It is 1992 and postmodernism is the dominent art movement of the moment. Rafe Sinclair, founder of The American Academy of Classical Art in New York C...moreIt is 1992 and postmodernism is the dominent art movement of the moment. Rafe Sinclair, founder of The American Academy of Classical Art in New York City, is a classicist through and through, but now he is facing grumblings from some of his board member who think other art forms should be introduced, a board that wouldn't mind removing Rafe as head of the Academy.
But his Board isn't the only problem Rafe has. First, Rafe is a vampire and is trying desperatgely to hold on to his sense of humanity even as he is forced to kill in order to live. Second, Rafe was an art student in the 1930. He had met and fallen in love with a young Jewish woman, a fellow artist, just before World War II began, and he is still in love with her, although he believes she had perished in the Holocaust.
Tessa Moss is a young art student at the Academy, talented but naive and involved in an unhealthy relationship with another artist, the very narcissistic Lucian Swain. Rafe never really noticed Tessa's work until one day when he notices a sketch she has done of a woman with a child by a suitcase that has the name Witzotsky written on it. The woman is covering the eyes of the child with her hand. Rafe begins to take a special interest in Tessa and her work.
Witzotsky is a familiar name to Rafe and it turns out that Tessa has sketched a picture depicting a relative of hers named Sofia Witzotsky. And, in fact, Sofia is the very same woman that Rafe was involved with, the same woman he thought he had lost in the Holocaust. Or had he? After all, he never really knew what Sofia's fate had actually been? Before long, Tessa and Rafe are involved with each other, which is against school rules and just the kind of infraction the board could use to remove Rafe from his position as head of the Academy. But if Tessa can help Rafe discover what really happened to Sofia, maybe it was worth the risk.
Helen Mayles Shankman has written a long, complicated book encompassing two time periods, and a fair amount of different characters. It is very well written, engaging, compelling and I actually enjoyed the intricacies of the plot twists and turns. Rafe and Tessa are believable (well, except for the vampire part), well defined, likable characters, each carrying a lot of baggage that goes back to the Holocaust: Rafe may have lost the love of his life, and Tessa has lost one whole family line on her father's side.
The Color of Light is a novel that will definitely please your romantic sensibilities, and your penchant for historical fiction and has all the elements of a good mystery novel all in one long (574 pages) story. Shankman has a MFA in painting, so her art/artistic descriptions are pretty spot on and you will have no trouble picturing works of art that don't really exist.
My vampire fan days are long behind me and vampires are certainly not something I expected to read about when I started this blog. And yet, I have certainly read my share of fantasy and science fiction here, so why not vampires? But the fact that Rafe Sinclair is a vampire is only a plot device allowing the narrative its dual time frame with him in both time periods as a man his age and it worked.
And generally the YA/Adult books I review here are of the cozy type, but variety is the spice of life and The Color of Life is a spicy novel that could be classified as New Adult/Adult. What I mean is that it has more sexual content than most of the YA/Adult I review.
My friend Zohar over at Man of La Book recommended The Color of Light to me and I am so glad he did. And I am paying it forward.
This book is recommended for mature readers age 15+ This book was sent to me by the author
The other day I bought something I have wanted for a while now - I purchased my very own copy of Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. Oh sure...moreThe other day I bought something I have wanted for a while now - I purchased my very own copy of Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. Oh sure, I know I could go to her website and read the book of the day there, but I kind of wanted to have the print version for those times that I want to look up something quickly, or for a little relaxing bedtime reading.
Silvey spotlights the best in children's literature one day at a time. So, for instance, today, April 17th, the spotlight is shining on Because of Wiinn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo's 2001 Newbery Honor book. After a brief synopsis of the story, Silvey gives some background information about the author and the book.
This is the kind of book you will thumb through again and again, stopping to read the book of the day as they catch your fancy. But, Silvey provides not just information about one book. Since it is the job of a good almanac to provide information in conjunction with each calendar day, Silvey does just that. She includes birthdays of authors living and deceased, book events of the past, and even book suggestions if the date has special significance. For example, today is Bat Appreciation Day and the book she suggests we read is Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies.
There is two advantages the website has that the book doesn't - excerpts and links. For today, April 17th, there is a link to DiCamillo's manuscript process for Because of Winn-Dixie, followed by an excerpt, and instructional material for teaching it.
So, if you can get all that and more, why buy the book? Imagine it in your classroom, whether that is in a school or a home school, and your young readers using it as a reference book; or in your home, and your reader is looking for something to read but doesn't seem to be able to find a book that appeals to them, so the two of you sit down at the kitchen table (because it seems all important things happen at the kitchen table) and go through the Children's Book-A-Day looking for just the right book. These are some of the real life scenarios that have happened in my house since I bought the book and they could happen at your home.
I have a shelf where I keep my go-to books on children's literature. One that I use again and again is Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book by Leonard Marcus, another is Storied City: A Children's Book Walking-Tour Guide of New York City also by Leonard Marcus, and also 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before Your Grow Up by Judy Eccleshare and Quentin Blake, now I can add the Children's Book-A-Day Almanac.
If you are not familiar with Anita Silvey's work, be sure to visit her online version of the Children's Book A Day Almanac. There are wonders to discover there.
Whenever a new book about bears is published, especially those that are about pandas or polar bears, my friends all send me messages about it. They al...moreWhenever a new book about bears is published, especially those that are about pandas or polar bears, my friends all send me messages about it. They all know I tend to gush over bears and if I had a bucket list, playing with a panda would definitely be one it.
So, naturally, when Hi, Koo! came out, I had a flutter of email and Facebook activity. But I was one step ahead of everyone on this one and already had a copy. Hi, Koo! is a wonderful, gentle poetic journey through the four seasons in the company Koo. Well versed in haiku, Koo is the enchantingly delightful nephew of Stillwater, a giant but gentle, Zen wise Panda first introduced to young readers in Zen Shorts (Scholastic, 2005). We met Koo in 2008 when he visited he uncle in Zen Ties.
