Krystyna Mihulka tells the story of her childhood in this moving memoir. Krysia was nine when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Hitler had made a pact with Stalin and the two powers divided up Poland between themselves. Krysia and her family lived on the Russian side. Krystyna, now in her 80s, tells the story of her family's deportation by the Soviets to Kazakhstan and their struggles to be reunited with their relatives.
The more I read about WWII, the more I am astounded by what the Polish people went through. I'm so glad that Krystyna Muhulka decided to write her story. Her tale is an aspect of the war that is not as well known and should certainly be preserved.
I read several World War II History books written with a young audience in mind for a post I put together for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this book was one of the best in the bunch.
Millions of people were displaced during World War II. The Ship to Nowhere tells the story of a Jewish refugee, eleven-year-old Rachel Landesman, who, forced to flee from her home during WWII, set sail with her mother and sister in 1947 on The Exodus. The Exodus attempted to take 45,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine illegally.
Written for middle-school ages children, Rona Arato, writes the narrative from Rachel's point of view. Rachel and several key players tell the stories of their past and express their hopes for the future. With the refugee crisis today, this is certainly a timely book. However, I didn't actually love the style of this book. I would have preferred to have a more removed narrator, one that followed Rachel's point-of-view and was also able to step back and look at other figures involved in the transport in a more in depth way.
Thousands of Jewish children were rescued from Germany between 1938 and 1940 through humanitarian efforts. Their exodus is known as the Kindertransport. This book, designed for young readers, tells the stories of seven Jewish children who escaped Germany through these means. The book reproduces many of the children's own words--giving voice to these young, displaced children. Reading about the lengths some parents took to get their children out of Germany was heartbreaking. Supplemented with photographs and discussion questions, this book is a great resource.
In Nazi-occupied Poland, Irena Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children from death and deportation. Hers is an incredible story. She took countless life-thIn Nazi-occupied Poland, Irena Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children from death and deportation. Hers is an incredible story. She took countless life-threatening risks organizing a network of resistance workers, moving in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto, hiding children across the country, and keeping a list of their locations.
Poland suffered horribly during World War II, and many of their survival stories were suppressed due to Soviet occupation after the war. It is so important that these powerful stories are preserved. I was so impressed by Irena's strength and honor and so appalled by the horrible circumstances the Polish people found themselves in.
In Hitler's Youth Bartoletti posits that one of the reasons that so many Germans embraced Hitler's program is because they had been indoctrinated from a young age. The Hitler Youth Programs fed Hitler's war machine with young people who had been trained, divided from their families, and fed carefully crafted propaganda.
To read about brainwashing on this level is so terrifying. Susan Campbell Bartoletti tells the stories of several former Hitler Youth members. Most fully embraced Hitler's program, but some bravely resisted despite the great danger. These stories, especially, were bracing.
Bartoletti's book is an important reminder of how despots take hold of populations. It is a powerful read....more
This short, illustrated overview of America's military involvement in World War II is something that I can see a lot of kids loving. I know I would haThis short, illustrated overview of America's military involvement in World War II is something that I can see a lot of kids loving. I know I would have liked it as a child.
The beauty of this book really does lie in Mort Kunstler's illustrations. As color photography was very rare in the 1940s, the illustrations give readers the chance to see WWII planes, soldiers, and ships in full color. The illustrations are detailed and many will warrant lengthy examinations. The text itself is concise but informative and explains the illustrations well. ...more
This encyclopedia of America's First Ladies is absolutely charming. In the introduction Kathleen Krull grabbed my attention, and she never lost it.
Krull advances chronologically and gives a brief biography of all the First Ladies. I think she handled both the positive and less-positive aspects of each woman's life quite well and in an appropriate way for young readers. The result is that the reader gets a good picture of the various personalities and challenges each woman faced. A timely book, for certain and one that I would have loved when I was young.
Although, I can't help but think that the concluding chapter (left unfinished in my early copy) would have been more exciting if Hillary Clinton had won the election.
I really enjoyed this gorgeous biography of John James Audobon. Audobon is one of the most fascinating early-American artists.
Audobon was an artist, a naturalist, an explorer, and a writer. His life's work was to publish a book containing illustrations of all the birds of America. He spent his life rambling through the country collecting birds, and he discovered many species.
Nancy Plain's book is both engaging and informative, and it is filled with glorious reproductions of Audobon's art. ...more
Something you may not know about me is that I actually loved science as a student (especially basic-level science classes before heavy math gets involved).
