T4 is the sometimes touching, sometimes horrifying story of Paula.
I was born
In a little house
On a street
With tall poplar trees.
I could see
T4 is the sometimes touching, sometimes horrifying story of Paula.
I was born
In a little house
On a street
With tall poplar trees.
I could see
In the distance.
That was my home.
But my country,
Was not my home.
And the Nazi Party
People like me.
Paula's mother was exposed to rubella (German measles) when she was pregnant with Paula, which resulted in Paula being born almost deaf. Although she does not remember it, her mother told Paula she was still able to hear some sounds as an infant and toddler, because she clapped when her mother spoke, loved birdsongs and the cuckoo clock. After an extremely high fever at the age of sixteen months however, Paula was left completely deaf.
Paula is often frustrated by her inability to access a common language with her family and neighbors. She develops her own complicated system of hand signals and gestures within their small community which allows her to communicate more effectively.
It would seem
That my life was good.
But something terrible
Was about to happen.
Paula is thirteen years old in 1939. Hitler has led Germany into World War II and he has instituted his plans for a "master race" through Action T4 which called for the elimination of any person who did fit into his definition whether that be race, color, mental or physical disability.
The Nazis believed that certain people
Were superior to other people.
They wanted the human race
To become an "Aryan" race.
They wanted to get rid of people
Who they thought
Polluted the gene pool.
This is called eugenics,
Or "racial hygiene."
And they decided
Were "useless eaters"
Who were "unfit to live."
Fearful that the Nazis will discover her, Paula's parents give her into the custody of Father Josef, a family friend and Catholic priest who will find a safe place to hide her. Paula is moved several times to different locations, hiding from the Nazis, always fearful of being discovered.
In 1941 when the Germans were preoccupied with fighting with the Russian Army, T4 was repealed, but the killings did not stop. It wasn't until the American soldiers occupied Germany that it was safe for Paula to return to her home.
T4 became something people
Weren't willing to talk about
Paula married, had two children and lived near her parents until they died of old age. She and her husband, also a refugee of T4
...were glad we
Had survived the worst, but we also felt guilty.
That feeling--that we had escaped when others equally
Important had died--would never subside.
LeZotte's choice to tell Paula's story in free verse has the effect of shining the brightest light on both the bold horror into which the German people were thrown and the refusal of many to divest themselves of their compassion and humanity. LeZotte's final reminder to the reader following Paula's story is to remember. It is only by remembering the crimes and cruelty of the Nazi regime that we ensure it never happens again.
T4 is a quick read as a resource for classroom units or as a read-aloud at home which can springboard important discussions on tolerance and acceptance of differences.
NOTE: The only heads-up I would offer to adults planning to use this is that LeZotte does, at one point in Paula's journey of hiding, have her reflecting on the physical changes in her body. Because there is only a single mention, the topic doesn't have any import on any other part of the story and is--in my opinion--superfluous. It is only a couple of lines, and are easily skipped in a read-aloud in a classroom, but it is there--in case you have a young reader using it as an independent reading choice and want to discuss this with him or her. ...more
Written in free verse, The Lightning Dreamer is the story of Tula, a young girl growing up in Cuba in the mid-1800's. Her full name was Gertrude GomezWritten in free verse, The Lightning Dreamer is the story of Tula, a young girl growing up in Cuba in the mid-1800's. Her full name was Gertrude Gomez de Avellaneda and we meet her in 1827 at age 13. Margarita Engle writes from Tula's perspective, revealing her love of books and words. Tula's father encouraged her love of stories; her mother and her mother's new husband do not. Tula must hide what books she is able to get her hands on. She uses her younger brother Manuel to help disguise her books as his.
Tula paints a vivid picture of her frustration in the societal constructs in which she lives. She is aware that slavery exists all around her because she can see the slaves of others walking by her home every day. Their housekeeper, Caridad, began with their family as a slave but was freed by Tula's father. Caridad has continued on as a servant in Tula's household. Tula is able to confide in Caridad when she cannot in her mother.
Sent to the convent to teach her better behavior, the nuns provide Tula access to their HUGE library--which is NOT censored as are the ones controlled by the government and by the male population. It is here that Tula begins to realize that words can be MORE than the escape for which she uses them--making up stories of monsters and heroes in exciting and fanciful adventures.