In Hi, Koo!, Jon Muth first explains the Japanese haiku and why the line pattern of five, seven, five sound parts won't work in English. He then tells us that for him, a haiku is an "instant captured in words...using sensory images" that capture an emotion.
And so, with Koo's help, Muth takes us through the four season in twenty six different haiku's, and thrown in for good measure is the alphabet, each letter disguised within the haiku in its capital form.
There are 6 haiku dedicated to Fall, seven to Winter, six to Spring and seven to Summer. Each one with its own beautiful watercolor and ink illustration featuring Koo, and sometimes a little black kitten friend.
I love the idea of introducing young readers to the beauty and expressiveness of poetry and this book goes far in achieving that goal. Muth has captured some emotional instants we have all felt at one time or another. If your young readers are already familiar with Koo, they will certainly enjoy Hi, Koo! and if they haven't met this roly-poly panda yet, they are in for a real treat. This is a book they will want to return to again and again, especially as the seasons change. And what a wonderful read aloud book for quiet moments like bedtime.
This book is recommended for readers age 5+ This book was purchased for my personal library
Young Uri loves to visit his grandparents. He sees his vacations there as a quiet respite from the daily routines and annoyances of life at home, espe...moreYoung Uri loves to visit his grandparents. He sees his vacations there as a quiet respite from the daily routines and annoyances of life at home, especially his nagging sister. Grandpa Yuda always has time to play with him, and Grandma Genia loves to pamper him with hot chocolate and homemade cookies.
But Uri's favorite spot in his grandparent's home is Grandpa Yuda's study. In the study, Uri tells the reader, his Grandpa has a desk with three drawers and he is allowed to keep his pencil case and crayons in the first drawer. Grandpa keeps all kinds of little toys he used to play with when he was a boy before the war in the second drawer, and now, he lets Uri play with them. But the third drawer is always kept locked. No one, not even Uri, is allowed to open it and Grandpa never talks about what's inside.
Naturally, Uri can't help but wonder about that third drawer - what's in there and why it is a secret.
Then, one cold, rainy winter day, Uri finds himself home alone for a little while and decides to color. He goes into Grandpa's study to get his crayons, and there in the first drawer is a key, one he is certain would open the third drawer.
Sure enough, when he puts the key into the keyhole and turns it, the drawer opens. But just then, Grandpa Yuda walks into the room and catches him holding a yellow star with a safety pin, just one of the things Uri found in the drawer. At first, Grandpa is angry at Uri, but then he decides to tell him about the contents of the locked drawer.
Grandpa tells Uri about being sent to live in a ghetto with his parents and sister Anna, about how hungry he was there, because they were allowed so little food with their ration stamps. In the drawer, is the doll his mother made for Anna from rags, and the dominoes he made himself from wooden scraps while in the ghetto.
And he tells Uri about the day his family was separated by the Nazis, never to be seen again. His grandparents were sent to a concentrations camp, while his sister and parents sent somewhere else on trains. Grandpa Yuda was sent to a labor camp.
Uri tells us they stayed up late that night talking about these events and even afterwards, Uri had lots of questions which Grandpa always took the time to answer while they played with the homemade wooden dominoes.
The Holocaust is a delicate subject and it is hard to know when to talk to young children about it. For the children, grandchildren and now even the great grandchildren of survivors, that may happen sooner than for other kids, because they may hear things being said, or noticed the number on a grandparent's arm.
Whatever your reasons for starting a conversation about the Holocaust with a younger child, this gentlest of stories would be an ideal way to begin, just as Uri's Grandpa did. As Grandpa explains what happened to his family, he keeps the focus on his them and not on the Nazis.
The story is told in clear, simple language, and enough details are given for a child to understand what happened to Grandpa's and his family without becoming too graphic to frighten. This focus on Uri's family history also helps him to feel more connected to them and his Grandfather and is more emotionally age appropriate for a child around Uri's age (which is probably 6 or &). Details of Nazi atrocities will come later in Uri's life, when he can emotionally handle them better.
Grandpa's Third Drawer was originally published in Israel in 2003, where it won the Ze'ev Prize for Children's Literature. It is newly translated picture book has now been published for young readers in English. The artifacts and illustrations used by Kopelman were used courtesy of Beit Theresienstadt Archives, in Givat-Haim Ichud, Israel.
Grandpa's Third Drawer will be available on May 1, 2014.
This book is recommended for readers age 6+ This book was an eARC received from Edelweiss
Most people are familiar with the story about how and why Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in the attic of her father's business in Amsterda...moreMost people are familiar with the story about how and why Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in the attic of her father's business in Amsterdam after Adolf Hitler's army invaded Holland. The diary she wrote as a young teenager is a priceless artifact of those terrible times. Anne, her sister Margot, and her mother did not survive after they were captured by the Nazis, only her father lived. But Anne diary has become a symbol of courage, innocence, and one of the most tragic periods in recent history.
But if you knew Anne and her family were hidden away from the Nazis, you also probably figured that there were more, many, many more that we haven't heard much about. Indeed, according to Marcel Prins, author of Hidden Like Anne Frtank, approximately 28,000 Jews went into hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Of those, around 16,000 survived, and 12,000 did not. Fascinated by his own mother's story of hiding and surviving, Prins collected stories of other children like her, and the result is Hidden Like Anne Frank, fourteen true stories of surviving the Holocaust by Jewish youths, both boys and girls, stories that are all different, all dangerous, all told in their own words.
Prins begins the book with his own mother's account of going into hiding. Only 5 at the time, Rita Degen was forced to lie about her age and say she only going on 5, not 6, so that she wouldn't have to wear the required Yellow Star that marked her as Jewish. She was quickly removed from her first foster family when someone recognized her, but luckily placed by the resistance in another home, where she was wanted.