With his new book, John Grant basically provides an encyclopedia of great scientists beginning with the ancient Greeks and concluding with scientists like Stephen Hawking. Each short entry gives a basic outline of the scientist's life and work.
I would have loved this book as a kid. I think my 11-year-old self would have read and reread her favorite entries again and again. As a lover of history and admirer of science, I quite liked the book today.
Bridget Heos uses historical cases to tell the history of forensic science and criminal investigation.
This book is absolutely fascinating. (Although it is a bit macabre at times; we are dealing with criminal investigations after all.) I loved how Heos used actually cases from history to steer the book and show the progression of forensics as well as its limitations.
In many ways, this book is demystifying, in that it takes a profession that has become so popularized through TV and novels and gives us the gritty details and actual facts. Despite the abundance of names and medical details, Heos delivers a very readable, intriguing book.
I've been eager to learn more about Florence Nightingale ever since I did a study abroad in London many years ago.
Many have lauded Florence Nightingale's accomplishments, but I did not know how much resistance toward her life's work she received from her family. It was also fascinating to gain a little more insight into Nightingale's personality. She was not easy to get along with! Catherine Reef does an excellent job establishing historical context in her book. I enjoyed hearing about the other famous historical figures that Nightingale knew personally.
If you are like me, the Vietnam War is something of a hole in your historical knowledge. This book helped to fill in some of the gaps. Government insider Daniel Ellsberg risked everything to expose secret government documents to a country very divided over the war. It was fascinating to learn these how various elements of history that were distinct in my mind are, in truth, very related. The major themes in this book are still very relevant today, and I've been telling everyone I know to read this book.
Megan picked this book for book club, and I was very glad because I had been wanting to read it for quite some time. The book club discussion turned out to be absolutely fascinating because there were several women there who had worked or currently are working in Washington.
I've long thought that the work of female spies during the American Civil War was a topic well suited to a YA novel, so I'm excited to see that a few books on this fascinating aspect of American history are making their way into the hands of young readers.
In this nonfiction book, readers follow the actions of Mary Bowser, an African American women who became a servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis in order to spy on him. Mary Bowser's story is incredible. She was a brave, daring woman.
The story is told in an engaging manner and included "spy" activities for the young reader to solve.
In 1912 Rosalie Jones organized a march in support of Women's Suffrage from New York City to the state capitol in Albany. Incredibly, she and two other women took only two weeks to walk the entire 175 miles, arriving at their destination just before New Years. Zachary Michael Jack's book for young readers, March of the Suffragettes, tells the story of their journey.
I enjoyed learning about Rosalie and her compatriots. It was interesting to learn about those who supported them and those who did not. This topic seems particularly timely to me. As the 100th anniversary of the nineteenth amendment approaches, I would love to read more about the women who paved the way for women's suffrage.
The early history of American medicine is not pretty or particularly refined. Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge by J. Marin Younker's is written for young readers and chronicles the development of American medicine from the colonial days until the late 1800s.
The books covers a wide range of topics, some I found a little dry, some made me squeamish, and some I found fascinating. I struggled a bit to find my stride at the beginning of this book, but I raced through the final chapters that discussed Civil War medicine and women's medicine.
This book is a good one for anyone who is interested in medicine or American history. I think most history lovers will be quite fascinated by a least a chapter or two. ...more
Love from Boy: Roald Dahl's Letters to His Mother is, as the title indicates, a collection of letters that were written by the author to his mother. Dahl wrote to his mother consistently from the time he left for boarding school at age nine until her death four decades later. Assembled by Dahl's authorized biographer, Donald Sturrock, the letters offer a glimpse into the famous author's life and his relationship with his mother.
Because I already was such a big fan of Dahl's autobiographies, I knew that he had lived a fascinating life. As one would expect with letters, some are more interesting than others. I had a hard time getting through the childhood letters because of the young writer's youth and the fact that he wasn't exactly honest about the rough life of boarding school. It was, however, interesting to read about how the young Dahl began to take an interest in things that I knew would interest him for his entire life (photography and sports). I expected the Africa letters to be a bit more interesting than they were (lots of alcohol and some stories about snakes). However, once the World War II started and Dahl signed up with the RAF the letters became much more fascinating to me. Even with the censors at work, it was interesting to read about Dahl's training, his love of flight, and his plane crash.
