I liked this book even better than The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and that’s saying a lot. it’s even more emotionally touching than that first book.
Ben. Rose. Jamie. Etc. All of them touched me.
For not the first time I am tempted to create a new-york or nyc shelf.
I read this book in one day. Rose’s story told via pictures and Ben’s told via text were both mesmerizing.
I have memories of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, which is mentioned/”shown” in this story (which takes place in 1977 & 1927) had me spellbound all over again.
The title name is brilliantly incorporated more than one way into this story.
I recommend this book to just about everybody, particularly anybody who fits/likes any of the following: museums, books, the Museum of Natural History in NYC, bookstores, is interested in the deaf and/or Deaf culture, likes historical fiction stories, remembers the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, liked From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, is a fan of wolves, appreciates a good orphan story, enjoys beautiful and fascinating book illustrations, can feel in awe of unusual and brilliant books. I really don’t know what to say that wouldn’t come across as hyperbole. This book is great. Truly great. If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. It might end up on my favorites shelf; I’ll have to mull over that decision.
Entertaining and informative and absolutely not to be missed: end of the book Acknowledgments, and also a great Selected Bibliography, with many categories.(less)
I read this as a buddy read with my Goodreads’ friend Diane, who kindly waited for my library copy of the book to arrive.
3 ½ stars
I wanted to like thi...moreI read this as a buddy read with my Goodreads’ friend Diane, who kindly waited for my library copy of the book to arrive.
3 ½ stars
I wanted to like this book somewhat more than I actually did.
This book is written with an engaging writing style, and for the most part I felt very absorbed as I read, and I learned quite a bit. The history was certainly interesting, but I had such a hard time finding anyone to root for, not just the obvious Nazis and various corrupt people, but practically everybody left me cold, at least until toward the very end, and that wasn’t enough to satisfy me.
I think the most valuable thing I took away from this account was when thinking of the saying to remember so that history does not repeat itself, so that it never happens again, is realizing that knowing about 1938-1945 isn’t sufficient, and just how important it is to be aware of events in 1933-1934, and how important those were in fomenting what happened in later years.
The next most thought provoking thing I took away with me was the cogent point made that in 1933, when Americans complained about the way the Third Reich was taking away the rights of Jews, is that the offenders were able to point out how in parts of America at the time black people did not have suffrage or full civil rights. Whoops, so true. And, of course, there was plenty of anti-Semitism in America, not just in Germany/Europe, and this book makes that very clear.
The title of the foreword of the book translates to the word foreplay, and one of the problems for me is the entire book felt like foreplay. The main events of the book all take place in 1933 and 1934, and concentrate on a very few people, although included are many of those who became key players in the Third Reich. I kept thinking I should be more fascinated, but for me the focus was too narrow to wow me. The whole book felt like one long build up; I kept thinking about what happened during the Holocaust, and while knowing what happened several years before was chilling and useful, in the end it wasn’t enough of a story for me, despite all the remarkable details provided.
I had a very difficult time liking or being all that interested in any of the main people covered though. Rather than being riveted, I became weary of what felt like incessant namedropping, even though I’m sure all the famous people are part of the allure of this telling. The main characters here are William E. Dodd, American ambassador to Hilter’s Germany, and his daughter Martha.
Regarding Dodd the ambassador: well, as I read I was not impressed, but toward the end all his positive attributes were stressed, so I’m not certain if I simply did not get it, or agree, or whether the author didn’t do a stellar job of reporting. And just as I thought I started liking him, I stopped, again. He didn’t seem at all suited to the job, but he didn’t have much support behind him. I was interested to read how various people in power (including F.D.R.) and ordinary U.S. citizens had varying views on what response or lack thereof was suitable for Hitler’s policies.
I found it incredibly hard to like daughter Martha, except regarding her aspirations to be a writer, which I could appreciate, and I found it more than a tad tiresome reading about her overly active love life; I found it boring to the point that eventually when every time yet a new suitor was introduced I was going ho hum. She certainly knew many interesting people but I found the facts duller than I could have ever imagined. At times I felt outright animosity toward her.
Some things I noticed: It was very dispiriting to read how Nazism could have been stopped in 1933 but wasn’t. People sure wrote gorgeously written letters back then. It was striking the animosity between Hitler’s SS and SA. Ditto even during these years the kind treatment toward dogs and horses vs. many people.