Frightened by the deportations, Bloeme Emden, 16, was one of the people to be called up. Her father managed to get it delayed, but that didn't last long. She was told that if she didn't show up, her parents and younger sister would be taken. Bloeme managed to get away again, but ultimately ended up in Auschwitz, where she ran into friends from school - Margot and Anne Frank. Her parents and sister did not survive the Holocaust.
Hiding, constantly needing to change your identity, both name and religion, forced to lie and to live in fear are all part of the stories by these fourteen survivors. At times, most of these youths managed to survive with the help of the Dutch Resistance, at other times, they simply survived by their own wits using creativity, stealth, craftiness. Some found themselves in situations where they welcomed and cared for, others were taken advantage of, or terribly mistreated. They were separated from their families and many never saw them again. All of their individual stories attest to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Hidden Like Anne Frank is a fascinating, compellingly poignant collection of true stories. The individual accounts are not very long, but they certainly convey the fear and danger that al Jews in hiding were forced to live with day by day, never knowing if they would see tomorrow or not, if they would see their loved ones again or not. Prins has included lots of old photographs from the times before and after the children were hidden and at the end of the book, there are recent photographs of each person who contributed their story.
Hidden Like Anne Frank book should have lots of appeal for young readers, many, no doubt, will be drawn to it by Anne's name on the cover. But it is also a perfect collection for any classroom when students begin studying World War II and the Holocaust.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+ This book was received as an eARC from NetGalley
Twelve-year old-Ariana Shinwari can't wait to have her own room in the new house that her parents have just put a deposit on. But for now, she must sh...moreTwelve-year old-Ariana Shinwari can't wait to have her own room in the new house that her parents have just put a deposit on. But for now, she must share her small bedroom with her grandmother Hava Bibi and her cousin Laila, who has just recently arrived from Afghanistan with her mother. Laila's father is still in Afghanistan, working as a translator for the Americans army, a dangerous job that makes him a traitor as far as the Taliban is concerned.
Everyone makes such a fuss over Laila and everything she does, much to the annoyance of Ariana. Not only that, Laila was the perfect Afghani girl - she can cook, sew, recite classical Afghani poetry and speak three languages _ Pukhto, Farsi and English. The only thing Ariana felt she could do in comparison is speak English. Ariana's jealousy of her cousin reaches the boiling point when it looks like Laila is trying to take away her best friend, Mariam.
But soon there are even bigger problems than Laila's presence in Ariana's world. In the same strip mall, Wong Plaza, that the Shinwari's have their Afghani grocery store, providing the income that will pay for the house with Ariana's new private bedroom, another Afgani grocery store is about to open at the other end of the mall - Pamir Market, owned by the Ghilzai family. And to make things worse still, the Shinwaris and the Ghilzais were part of a feud that began back in Afghanistan, according to Hava Bibi.
Supposedly, that feud had been resolved and left behind in Afghanistan when the families migrated to America, or so everyone thought. But when a flyer shows up all over the mall claiming that Pamir Market doesn't sell Halal meat, and when Kabul Corner is broken into and all their stock destroyed, everyone thinks the feud has been resurrected and retaliations seem to be getting more and more dangerous.
Yet, even as the rivalry between the two stores heats up and escalates, Ariana and Laila discover that maybe they can be friends after all. And it a good thing, because they are going to have to work together, along with Mariam and fellow classmate Wali Ghilzai to solve the mystery behind who is now trying to destroy both grocery stores after Ariana makes an interesting discovery.
There is so much going on in Saving Kabul Corner and yet it isn't overwhelming or confusing. I actually liked how the feud between the Shinwari and Ghilzai families paralleled that of Ariana and Laila, as did that fact that these feuds were resolved amicably. Young readers will easily see the connection and understand the resolution. And bringing in Laila and Wali to help them figure out who is trying to reignite the old Afghani feud shows some real growth on Ariana's part in learning to get along.
Saving Kabul Corner is a well-written novel that gives the reader some nice insight into what life is like for Afghan Americans struggling to make better lives for themselves. And, through Laila's story, the reader also sees what life is often like now in war torn Afghanistan. When her father goes missing, just thinking that he might be in the hands of the Taliban makes it clear that for families like the Shinwarls the violence in Afghanistan still impacts their lives.
Author N.H. Senzai includes a nice glossary at the back of the book for terms that may not be familiar to non-Afghani readers, and an Author's Note that should definitely be read. Though some readers may find the ending a little predictable, or a little too pat, but Saving Kabul Corner is still a book not to be missed and a nice chance to learn something about a different culture. And even though Saving Kabul Corner is a companion book to Shooting Kabul (which is the story of how Ariana's best friend Mariam left Afghanistan), both books also stand alone very nicely.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was borrowed from the NYPL
In her Prologue, Ava Lavender says that she has always known what others don't - that she is just a girl, a girl born with a pair of speckled wings. N...moreIn her Prologue, Ava Lavender says that she has always known what others don't - that she is just a girl, a girl born with a pair of speckled wings. Nevertheless, Ava embarks on a journey to discover just who she is and where she came from.
She begins with in-depth explorations of the women on her maternal side of the family - her great, great grandmother Maman, mother of Emilienne, René, Margaux and Pierette, all born in France on the first of March in 1904, 1905, 1906 and 1907 respectively and all strangely extraordinary in their own way. Moving from France to Manhattan, all except Emilienne died deaths that are just as strangely extraordinary as they are. Their specters, however, will accompany Emilienne throughout her life. Feeling betrayed after she discovers that her fiancé, Satin Lush, has been cheating on her all around town, Emilienne ends up marrying Connor Lavender. The two leave New York and travel to a small neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, where Connor opens a bakery. Their child, Viviane, is born.