The letters I enjoyed most were the ones that Dahl wrote to his mother while he was working in Washington, D.C. during the war. It was so interesting to hear about his work with famous people, such as the Roosevelts and Walt Disney. Also, during this time, Dahl really became serious about writing, and I liked reading about this transformation.
Donald Sturrock's chapter introductions are every bit as interesting and informative as the letters themselves. Sturrock sets the stage well for each group of letters, putting them in context in terms of both world events and Dahl's personal life. Sturrock also identifies life events that influence Dahl's later writing, such as how boarding school informed Matilda and flying James and the Giant Peach.
The Ghost Map was a book club pick, and I, as well as everyone else in my book club, really enjoyed it.
Steven Johnson tells the story of the London The Ghost Map was a book club pick, and I, as well as everyone else in my book club, really enjoyed it.
Steven Johnson tells the story of the London cholera epidemic of 1854 and how two men, Reverent Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow, solved the mystery of how cholera spreads.
I had read a little about the cholera epidemic in other history books, and there was a Stuff You Missed in History Class episode about it way back in 2009. What I loved most about this book is how Steven Johnson lays out for his readers the connections between what could be seen as unrelated facets of history. In that sense, the book reminded me a little of Bill Bryson's At Home, which I could not shut up about when I listened to it a couple of years ago.
Some readers said they were a little grossed out by this book and all the excrement and germs and sickness, but it didn't really bother me.
Martin W Sandler's book is a history of the Japanese American experience during World War II. In addition to the several chapters devoted to the internment, Sandler also delves into the contributions of Japanese American who served as GIs and in Intelligence.
The book itself is really nice. Although designed to read a bit more like a textbook than a narrative, the history is aided by photographs and visuals on nearly every page. ...more
Leon Leyson was ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. This book is a memoir of his young life. He experienced the Krakow ghetto, survived the Plaszow concentration camp, and was eventually taken under the wing of Oskar Schindler. As one of the youngest children on Schindler's famous list, Leyson's story is the perfect way to introduce young readers to that amazing story of bravery, compassion, and intelligence.
I think everyone in my book club enjoyed reading and discussing this book. It's a very quick read. It only took me about 2 and a half hours to read the whole book, but its power is not at all diminished by its brevity. ...more
Jack Mandelbaum was a young boy when the Nazis invaded Poland. He was quickly separated from his family and sent to Blechhammer concentration camp. Left to survive on his own, Jack's tale is one of fortitude and endurance, great sorrow, and the will to survive.
Andrea Warren excels at writing nonfiction for young readers. She deftly conveys the tragedies and triumphs of Jack's life. ...more
The United States 807th Medical Evacuation Squadron crash landed in Nazi-occupied Albania. It took them three months and a hike of over 1000 miles to reach the sea and an evacuation boat. They battled blizzards and had many close calls with Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. Along the way they were aided by local partisans and several British Special Operatives.
I learned quite a lot while reading Eric Braun's Trapped Behind Nazi Lines. Nazi-occupied Albania is not an aspect of WWII that is often discussed. It was really interesting to learn about the occupation in Albania and what the locals and Allies were doing to thwart the Nazis. I'm particularly interested in the work of the British Special Operatives and would like to learn more about their role in occupied areas during the war.
The escape of the 807th MES is even more remarkable considering that the group consisted of medics and nurses. They were not necessarily trained in combat, had no weapons, and were not prepared for the harsh climate.
It was also interesting to learn about why many of them did not tell their stories in the years after the war. Several kept silent because of the political situation in Albania.
A story of courage and resistance, this is a great nonfiction book for young readers interested in World War II.
This book about the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich, the great Russian composer, is absolutely exquisite. It will be on my favorite reads of the year post.
I read Symphony for the City of the Dead along with several other nonfiction history books as I prepared for a post about historical nonfiction. One of the other books that I read for this post was Candace Fleming's The Family Romanov. Anderson's book picks up just about where Fleming's leaves off, which made me feel like I got a really good review of Russian history over a 70 year period. Also, all that good background information that I gleaned from Fleming's book definitely helped prepare me for this one.
M.T. Anderson deftly navigates atrocities of Stalin's reign, the siege of Leningrad, the experimental art of the 1920s and 30s, and explorations of what art can do. I appreciate modern art and modern music, and so, I found the first part of this book just as interesting as the later chapters that dealt with the war. Russian history is so horrifying in many ways. Anderson does an excellent job conveying the very tricky situation that Shostakovich is in for most of his life and how dangerous Stalinist Russia was for anyone that did not toe the party line (and really for those who did as well).
