but complicated by her being enmagicked and not knowing it.

Xan is a wonderful grandmotherly character, so misunderstood by the people in the Protectorate. But now she is getting on in years, more than 500 hundred years old now, and her memory isn't what it used to be, which leads so some to the plot twists in the story, and she just hasn't much gotten around to dealing with Luna's magic, a big complication.

While all the right fantasy tropes are here, right down to the seven league boots, and the tale as a whole has the feel of a favorite old classic. The story of Luna and Xan is framed by a narrator telling it to a child, and seamlessly interrupting the flow of the story to make a point or two for the benefit of the readers (and her young listener). It is somewhat of a dark, sinister story, particularly the part about Luna's birth mother, but the darkness is tempered by light moment and humor, particularly from Glerk and Fryian, and Luna's uneducated moments of magic.

I do think that the book could have used a little more editing, some parts are too long, other times there is repetition, but those are minor points. On the other hand, the story is original, the writing is energetically intimate, and yet conversational at the same time, and the narrator is so very very wonderfully unreliable. Primary and secondary characters form an intriguing cast of characters, and the themes of family and love never gets lost.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon proves to be wonderful book for fantasy fans, or anyone else looking for a darn good read.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay

***Contains Spoilers***
Set in a small English town, Conor O'Malley, 13, is a boy with a recurring nightmare. Each night, he dreams of trying to save his mother, he loses his grip and she slips away from him. The dream is a reflection of his waking life - his mother is ill with terminal cancer, and she is slipping away from Conor day by day. But Conor refuses to believe that she won't get better, no matter what is said to him or what he sees happening to his mum.

And it doesn't help that at school, ever since his mother's illness began, former friends avoid Conor, teachers overlook him and the school bully isolates him, leaving Conor to feel alienated, invisible and abandoned by everyone.

One night, as Conor wakes from his nightmare, at precisely 12:07, he hears someone calling his name outside. Getting up, Conor sees the giant Yew tree that has been overlooking the graves in the churchyard for hundreds of years, outside his window. Once outside, the monster-sized tree is surprised that Conor isn't afraid of him, but assures him that he will be. But how could this monster possibly scare a boy who knows worse monsters already?

The next day, convinced it was all a dream, Conor is surprised to find leaves and twigs on his bedroom floor. But that night, at exactly 12:07, the monster is once again outside Conor's window. Insisting that it was Conor calling him that made him go walking again, the monster also tells Conor that he will tell him three parables, and when he is finished, Conor will tell a fourth story, his own story, and that it must be the truth or he will eat Conor alive.

The very next day, Conor's cold, disagreeable, overbearing grandmother arrives at the house to take care of his mum. That night the monster returns, and tells Conor the first parable about a prince, the prince's love and the queen, his stepmother. Not liking the way the parable end, Conor discounts it. The next day, when he is bullied again, Conor turns on the girl who tries to help him, and lets her take the fall for trying to help him.

As his mother's cancer gets worse, and it becomes clear that the new round of chemotherapy isn't helping, she is hospitalized and Conor's grandmother insists he come live with her, since Conor's parents are divorced and his father is living in the United States with his new family.

Not happy at his grandmother's, Conor arrives home from school angry and destroys his grandmother's clock, a family heirloom, and everything else in the room. That night at 12:07, the monster appears in his grandmother's backyard and tells Conor his second parable about an apothecary who refuses to help save a parson's daughters who are ill. Not liking the ending, Conor again discounts the parable. When his grandmother sees the ruined room, instead of punishing him, she stops speaking to Conor, rendering him invisible.

The next night the monster returns at 12:07 and tells Conor his third parable, about a man who was invisible because people refused to see him. At school the next day, Conor confronts to boy who has been bullying him and beats him up.

In fact, each time the monster tells a parable, Conor disagrees with the ending, and yet, he acts them out the next day. And it is only after he has caused pain and destruction, that he realizes what he has done. And true to his promise, the monster returns for the fourth story, Conor's truth. And, as difficult as his truth is for Conor to speak, it will no doubt surprise you.

Patrick Ness has done something really different in A Monster Calls; in the parables, he has the monster tell them in such a way, that the characters aren't either good or bad, but a combination of both, just as what Conor is struggling with in his nightmare is a combination of grief and guilt.

A Monster Calls is one of the most honest books I have ever read. It is difficult to recognize Conor's pain, but it soon becomes obvious that no one, not even his mother, wants Conor to know how bad things are. What is really sad, is that the well-intentioned people around Conor are the ones who created the nightmare but not addressing his mother's illness honestly. Only his assertive grandmother is willing to address what will happen to him when his mother is gone (not a spoiler, it's clear from the start mom is dying). And it is the job of the monster to help Conor find and admit his truth, so that the business of healing can begin, allowing the story to end on a hopeful note.

A word about the exquisitely rendered illustrations by Jim Kay. They are as dark as any nightmare, yet if you look at the closely and carefully they reveal more that you might realize. If ever there were illustrations that perfectly supported the text and themes of a story, this is definitely it. Though they were digitally rendered, the final illustrations were sketched over and over again before they were done.
My favorite
A Monster Calls is a powerful story about guilt, love, loss, and grief as only Patrick Ness could write.

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

The yew tree/monster plays a big roll in A Monster Calls. A yew tree can live as long as 1,000 years and really are often found in church graveyards.  If you would like to know something more about them, including their mythological connections, you can find information on the website of the Ancient Yew Organization

Now that the movie is out, I was tempted to include the trailer for it, but instead I decided to include the original book trailer, after all, that's what I reviewed here:

Imagination Designs