The very beautiful Viviane is born with an strong sense of smell that goes beyond the usual. Vivianne can smell things like happiness, sadness, bitterness, broken hearts. At age 7, she meets Jack and the two are inseparable until he goes off to college. She waits for him to come back and he does, but only momentarily, just long enough for Viviane to get pregnant.
And so on March 1, 1944, Ava and her twin brother are born. The two children are sequestered away in the old house on Pinnacle Lane, which just happens to also be haunted. Home schooled by Viviane, Ava watches the world go by from her bedroom window, longing to be part of it. Even Henry, who appears to be autistic, is allowed to wander around with his constant canine companion, Trouver. But when Cardigan and Rowe Cooper move into the house next door, Ava gets a taste of the world beyond the home, sneaking out by climbing the cherry tree outside her window. But, when unusually heavy rains come during the summer solstice when she is 15, Ava accepts the invitation of Nathaniel Sorrow to come in out of the rain, a decision that will change her life forever.
This is such a good book, but there is quite a bit of magical realism throughout it, making this a story that might not appeal to everyone. But if you are someone who does like that particular genre, you will find that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a beautifully written multigenerational novel about love, loss, betrayal, and redemption by debut author Leslye Walton. The story is told from the perspective a now 70 year old Ava, whose first person prose is often so lyrical, so poetic that you won't want to put it down, even when the story gets emotionally difficult.
This family saga, however, doesn't remain entirely focused on the Ava's family. Indeed, there are side narratives about the young girl, Fatima Inês de Dores, who lived in the house on Pinnacle Lane prior to the Lavenders, and whose ghost remains there. There is also the story of Marigold Pie, Nathaniel Sorrow. But in the end, it all comes together so well and so unpredictably.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is one of the most unique books I have read this year and ironically, I found it to be one of the most difficult to review. It is, however, the kind of story that will stick with you long after you have finished it.
This book is recommended for readers age 16+ This book was an eARC received from Netgalley(less)
t's 1988 in Tehran, Iran, nine years after the 1979 Revolution that sent the Shah of Iran into exile and the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Kho...moret's 1988 in Tehran, Iran, nine years after the 1979 Revolution that sent the Shah of Iran into exile and the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, became the Supreme Leader of Iran. For 15 year old Farrin Kazemi this meant living a lie. On the first Monday of each month, her mother hosts a Bring Back the Shah Tea for Ladues of Culture, whose goal is to bring back the son of the Shah, since the Shah is already dead, and remove Ayatollah Khomeini. Later, when the men join their wives there is dancing and alcohol, both illegal in the new Iran. Farrin's family can afford many black market luxuries like alchohol; her father is a successful businessman, building luxury homes, hiring illegal Afghans to do the building for little money and having them deported if they give him any trouble.
Farrin attends a private school for gifted girls. The secret activites of her parents and her mother's attitude that those who support the Revolution are low-class rabble have left Farrin not just without any friends, but really disliked by Pargol, the power-weilding class monitor, who would like nothing better than to get Farrin in really serious trouble.
But then one day, Farrin hears beautiful music at school and discovers a new girl playing a santour, a forbidden instrument. Her name is Sadira and by the end of the day, she and Farrin are friends. And as time goes by, they discover they are attracted to each other beyond friendship. But the girls must be extra careful. Such things are illegal and the Revolutionary Guard is always on the look out for infractions of the country's strict laws.
The more Farrin and Sadira hang out together, the deeper their feelings for each other grow. Farrin even feels she can trust Sadira enough to tell her about her mother's tea parties. And finally, on a day the school is honoring an Iranian poet, Farrin chooses a is love poem to recite in assembly, hoping Sadira will understand it is her way of expressing her feelings. When the assembly is abruptly ended, she recites the poem to Sadira when the two girls are alone in the gym. Moved, the two girls embarce and kiss, just as Pargol enters the gym.
Needless to say, they are forbidden to see each other anymore. And the principal strongly suggests to the parents that they should consider arranging a marriage for each girl - soon. Still, Farrin and Sidera manage to find a way to write letters to each other. But that just isn't enough. An escape is planned and with the help of Farrin's family chauffeur, Sadira manages to sneak into her house during a tea party. Planning to leave at daybreak, the girls fall asleep next to each other and that is how the Revolutionary Guard find them when they raid the house.
What's next for Farrin and Sadira in a country where their love is forbidden by law?
Farrin's story is based by the true story of an Iranian women that Deborah Ellis met, as she explains in her Author's Notes at the end of the book, a story that Ellis felt was important enough to tell. Iran is a country where homosexuality is still punishable by death, as it is in seven other countries in the world. In still other countries, it is punishable by imprisonment, as we have recently witnessed in Russia recently. I think these events make Moon at Nine a story totally revelant in today's world, and not just an interesting piece of historical fiction.
That being said, I was a little disappointed in Moon at Nine. Generally, I like Ellis's writing very much, but I found this book to be somewhat uninspired. She presents us with a very concrete world, where everything is divided into good or bad. The story is told from Farrin's point of view, and, for most of the story, I felt that she was a just spoiled brat who only wanted what she wanted and disregarded the possible consequences, rather than the strong-willed person I had expected. I found when things got dangerous, I really didn't have much sympathy for her, and she didn't have much for anyone else other than herself and Sadira. Sadira, on the other hand, seemed to be a strong girl who knew her own mind, until Farrin came into her life and suddenly she felt weak and disposable. I started out liking her very much and, at the end, I did still feel some compassion for her.
Despite not liking this novel as much as I have liked Ellis's other works, for example, The Breadwinner books, I do think it is a very thought provoking and important books for teens to read, if only because it gives such a disturbing perspective of life in a very conservative country. And it is definitely a welcome addition to the ever evolving body of LGBTQ literature.
NB: Following the Author's Notes is a very useful Book Club Reading Guide. And, although Moon at Nine is a YA novel, there are some very graphic descriptions towards the end of the book.