I read most of Symphony for the City of the Dead while listening to Shostakovich's music which made for a very enjoyable, emotional, and wonderfully aesthetic reading experience. First of all, there is no doubt that Anderson is a master wordsmith, and I was incredibly impressed wit how well he is able to convey the feeling of music with his words. The symphonies themselves proved a powerful backdrop to the Great Terror and the siege. (Listen to Symphony #4 while you read about the Great Terror. Listen to Symphony #5 as you read about Shostakovich navigation of this tricky political climate. Listen to the Leningrad Symphony (Symphony #7) as you read about World War II and the Siege of Leningrad.) I realize that not everyone will appreciate Shostakovich's music (personally, I like modern, experimental music), but, I find that modern art is more easily appreciated when you have a little background, and this book will give you that. Honestly, I do not know how anyone could read Anderson's words and not desperately want to listen to Shostakovich's music.
Reading this book (while listening to Shostakovich's music), gave me a wonderful education on both Russia's role in World War II and Dmitri Shostakovich's art.
Who isn't fascinated by Harry Houdini? He's become an American legend. In this delightful biography for young readers, Sid Fleischman takes us through the life of the great magician, from its humble beginnings to its sudden end.
Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini was one of the great children's author Sid Fleischman's last books, and I loved the personal touches he included in his biography of Harry Houdini. Fleischman was fascinated by magic and Houdini as a child, and as a young magician, he knew Houdini's wife Bess.
In Escape! the reader follows the Houdinis on their journey to success. Born Ehrich Weiss, the son of a rabbi, Houdini transformed himself into the showman that has become a household name....more
Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one.
You might be familiar with the rhyme, but do you know who Lizzie Borden was?
Andrew Borden and his wife Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their own home on August 4th, 1892. Their maid and Andrew's grown daughter Lizzie Borden were both at home at the time. Neither saw or heard anything suspicious. Lizzie would become the prime suspect.
In her new history book for young readers, Sarah Miller, takes us through the murder and the following court cases step by step. Lizzie was the fodder of countless rumors and tabloid and newspaper articles. Miller has sifted meticulously through all of this in order to present the facts of the case.
I got a little bogged down in the events leading up to the final trial, but once that trial finally began, the book reads like a courthouse drama. In the end, I was glad that Miller did all set the scene for the trial so well, so that I knew how significant it was that Eli Bence was not permitted to testify and that Lizzie's Inquest transcript was not permitted as evidence.
The Borden Murders is like the Serial of the nineteenth century. I honestly have no idea if Lizzie killed her parents or not. I like that Miller struck to the facts and did her best to keep any biases at bay. She admits that even after all her research she "remains as baffled regarding the identity of the murdered as I was when I started."
Before Buffalo Bill became Buffalo Bill and the famous star of his wild west show, he was Billy Cody, a boy growing up in Kansas.
The Codys moved to Kansas and settled near Leavenworth in 1853, just as the tensions between Kansas and Missouri were heating up. Isaac Cody, Billy's father was a Free Stater, and the family became embroiled in the conflict almost immediately.
Andrea Warren set out to write a book about the conflict over whether or not Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state. She found the perfect anchor for her book with young Billy Cody. This book also takes readers all over the west with Billy, a true frontiersman. He went on cattle drives, trapping expeditions, served as a spy in the Civil War, and hunted Buffalo. He was friends with Native Americans and could track and hunt. He was even a rider on the short-lived Pony Express! And he did this all before the age of eighteen. Basically, Buffalo Bill encapsulates the Old West perfectly.
The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill is a great way for young readers to learn about Bleeding Kansas and the frontier. I think it would be a great addition to classrooms, especially in Kansas.
I spent seven years living in Lawrence and Kansas City, and that certainly increased my appreciation of this book. I wish I had been able to read it while I was living there! My knowledge of the regions discussed (lots of details about Lawrence and even Olathe gets a shout-out) paired with my love of exploring the areas where I live, made this a perfect book for me. I was not surprised to learn that Andrea Warren lives in Kansas City. Her knowledge of the area comes out in the very clear pictures she paints of the region.
Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant who worked as a cook in New York City in the early 1900s. She was also a healthy typhoid carrier.
Terrible Typhoid Mary's story has either been forgotten or taken on a mythic quality at this point in history. Susan Campbell Bartoletti unravels the story of Mary Mallon's life. She takes the reader beyond the tabloid headlines. In doing so she sheds light on the beginnings of a public health system and makes one really think about the acceptance of germ theory.