In a dusty corner
of the convent library,
I discover the banned books
of Jose Maria Heredia, a rebel-poet--
and abolitionist and independista
who was forced into exile.
With her mother planning to auction her off to the highest (wealthiest) marriage bidder when she turns fourteen, Tula is miserable, trapped inside a hopeless situation in which she has no power...no voice. At the convent, she begins to write and direct plays with the orphan children who live there. She says:
I continue to dream up my own
set of rules--for life, for poetry,
for the orphan theater.
In my plays, all are equal.
Each orphan receives
a speaking role,
because every child
has a voice that must be heard,
even if adults only listen
while children are perched
on a stiff, wooden stage,
chirping like new-hatched birds
that have not yet learned
how to sing.
As she searches to find her own voice--to speak up to her mother and convince her that she does not want to marry anyone except for love (as her mother did originally)--Tula discovers another aspect to life that devastates her kind and loving heart when she observes a mother leaving her baby on the doorstep of the convent orphanage:
I seize the baby and hold him close.
He falls silent, breathing against me.
When I gaze down at his black eyes
and warm cinnamon-hued skin,
I can hear a story unfolding...
The mother looked Spanish.
The father must be African.
This child was abandoned
he is brown.
For a time Tula is without words--unable to conceive of any that will either express her thoughts and feelings or any that will make a difference. She doubts her own voice.
The way in which she re-discovers her voice and begins to use it powerfully is an astounding, compelling and exciting story. Margarita Engle's free verse makes this both an easy and exquisite read-aloud or independent read. The brief biographical information on Tula and on Heredia--as well as short excerpts from their poetry at the end of the book are a brilliant addition to feed the reader's curiosity and newfound respect and awe for a main character whose strength vibrates throughout the pages. ...more
Terrific story! Great biographical introduction to an amazing young woman.
Alice Roosevelt--Teddy's oldest daughter--bucked traditional female roles ofTerrific story! Great biographical introduction to an amazing young woman.
Alice Roosevelt--Teddy's oldest daughter--bucked traditional female roles of early 20th century in a delightfully zestful way. This is an excellent read-aloud for 1st -3rd grade. Alice is a sparkling role model for young girls and the text and illustrations here brilliantly capture her vibrant heart & soul....more
This was particularly helpful for me, as I was searching for detailed information on Houdini's campaign to expose fraudulent mediums at the end of hisThis was particularly helpful for me, as I was searching for detailed information on Houdini's campaign to expose fraudulent mediums at the end of his career.
This book provided exactly that in fascinating detail. Good resource for my purposes....more
This biography is true to its title tag line: just the facts. It is an excellent resource for dates and events in Twain's life. There isn't much persoThis biography is true to its title tag line: just the facts. It is an excellent resource for dates and events in Twain's life. There isn't much personal context but I found it helpful in clarifying for events alluded to in other biographies.
This is the one to use if you are looking to discover or confirm dates and factual events without any emotional slant....more
This is an easy indendent biography read for 3rd/4th Grade. Of all the Twain biographies I read (4, total)in juvenile biography this one had the bestThis is an easy indendent biography read for 3rd/4th Grade. Of all the Twain biographies I read (4, total)in juvenile biography this one had the best information regarding his approach to writing and includes a fantastic, age-appropriate 3-4 paragraph description of Twain's masterpiece Huckleberry Finn and why it is important in literature.
This book also does the best job of identifying why Twain is so uniquely American and so significant in American literature.
The print is larger and it is the size of a smaller picture book which will help independent readers choose this biography as opposed to another they may think appears too daunting. I recommend it as an elementary/beginning resource for children and adults....more
I love Sid Fleischman's biographies. The Trouble Begins at 8 is no exception. The title refers to Twain's own poster for his lectures which announcedI love Sid Fleischman's biographies. The Trouble Begins at 8 is no exception. The title refers to Twain's own poster for his lectures which announced that the doors would open at 7 o'clock with "The Trouble to Begin at 8 o'clock."
The advantages to Fleischman's biographies (I highly recommend his other two on Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin.) are: (1) he approaches his subject with the sensibilities of a Newberry-Award-winning novelist, which is to say, as a story; (2) his language is easily accessible to the reader; (3) his enthusiasm and fascination with his subject is evident in every printed word is contagious to the reader.