I read the notes as I read each chapter, which I do recommend doing, and some are sufficiently long and crucial that I wish they’d been incorporated into the book proper. There were interesting maps on the inside covers but they’re so small and so detailed they’re hard to read. There is an impressive bibliography, and an index is included, and there are several photographs.
As if the rise of the Third Reich and some of the early atrocities weren’t horrendous enough, I was left feeling glum when at the end of the book the reader is told the fates of various individuals. The author writes of experiencing difficult feelings while immersing himself in writing this book, and I certainly found it very depressing throughout. Many times I enjoy depressing books, and even find them of some comfort, but I couldn’t feel involved enough with any of the main players here (and there are many amazing people so I don’t know why) and therefore I just couldn’t love this book. I liked it. I think it has value. But it’s far from one of my favorite books, and I’m glad I’m moving on to other books. It helped to read it with a friend; I suspect if I’d read it entirely on my own I’d have deducted a half star.(less)
I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars for this book, but despite not being happy with everything about it, I think the story and its memorable c...more4 ½ stars
I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars for this book, but despite not being happy with everything about it, I think the story and its memorable characters are so well crafted, and it touched me so deeply and affected me so strongly, that I have to round it up and give it 5 stars. That said, I’m not sure it’s the most ideal book for my next book club discussion. I am glad I pushed for us to read it though, for selfish reasons, because I’ve wanted to read this book since it first came out and I’m grateful that I finally got to it.
I loved the dictionary of flowers at the end of the book. I didn’t know about the language of flowers and now I’m fascinated. I referred to the dictionary throughout the book, even though the author usually wrote in the meanings of the flowers as they were mentioned. Then, I reread the whole dictionary after I finished the book. I’m disheartened to see that Kate Greenaway's book Language of Flowers is available only for library use only at my library. I’d love to borrow it and peruse it at home.
So regarding this book:
I really enjoyed the San Francisco setting. There were one or two things that weren’t gotten quite right, including our September weather, but most locales and directions were spot on, and I really love books set in San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area. The fact that the book’s events take place in San Francisco and surrounding areas is one of the reasons I was eager to get to it. And, of course, I’m always delighted to read books that belong on my orphaned-and-quasi-oprhaned-kids shelf. This one fits perfectly.
While I’m not typically interested in botany, even though I’ve always wanted a vegetable and herb garden and I do enjoy being out in nature, I loved the flowers and the vineyard and what I learned about them. I found it fascinating to learn some of the flowers’ meanings and also some of what it takes to be a successful florist. If I ever have cause to use or give flowers in the future, I’ll keep their meanings in mind. Until I read this book I was only dimly aware they had the meanings they do and did. I’m glad Victoria’s dictionary was somewhat updated from Victorian times to our modern time.
This book reads as a sort of mystery, as chapter by chapter the reader is taken from the present to the past, back and forth. I was very eager to see what would happen and what had happened. There was quite a bit of suspense. I was grateful that one major mystery was solved well before the end of the book, but the suspense continued until the very end of the story.
The book was a really quick read. There are many short chapters so it was easy for me to pick up the book and read just a little and then just a bit more.
Almost all the characters are unforgettable. They’re so well drawn. I felt as though I knew and understood them, and almost everything about them and their relationships rang true to me.
One of the author’s children is a former foster child and I felt she understood foster kids. I admire her for doing something with that knowledge. She’s co-founded a very worthwhile nationwide group called The Camilla Network (camellia means “my destiny is in your hands”) to support foster children aging out of the system: https://camellianetwork.org/. I’m going to check it out. We treat our foster children appallingly bad when they turn 18. There are few programs and they’re not adequate. I’m so glad when I find resources for them.