This book is recommended for readers age 13+ This book was received as an eARC from NetGalley
It's September 1943 near Richmond, Virginia and Bishop brothers, Wesley, 10, and Charles, 14, have been living with the Ratcliff family for over three...moreIt's September 1943 near Richmond, Virginia and Bishop brothers, Wesley, 10, and Charles, 14, have been living with the Ratcliff family for over three years now, after being evacuated from war-torn London. And there is nothing Charles, called Chuck by his American family, would like more than to return home and do his bit for the war, but his parents still refuse to let him. Besides, Wesley still has frequent nightmares about firebombs hitting their home during the Blitz and about the possibility of being torpedoed by Nazi submarines while crossing the U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic and Charles feels responsible for taking care of him when they happen.
The Ratcliffs are a large farming family. Patsy, the only girl, is 16 and has a boyfriend named Henry flying missions overseas, next is Bobby, 15, who has become a great pal of Chuck's, followed by Ron, 12, Wesley's real nightmare, and lastly are the twins, Jamie and Johnny, 7. The war is a constant presence in this novel, making it truly a home front story.
Life isn't always easy for the Bishop brothers. Ron has always jumped at every opportunity to bully Wesley. So when Wes ends up skipping two grades and, much to Ron's annoyance, lands in his 7th grade class, the bullying only intensifies. Charles, who has become quite muscular from farm work, has made it onto the football team along with Bobby. Everyone must help out on the farm and the work is long and difficult, because of a dWes has a fascination for Native Americans that he has read about and longs to meet one, but when he does, much to his surprise, Mr. Johns is nothing like what he expected. Wes also befriends a young African American boy, and learns first hand about segregation and prejudice.
And Chuck must come to terms with his feelings about the German POWs that are brought into the area and used to help on the farms, and, ultimately, on the Ratcliff farm as well. The more he sees them, the angrier he becomes and the more he wants to go home and help. Chuck is also dealing with a crush he has on Patsy, which is especially hard on him, since he knows that her heart belongs to someone doing just what he wishes he could do.
Across a War-Tossed Sea follows the Bishop boys and the Ratcliff family through the year up to and a little beyond the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France in June 1944. It is a nice home front book that gives a good idea of what life was like for people in the United States, interspersed with letters exchanged between the boys and their parents, giving the reader a good picture of life in England under siege. In fact, this is really like a series of vignettes all connected to each other.
Given all the things that happened in this novel, I thought it was odd that after living with the Ratcliffs for over three years, the boys would feel like new arrivals and make the kind of mistakes that would most likely happen in their first year. But that didn't diminish my feelings about the story.
I thought Across a War-Tossed Sea was an exciting, interesting, thought provoking novel documenting life on the home front and the adjustments that had to be made by everyone during World War II. At the end of the book, there is a very informative Afterword giving a short recap of what was going on in Europe, the evacuation of children overseas that sometimes ended in tragedy and further explaining many of the things referred to in the novel, such as U-boats, V-bombs and secret air bases (a particularly amusing part of the novel, even though it involves a runaway German POW).
Across a War-Tossed Sea is a companion book to Across a War-Torn Sky, which follows what happens to Patsy Ratcliff's boyfriend, Henry Forester, after he is shot down over France on a flying mission for the Air Force. And, bringing things full circle, they are both companion pieces to A Troubled Peace, and the end of the war. Luckily, I have not read the two companion books yet, so I have them to look forward to.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+ This book was an eARC received from Net Galley
Ever since the war began, Molly has been having a hard time dealing with all the changes it brought in her family. Her dad is still in Europe with the...moreEver since the war began, Molly has been having a hard time dealing with all the changes it brought in her family. Her dad is still in Europe with the army, her mom is busy with her Red Cross work, Jill has been volunteering at the Veteran's Hospital, even Ricky has a job mowing lawns in the neighborhood and younger brother Brad is off to camp every day.
Now, it is August and Molly is visiting her grandparents farm by herself for the first time. Now, here with grandpa, grammy and the familiar smells of her grandmother's kitchen, it feels more like old times to Molly. Until she realizes that her favorite Aunt Eleanor isn't there and when she asked where she is, Molly is told she is away, "as usual" according to grandpa.
But when Molly and grandpa return to the house after picking a melon from the garden, Aunt Eleanor is home. Still, Molly's excitement that she will be able to do the same things with Aunt Eleanor this year that they have always done together on the farm quickly turns to disappointment when she is told that her aunt won't be home the next day.
Later that night, while stargazing, Aunt Eleanor tells Molly she has applied to join the WASPS, or Women Airforce Service Pilots, and that, if accepted, she will be testing and transporting planes for the Air Force, and even helping to train pilots. Molly is not quite as happy about this as Aunt Eleanor would have liked.
Aunt Eleanor leaves early every morning, returning home at suppertime. Molly spends the next few days alone, feeling lonely without her family at the farm, angry at the war and now angry at her aunt, and maybe even a little jealous that she wants to spend Molly visit flying instead of with her. Then, one night, Aunt Eleanor doesn't get home until Molly is already in bed. When she goes in to see if Molly is awake, Molly's anger gets the best of her and she snaps at her aunt, accusing her of not caring about anything anymore, except flying.
The next morning, Aunt Eleanor wakes Molly up very early and tells her to get dressed. In the car, when Molly asks where they are going, all she is told is that she'll see. Arriving at the airfield, Molly and Aunt Eleanor walk over to the plane her aunt has been practicing with. To her surprise, Molly is handed a helmet, told to put it one and the next thing she knows, she and Aunt Eleanor are flying over grandpa's farm.
Can Molly and Aunt Eleanor be reconciled, now that Molly has had a taste of the exhilaration that flying gives her aunt?
Molly Takes Flight is actually a very small book (just 47 pages), one of five separate short stories that were originally published by the Pleasant Company in 1998 about Molly McIntire, an American girl growing up in WWII (the stories has since been combined into a single book, one for each historical doll).