Fleishman does use dates to define specific events such as birth, death and publication of most notable works but the text is never bogged down by chronological notation. He concentrates on Twain's personality and a variety of anecdotes from his life. Twain's sense of humor shines clearly through Fleischman's examples, allowing the reader to fully appreciate and enjoy the charming, mischevious nature of a young Sam Clemens and the brash frankness of the adult Mark Twain.
Indeed, humor is the focus of Fleischman's biography: how Twain discovered and refined his sense of humor as well as his ability to successfully translate his candid observations of the people, places and things around him into print using that humor. Fleischman points out that Twain often wrote extensively about topics that were not in line with the popular, or accepted, viewpoint of the time but was able to do so without serious consequences because he used humor to deliver his message.
For the most part this is an easy read, appropriate for 3rd Grade and up. This book is a good resource for discovering how Mark Twain's personality and use of humor served him and helped shape him as one of the greatest American writers of all time. If a student is doing research on Twain he or she is probably going to want to add another print (or other) resource which includes more details on dates and specific traditional life events.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a great complement to my knowledge and understanding of Mark Twain as a man and as an artist. ...more
Frustrated and annoyed by the public opinions and descriptions of her father, Mark Twain's daughter, 13-year-old Susy Clemens, decided that she wouldFrustrated and annoyed by the public opinions and descriptions of her father, Mark Twain's daughter, 13-year-old Susy Clemens, decided that she would right the situation by writing her own biography of her father.
In this wonderful picture book Barbara Kerley offers some basic information about Mark Twain, but cleverly incorporates exerpts from Susy's biography of Twain into her own text by way of smaller insert pages in the form of Susy's journal. This book-within-a-book format is extremely effective in keeping Kerley's voice separate and distinct from Susy's.
Susy's words are immediately recognizable as those of a precocious young teenage girl. Her indignation over the misperceptions of her father, as well as her love and respect for him are also readily accessible in her own words.
When Twain discovered his daughter was writing this biography he was both extremely touched and very proud. He was gratified that she wrote about both positive and negative qualities to her subject's personality (his own).
"This is a frank biographer and an honest one; she uses no sandpaper on me." -Mark Twain
Sadly, Susy Clemens died suddenly of spinal meningitis at age 24 and never finished the biography of her father. Many years later Mark Twain always said that Susy's biography of him was the finest compliment--and the one that meant the most to him--he had ever received in his life.
This book does a terrific job of allowing us to learn about Mark Twain as a father--how he was with his family, as well as his daily demeanor and habits in a way that Susy--quite correctly--stated no one outside their family could discuss or describe accurately.
If you are looking for chronological dates of Twain's life and career this book will not provide them for you. It is, instead, a wonderfully insightful look into Mark Twain as a person, which is equally important when putting together a complete picture of a historical figure--especially one as monumentally important in American literature as Mark Twain.
Kerley sums up the purpose of the book beautifully:
And so, people finally got just what Susy thought they needed: a portrait of the funny, serious, absent-minded, cat-loving, billiard-playing, philosophical Papa--the extraordinary Mark Twain, according to Susy.
Don't bother with this biography. I have read at least three far superior ones in the last two weeks. There is no unique information or insight in thiDon't bother with this biography. I have read at least three far superior ones in the last two weeks. There is no unique information or insight in this publication. Don't waste your time.
For young readers the three titles listed below are vastly better written and researched:
1. Who Was Harry Houdini? by Tui T Sutherland
2. ESCAPE! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman (a renowned children's author who knew Houdini's widow personally)e
3. Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artist by Janice Weaver
Excellent biography for young readers just beginning to learn about Harry Houdini. It includes diagrams of two of the illusions Houdini performed specExcellent biography for young readers just beginning to learn about Harry Houdini. It includes diagrams of two of the illusions Houdini performed spectacularly (although these particular two are not especially difficult for magicians): the brick wall and the vanishing elephant.
It also contains a description of Houdini's famous Metamorphosis trick, but this explanation is poorly done and the illustrations don't give enough explanatory detail. This trick is better described in other biographies.
For further reading with more details, information and insight into Houdini's life young readers can look to ESCAPE! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman (a renowned children's author who actually knew Houdini's widow personally) and the recent Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artistby Janie Weaver...more