The rest of my review will be in spoiler tags and there are major spoilers. What I say is best read by those who’ve already read the book or are sure they have no interest in reading the book:
(view spoiler)[ Just once I’d love to read a book about a main character in distress who does not undergo major positive transformation. I realize why the author had Victoria finally fare as well as she did. This is a hopeful book and might be wonderful for kids who are foster teens or young adults, kids who have reactive attachment disorder, anyone who’s had less than adequate parenting, and who needs some hope for themselves. What happened did seem authentic and did end up working, but Victoria was incredibly lucky that it did. I think it helped that when she was ten, and again a decade later, she had someone who wanted to mother her. It helped that she took the language of flowers with her and had a knack and a talent for being a florist, and that she had a caring mentor. It helped that she found a young man who truly understood her and loved her. It helped that Hazel gave her a reason to think beyond herself. It helped that while angry she didn’t seem at all prone to anxiety or depression. I think the story was overly optimistic, but all that happens does seem possible. I do love how Victoria helped first one then three other young women who live in the group home she stayed in when first out of the foster care system. I suppose between Victoria, Grant, and Elizabeth, Hazel will have what she will need to thrive. But while it all works, I wasn’t thrilled with the end. She is a very strong person. I haven’t met many like her, but I’ve read of real people that remind me of her, such as Liz Murray and her book Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, and I’ve worked with a few, though they’re a small percentage of the kids who find themselves situations with a similar lack of nurturing. I know I would not have made it the way Victoria did and I’ve seen what happens to most foster kids who age out of the system, usually with much less support and inner strength than Victoria has. I continued to feel depressed and worried at the end, even though I know it’s meant to be a happy ending. Can Hazel even get a birth certificate? At least Victoria knows Hazel’s birthday, even though she doesn’t know her own actual birthday. Anyway, I felt depressed and sad and anxious and unsettled as I read the book, and those feelings didn’t dissipate despite the happy ending. End of rant for now. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Well, this is the book (chapter) that got me to add an ebooks shelf. I don’t have an e-reader so I read this on my iPhone. This (short) short story le...moreWell, this is the book (chapter) that got me to add an ebooks shelf. I don’t have an e-reader so I read this on my iPhone. This (short) short story length piece was easier to read on my iPhone than I would have imagined, given its small screen. It probably helped that this is not a full-length book.
Not only did I give Michelle Richmond's novel The Year of Fog 5 stars, but it’s on my favorite shelf. So, I was very excited to read the author’s blog and find out that this missing final chapter to that book is now available. I always want more. Unfortunately, I don’t own the novel, a situation I should rectify someday, and so I was afraid my memory might not be sharp, but everything about the book came back to me immediately as I was reading this.
This chapter is beautifully written, as is the book, and I enjoyed seeing what happened after the ending of the published novel. Even more satisfying was learning more about exactly how Emma had disappeared. I had fun reading it. Finding a bit more about what happened to Emma and Abby felt very satisfying. However, I do think that the author made the right decision to leave the chapter out of the original book, even though I remember being a tad frustrated having the charaters’ futures left up to my imagination. I’m delighted that I had the opportunity to read it now though.(less)
I recently read Love, Amalia, a book by this same mother-son writing team, and I really liked it, and so I was eager to read this, their first book to...moreI recently read Love, Amalia, a book by this same mother-son writing team, and I really liked it, and so I was eager to read this, their first book together. I also enjoyed this story.
I really appreciated how the feelings of both the children and adult characters are taken into consideration in this novel.
Margie’s/Margarita’s feelings of jealousy and embarrassment and her confusion, and her joy and pride and enthusiasm all seem so genuine and believable, as do the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the other characters.
I really appreciated all the other children’s books mentioned within this book and like that Margie is a reader and fan of the library.
I didn’t like the possibly positive spin on the captive marine animals, but I liked that Camille did think about that issue, and I loved the avoiding disturbing the bird nest.
Take a look at the second author’s dedication, and you’ll see the names as characters in the book. They’re his daughters, and their namesakes in the book share some of their passions. (I heard this from the first author, their grandmother.) What a lovely idea. I’m sure they are thrilled, and I very much like their characters in the book. This is such a good family story so it’s extra special that the authors’ children and grandchildren have a place in this story.
I have to say I was really turned off by the, albeit short, religious content in the poem that’s at the end, but I suspect most people will either like it or barely notice it. I was touched by certain aspects of the poem and its relationship to the main character in the story.
I enjoyed the Spanish words that are interspersed throughout the text.
I came close to tearing up with emotion several times.
I am eager to read more stories by this author/these authors. I am impressed with the authenticity of the emotions the characters experience.
Ooh, and those dresses sound gorgeous. I wish that there had been illustrations, but I was able to imagine them well, I think.
I’d recommend this to girls ages 7-11, for independent reading and read aloud one to one or as a family or group read, for bilingual education, for multicultural studies, to anyone looking for a good family story, for kids of divorce, for kids who are immigrants or who have friends who are immigrants or who live in areas with great diversity, or none, and kids who need to learn better self acceptance, and oh so many young readers.(less)