Written by Valerie Tripp, and illustrated by Nick Backes, who have done a number of the original American Girl stories together, Molly Takes Flight is a well written, well researched short story. It follows the same format that all the stories about the American Girl historical dolls have - a story followed by several pages giving information about the main theme - in the case the WASP program begun in 1942 and organized by Jacqueline Cochran.
Stars also play an important part in this story. Molly looks at the North Star each night, just as her dad told her to, and thinks about him. And she and her aunt star gaze whenever Molly visits the farm. At the end of Molly Takes Flight, there is a simple, but fun craft project for making a star gazer out of a round oatmeal container.
This copy of Molly Takes Flight is my Kiddo's original one, and it doesn't feel like that long ago we were reading it together, but now I have it put away with her Molly doll and her other American Girl books for the next generation, whenever that happens. And even though Molly has been retired, her books are still available.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+ This book was purchased for my Kiddo's personal library
There are two ways that children ask the same question. The first way is: "If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be?" And the second...moreThere are two ways that children ask the same question. The first way is: "If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be?" And the second way is the much simpler, more direct "what's your favorite animal?"
Well, Eric Carle and 13 of his illustrator friends were always asked the second question, and this is the book their answers became. And what an absolutely enchanting book it is. In a two page spread, each artist illustrates his favorite animal and tells why it has achieved favorite status for him or her.
I oohed and ahhed over some, like Eric Carle's Cats; I laugh over others, like Nick Bruel's favorite, which not surprisingly isn't Bad Kitty; and I nodded my head in agreement over Tom Lichtenheld's giraffe, because that is my favorite, too.
And there are penguins and rabbits and elephants and horses and all kind of animals, each drawn in their illustrator's own inimitable style and medium:
This is a very cool book and it will no doubt generate all kinds of inspiration among its young readers, who might want to recreate this book with things like their family or friend's favorite animals, complete with illustrations and reasons why.
And if that isn't enough, kids should get out those Crayola's or paints or whatever their favorite illustrating tools are and draw their own favorite animals, because along with an exhibition of original work by the illustrators from this wonderfully colorful book, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is inviting people to create illustrations depicting their favorite animal. And because the submission must be in digital form, it means it is open to anyone, anywhere. Here is a wonderful chance for all budding artists to hang with the best of them.
All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to The Eric Carles Museum of Picture Book Art. If you haven't been to the museum in Amherst, MA, but are planning a trip there, you are in for a real treat. When my Kiddo was at Mount Holyoke College, and I went up to visit her, The Eric Carle Museum was one of my favorite places to visit. So pick up a copy of What's Your Favorite Animal? and have some fun.
This book is recommended for animal lovers of all ages This book was purchased for my personal library
In this retelling of Han Christian Anderson's fairy tale The Snow Queen, Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, 11, and her sister Alice, 16, travel north...moreIn this retelling of Han Christian Anderson's fairy tale The Snow Queen, Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, 11, and her sister Alice, 16, travel north with their father to an unnamed country where it always snows. It is three days before Christmas and the opening of the world's greatest exhibit of swords. Mr. Whittard is a sword expert who will be helping the museum's curator, Miss Kaminski, with the exhibit, and he is hoping that the trip will help his daughters better cope with their mother's death. She was a fantasy writer who believed in anything and everything, including that which is magical.
Ophelia, on the other hand, is a realist, possessing the logical mind of a budding scientist. But she is also a shy, rather timid girl who is an asthmatic and frequently relies on her inhaler, or puffer, as she calls it. On their first day at the museum, Miss Kaminski takes Alice, a very attractive girl, under her wing almost immediately, ignoring Ophelia to the point of even getting her name wrong and leaving her to wander around the exhibits by herself.
And that is how she meets the Marvelous Boy, locked away in a room at the far end of this enormous museum, a prisoner of the Snow Queen, for the last 300 years. The Marvelous Boy begins to tell her his story through the keyhole and convinces her to search for a key that will help free him.
Reluctantly, Ophelia plucks up some courage to look for the key, promising herself that would be that once the boy was free. But over the next few days, Ophelia finds herself looking for two more keys, encountering hungry Misery Birds, ghosts of young girls begging her not to leave them, and vicious wolves, among other dangers. Luckily, throughout her questing, she is accompanied by the voice and memory of her mother, encouraging her onwards.
While all this is going on, Ophelia begins to notice changes in Alice under Miss Kaminski's mentoring. Slowly, Ophelia begins to get a sense of something evil about the curator, as Alice falls more and more under her spell, becoming as cold and cruel as Miss Kaminski, interested only in the nice things she is allowed to wear. The incredibly beautiful, but cold curator is also beginning to suspect that Ophelia is getting wise to who she really is and to her purpose for setting up "Battle: The Greatest Exhibition of Swords in the History of the World." The last quest the Marvelous Boy sends Ophelia on is to find his magical sword and the One Other who will know what to do with it, before it falls into Miss Kaminski's hands. If it does, at the stroke of midnight Christmas Eve, Miss Kaminski will have the power to rule the world with it.
At first, I didn't care much for this story since fairy tale retellings are not my favorite subgenre. But the more I read this book, the more I liked it. And even after I finished, I found myself thinking about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and remembering bits that I particularly enjoyed. For example, as Ophelia went around the museum, she keep consulting her map of it, and if you look at the end papers, you will find a rendering of the map drawn by illustrator Yoko Tanaka.
I particularly liked that the voice in Ophelia's head was a good kind mother who really was accepting and encouraging, even if she was dead. It just goes to show that those we loved really can live on in an important way in our memories.