The case of Typhoid Mary is a complex one. Mary was healthy but she made other people sick. There was no way to change that. What should be done about Mary?
Terrible Typhoid Mary does an excellent job of presenting both sides of the story. Mary was treated very poorly, but she was also very stubborn and made some big mistakes. The public health department, the doctors, and George Soper all do questionable things.
An intriguing story about the rights of the individual vs. the public health....more
I was incredibly impressed with The Family Romanov. In it Candace Fleming tells the story of the last Czar of the Russias. She melds the intimate family matters and the current events of Russia and Europe in order to create a complete picture of this tumultuous time in Russian history.
There is so much romanticism that surrounds the last Russian Imperial family. There are so many tales of Anastasia and the glitz and glamour of old Russia. On top of that, looking back and knowing what happens next with the oppression of the Soviet Union, that romanticism should really not be surprising. That romanticism may be what gets a lot people to pick up this book.
I loved many things about this book. It's engaging and well written. It's a history book that will keep you reading. What I loved the most is that it is completely demystifying....more
I definitely wouldn't have read this book if it hadn't been a book club pick, and I'm glad that I did because it's very worthwhile.
Brene Brown is aI definitely wouldn't have read this book if it hadn't been a book club pick, and I'm glad that I did because it's very worthwhile.
Brene Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher, and she does a get job explaining how devastating shame can be and how necessary vulnerability is. Anyone in any type of circumstance could benefit from reading Daring Greatly.
I was worried that we wouldn't be able to be vulnerable enough to discuss this book to the fullest in book club, but I think it went pretty well, in the end.
Oh, also, because I am a huge nerd, I found the appendix where Brene Brown wrote about her research process to be absolutely fascinating....more
I picked up the Radioactive! by Winifred Conkling at BEA in May and was planning on reading it closer to its publication date in January of 2016, but I ended up reading most of it before book club.
I am so pleased that there are more and more interesting and well-written middle-grade nonfiction books being published. Conkling has the difficult task of explaining nuclear physics, and, for the most part, she does a great job explaining difficult scientific concepts.
Radioactive! is about the contributions that two women, Lise Meitner and Irene Curie, made to the development of the atom bomb. I knew very little about these women before I started reading. I'm a well-educated woman and a history buff, and I didn't even know that Irene Curie was a scientist, let alone the Nobel Prize winner who discovered artificial radioactivity. She has been so completely overshadowed by her mother, Marie Curie, and I, for one, am thrilled that young girls will now be able to read about her in an accessible history book. Lise Meitner's story is equally fascinating, and I think pairing the two together in one book was absolutely the right thing to do.
All the science in Winifred Conkling's book is fascinating, but what I enjoyed most of the book was learning about these female scientists who were working in an age when being a scientist was not really something that women did. Reading about their educations and working conditions and the compromises they had to make because they were women was absolutely fascinating. On top of that, much of the book takes place in the years leading up to and during World War II, creating further complications for the pair both personally and professionally. For instance, Lise Meitner is an Austrian Jew working in Germany. Clearly a dangerous position to be in.
Radioactive! would be a fabulous book to pair with Steve Sheinkin'sBomb, a wonderful middle-grade nonfiction book about the building (and stealing) of the atomic bomb.
We read The Disappearing Spoon for book club, and it turned out to be such a fun night. With so many crazy stories, everyone was able to latch on toWe read The Disappearing Spoon for book club, and it turned out to be such a fun night. With so many crazy stories, everyone was able to latch on to something. Sam Kean's book overflows with stories related to the periodic table. I really enjoyed many of them.
A couple of things made this book a little bit difficult. First, there are about a million names to remember. Names of all the scientists. Names of all the elements. Names of scientific equipment and laws. It gets a little overwhelming. As I was listening to it, I often said, "Well, I'm really enjoying this book. I just wish that I could remember more of the information."
The book reminded me a little of Bill Bryson's Home, another book that I absolutely adored. The rambling, full of so much information style is very similar.
I did very much enjoy hearing about so many Nobel prize winners. The chapters on war and the elements involved in the weapons of WWI and WWII really stuck with me. In part, because I had some background in this area, but also because they are intriguing, if also a bit depressing, moments from history.
Listening to The Disappearing Spoon inspired me to read Radioactive! by Winifred Conkling. I picked up the book at BEA and was planning on reading it closer to its publication date in January of 2016, but I ended up reading most of it before book club. It was a great addendum to the book club assignment....more