I also really liked the way Foxlee mixed the magic past of the Marvelous Boy that seems confined to the museum only and the present reality of Ophelia's world outside the museum's perimeter. Computers, airplanes, Ophelia's inhaler, mix nicely with the Marvelous Boy, the magical sword and a Queen who can make it snow for 300 years, and morph into a museum curator.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a fun story, a little slow at times, but still very readable. It is well written with a well developed protagonist, and although this is predictable good vs. evil fairy tale type story, it has a very exciting, satisfying ending.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was borrowed from a friend
For Alfie Summerfield, the first five years of his life had been grand. He was a happy little boy, and his dad and mum were happy with each other and...moreFor Alfie Summerfield, the first five years of his life had been grand. He was a happy little boy, and his dad and mum were happy with each other and with him. His father, Georgie Summerfield, delivered milk and drove a milk float every morning pulled by a horse name Mr. Asquith. It was Alfie's dream to some day be big enough to ride along side his dad and help. Alfie's Granny Summerfield, who lived right across the street, always liked to come around for a bit of a gossip. And Alfie had a best friend, Kalena Janáček, whose father came from Prague and ran the sweet shop.
But all this changed on Alfie's fifth birthday, because on July 29, 1914, World War I officially began and a few days later England joined in. And even though he promised he wouldn't, Alfie's father immediately enlisted anyway. Then, Mr. Janáček's store windows were broken and someone wrote on the shop door "No Spies Here!" Soon enough, the government came and took father and daughter away to an internment camp on the Isle of Man.
At first, letters from Alfie's father arrive regularly, but then they begin to dwindle down and down and after two years, no more letters arrive. Alfie's mum tells her son it is because his dad is on a secret mission for the government. But times get hard and Mrs. Summerfield, who already takes in laundry, becomes a Queen's Nurse, which means most of the time Alfie is on his own. And so, he decides it is time to do his bit. He steals Mr. Janáček's prized shoe shine box, walks over to King's Cross Station and begins shining shoes three days a week (Alfie still attends school two days a week).
Then one day, almost four years after the war began, something amazing happens. While shining the shoes of a doctor, the papers he is reading get blown out of his hands. As he and Alfie scurry around King's Cross to retrieval the papers, Alfie discovers on one of them that his dad is alive and is in a hospital, the same one the doctor works at. From that point on, Alfie decides that he is going to go get his dad and bring him home. He is convinced that all that his dad really needs is to come home to recuperate and soon things will be happy again, just like they were before the war. But on his first trip to the hospital, Alfie is not prepared for what he discovers.
Alfie is one of those quirky characters that Boyne seemed to write so well. He reminded me a little bit of Barnaby Brocket (The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket) and he was certainly a more realistic 9 year old than was Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It felt as though Boyne's third boy protagonist has more depth and is a more well developed character than the other two.
Georgie Summerfield is not a well developed as Alfie, but he in interesting nevertheless. Georgie has the same blind enthusiasm for the war that so many young men had when it first began. The war, the government told them, would be over by Christmas, but by jingo, they didn't say which Christmas and four years later, the reader sees how Georgie's enthusiasm has spiraled down as he lives the realities of the trenches and then suffers the consequences of the enthusiasm.
I did think that the first three quarters of the novel did a really good job of presenting life during World War I on the home front, rather than the trenches, although there is some of that in Georgie's letters home. The last quarter became a little preposterous, and the end a little predictable, but I thought other things made up for that.
Boyne addresses two issues in Stay Where You Are & Then Leave. The first is that of conscientious objectors. As enthusiastic as Georgie was to get into the war, his best friend Joe Patience feels just as strongly about not wanting to fight. Joe is a compassionate person, who strongly believed that he was not put on earth to kill anyone cost him dearly - loss of lifetime friends, jail time, and beatings. Boyne delicately presents it all at the same time as making the reader understand Joe's position.
The other issue is that of shell shock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it is called nowadays. In the novel, the reader sees how skeptical people were about shell shock, believing it to be more cowardice than illness, until it hit home personally for them. On Alfie's two visits to the hospital his dad is in, as he goes through the wards looking for him, Boyne gives us a very clear picture of what shell shock can do the a person's mind. I think this part of the story will resonate with many of today's children whose loved one returned from Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from PTSD.
Though somewhat flawed, this is a nice book for anyone who is interested in historical fiction, and especially the impact of WWI on the people left at home. And yes, you will discover the meaning of the title if you read the book.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was an eARC received from Net Galley
After I finished Speaking from Among the Bones, the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery, I had a hard time keeping myself from reading The Dead in Their Vaul...moreAfter I finished Speaking from Among the Bones, the fifth Flavia de Luce mystery, I had a hard time keeping myself from reading The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, especially since it was sitting on my eReader already, thanks to NetGalley.
And I already knew that although it was set in 1951, the mystery had something to do with WWII. So, I caved…
When the previous book ended, Flavia de Luce, still 11, and her sisters Feeley (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne) had just received the stunning news from their father that their mother was coming home to Buckshaw. Harriet de Luce had left on a hiking trip through the Himalayas a year after Flavia was born and had fallen to her death. Now, her body has been found in an icy crevice and is being returned for burial. And accompanying Harriet is none other than Winston Churchill.
Two odd things occur while Flavia is standing on the train platform after Harriet's coffin arrived accompanied by much pomp. First there is Churchill whispering in her ear, cryptically asking if she have developed a taste for Pheasant Sandwiches yet, and second, just as a tall man whispers to her that the Gamekeeper is in jeopardy, he is pushed to his death on the train tracks.
Now, Flavia has two mysteries to solve while trying to sort out her feelings about the mother she never really got to know. And on top of that, Flavia may have met her match when her younger, smart-as-a -whip cousin Undine arrives accompanied by her mother, Cousin Lena de Luce from Cornwall.
If you are a Flavia follower, you already know that Buckshaw, the rundown family estate owned by Harriet and bled dry by His Majesty's Board of Inland Revenue or the Forces of Darkness, as Flavia's father, Haviland de Luce, calls them, is up for sale, since no will of Harriet's was ever found. So when Flavia gets the cockamamie idea that she can resurrect her dead mother through chemistry, the only thing she manages to accomplish is finding a copy of Harriet's until now missing will in a pocket before she must leave the room. Can the will save Buchshaw from being sold?
It doesn't take Flavia long to figure out that Harriet didn't have an accidental fatal fall, but like the man on the station platform, she was pushed to her death. Who pushed Harriet and why they did it add to the mystery of the cryptic Pheasant Sandwiches comment, discovering who the Gamekeeper is and why they are in jeopardy, who pushed the man off the platform and why. And it all harkens back to World War II.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is a difficult book to properly review without giving too much of the mysteries away, even though by the time I finished reading, I realized that the mysteries were not the central part of the story, merely a vehicle for what was to come next. Because Book #6 in the Flavia de Luce series is really a transition novel.
And while the mysteries aren't great, the tone of the book is much more serious than usual. Cousin Undine and her antics happily provides some relief from that. Undine starts out rather bratty, but ends up as a much better character and a bit of a foil for Flavia. Which is good since Flavia is not her customary smart-mouthed self.
So, all of the open questions that have followed Flavia throughout the series are answered in this novel. Flavia is just about ready to turn 12, and not only do we see Flavia changing, but her circumstances do too. It is the end of the series? No, indeed. Bradley has 4 more Flavia de Luce books planned.
Even though The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches was not the usual Flavia mystery, it is still really good. But, and it's a big BUT, I don't know that it would work well as a stand alone novel. It might be better to read an earlier Flavia novel first, to get more information and a better feel for recurring characters and circumstances, even though now change is in the air.
What will the future hold for our young heroine? I can't wait to see what happens to Flavia de Luce once she turns 12.
This book is recommended for readers 14+ This book is an eARC received from NetGalley
It is 1692 and in Andover, Massachusetts, Maggie Bradstreet has received a blank book with many pages to fill up with her thoughts for her 13th birthd...moreIt is 1692 and in Andover, Massachusetts, Maggie Bradstreet has received a blank book with many pages to fill up with her thoughts for her 13th birthday. Maggie, whose father, Dudley Bradstreet, is the magistrate, has been fortunate enough to have learned to read and write beyond what most girls learn at the time. Still, Maggie would like to have continued with school like her older brother Dudley Jr. is allowed to do. And unfortunately, Maggie isn't quite as good at needlework, cooking or other household jobs expected of girls and women.
Maggie would much rather go off with her friends - Polly Bridges, whose father is a blacksmith and tends to drink away his profits and is considered not a fit friend for Maggie by her parents; Hannah Dane, granddaughter of Reverend Francis Dane; and Sarah Abbot, the first to bring the news to Maggie and Hannah that witchcraft is no longer only in Salem but has come to Andover. And so on May 29, 1692, Maggie, Hannah and Sarah walk the distance to Goody Carrier's house to see her arrested for being a witch, changing life in Andover for everyone.
Like the citizens of Salem, where a witchcraft frenzy was already in full sway, Andover was a Puritan settlement and now the same kind of witchcraft frenzy is stirred up in the Meeting House there, fueled by the afternoon sermons of Rev. Thomas Barnard. Rev. Dane attempted to be the voice of reason but fear drives people's feeling and before long, arrests are made, including Polly Bridges' mother, an arrest that nearly destroys the family.
Throughout all this, Maggie can only watch and worry. But she stands by her friend Polly as much as possible. And because her father is the magistrate, it is his job to write the arrest warrants for all the witchcraft arrests that follow Goody Carrier's that fateful summer and fall of 1692. But there comes a point when he can no longer go against his conscience and when he refuses to write any more warrants, Maggie, her parents and brother are forced to flee Andover and hide out in New Hampshire, leaving behind Maggie's beloved dog, Tobey. Tobey pays a heavy price when it is rumored that he has been bewitched by Maggie's Uncle John Bradstreet, as does everyone who is accused of being a witch, a wizard or bewitched by one of them.
At the back of the book, Gretchen Gibbs explains how The Book of Maggie Bradstreet came about. Her parents were both interested in family history and it was her father discovered they were related to Dudley Bradstreet, the magistrate, and how he refused to write any more warrants. Maggie's diary is, however, historical fiction based on real events and real people, most of whom appear in this book. Much of the information about the accused and their trials that Maggie details in her fictional diary was obtained from records of the time found at the Historical Societies of Andover.
I found Maggie Bradstreet to be a believable character, because she is far from perfect, even in Puritan society and one that kids would really be able to relate to. Because her diary is kept in a secret place, she is honest about her crush on Polly's cousin Tyler, how she feels towards other people, and through her writing, you can see how she begins to develop her own skepticism about witchcraft based on what she sees and hears.
I found The Book of Maggie Bradstreet to be an engaging, thought provoking novel, one that is eminently readable. I think it also resonates in today's world because it shows how easily people can be swayed to believe even the most unlikely things about their former friends and neighbors. Which is scary stuff, when you think about it.
I personally like reading books about this period of American history, for much the same reason as Gibbs. I, too, have family that witnessed but were not involved in the witchcraft accusations, trials and hanging in Salem, MA. Gibbs enough background information about that, so the story would appeal even to a reader not familiar with the Witch Trials. She also gives lots of detailed information about what life was life for the Puritans on a daily basis, and the influence their religion had one them, but not so much that it bogs down the story.
The Book of Maggie Bradstreet includes a map and information about what happened to the people involved in the Witch Trials of Andover. This book is a nice companion to Elizabeth George Speare's novel The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which takes place a few years before the Salem Witch Trials, but shows how witchcraft was in the air even then. Maggie Bradstreet is a nice addition to any classroom, home school, or personal library.
This book is recommended for readers 12+ This book was received as an eARC from Net Galley