Alan’s love for creating complex worlds and populating them with characters who readers can relate to and learn from, shines through every page of thiAlan’s love for creating complex worlds and populating them with characters who readers can relate to and learn from, shines through every page of this engaging book.
Without a word of backstory, Alan immerses the reader into this fantasy world, giving you just enough information that will make you want to keep reading.
The secret entrance to the headquarters of the Septemberist Society could only be reached by submarine. Twelve-year-old Archie Dent had been there a dozen times before and still he had no idea where it was. Manhatta? State Island? Breucklen? Queens County? For all he knew, the submarine they took to the group’s secret headquarters didn’t go to any of New Rome’s boroughs at all. It might turn right around from the Hudson River Submarine Landing in Jersey and head back to Hackensack territory. And asking didn’t help either. His mother and father didn’t know where it was, or they wouldn’t tell him.
“I’ll bet the Septemberist Society is under the big statue of Hiawatha in New Rome Harbor,” he told his parents as they wove their way through the crowd down to the submarine docks. “That would be so brass!” (p. 1)
Introduction of protagonist with a voice. Check.
Introduction of a believable steampunk world based loosely on cities and states the reader is familiar with? Check.
Next comes the conflict: Enter the Mangleborn and their descendants, the Manglespawn. Monsters so horrific they can only be defeated by the superhuman powers of the League of Seven.
In the opening chapter Archie meets his first monster:
It was something else. Something black and shiny and big, bigger than Archie, with too many legs and too many eyes and a curled, segmented tail with a thick stinger at the end….It wasn’t a giant spider or a giant scorpion or—were those human hands under there?...Something unnatural. Something monstrous. Something Manglespawn. (p. 20)
Archie quickly learns that his parents, along with several other members of the Septemberist council, have come under the Maglespawn’s control. His mission, set up within the first 25 pages, is to rescue his parents.
Plain and simple, right?
Of course not. Alan Gratz wouldn’t be the master storyteller that he is if there wasn’t also an interesting sidekick, Archie’s machine man Tik Tok servant, Mr. Rivets; as well as two other members of the new League of Seven. Archie meets Hachi, a fierce warrior with a vendetta to vindicate the death of her parents and Fergus, an electrical tinkerer with the supernatural ability to absorb and discharge lectricity. Together, the four travel up and down the east coast of the United Nations of America in a mammoth search for Archie’s parents.
The story includes great battle scenes, times when Archie is tested and uncovers huge truths about himself, and even tiny sparks of romance. But one of the things I enjoyed the most was seeing how much Alan enjoyed writing this book. I can imagine the look of glee on his face when he first imagined p-mail (messages delivered through pneumatic tubes via a series of tubes called the Inter-Net); p-mail hackers who send messages from a “Nigerian prince who needs a small sum of money transferred to him to free up a fortune in stolen diamonds… an old con [that] many people fall for.” (p. 128); and personal gramophones that are steampunk versions of iPods.
The League of Seven, first in the trilogy with the same name, won the 2015 SIBA Young Adult Award and will appeal to middle school, young adult, and boy and girl readers. The second book in the series, The Dragon Lantern came out in June with equally fantastic illustrations by Brett Helquist....more
The minute sixth-grader Theo Thomas gets off the bus and arrives in Destiny, Florida with his Uncle Raymond, I’m right there with him. Award winning aThe minute sixth-grader Theo Thomas gets off the bus and arrives in Destiny, Florida with his Uncle Raymond, I’m right there with him. Award winning author AugustaScattergood, uses great details to pull readers into the character and setting: Theo grabs his bags, baseball mitt and a tattered book, Everything You Want to Know About Baseball; the heat hits him like a slap in the face; diesel fumes whoosh around him; he encounters slithery gray stuff hanging from the trees; and no "old men in shorts and flip-flops" meet him and his uncle at the Marathon gas station.
Theo’s shakes his head at the banner stretching across the street, Destiny, Florida: The Town Time Forgot and wonders, “Man, what am I doing here?”
Writers are encouraged to start a story at the moment in the character’s life when things change. True to that advice, Augusta starts this book with the fact that Theo’s life has taken a turn for the worse. As the story moves forward and Theo becomes acquainted with his new hometown, the reader finds out that he lived with his maternal grandparents on their Kentucky farm since his parents died in an accident when he was four. His Vietnam vet uncle had to come back from his happy life in Alaska to sell the farm, put his parents in a nursing home, and take care of him. Raymond resents it all.
At the same time that his uncle lays down the law about how life is going to be now that he's in charge, Theo is busy discovering that downstairs from his room in Miss Sister Grandersole's Rooming House and Dance Academy, there is a beautiful piano. He also makes the acquaintance of Anabel Johnson, who would rather be playing baseball than taking tap dance lessons.
The piano is like a magnet to Theo and despite his uncle's displeasure, he can't keep his hands off of it. Miss Sister recognizes Theo's special talent to play music by ear, but all his uncle can say is, "No one but a fool wastes his time playing a piano."
Although this is Theo’s story of discovering a way to make a life without his grandparents in a new city, it is equally about Raymond coming to grips with his Vietnam nightmares and sorrows. I loved how slowly his backstory is revealed and how Theo discovers his uncle's hurts as an unappreciated Vietnam veteran. Their reconciliation is beautiful and authentic without being sappy or maudlin.
I appreciated the way in which Augusta wove together the strands of the other character's stories. Besides Uncle Raymond's story, other sub-plots include Anabel's passion for baseball and her determination to uncover part of Destiny's history; and Miss Sister’s dancing dreams, which turned out different than she expected.
I also loved that Theo was as passionate about playing the piano as he was about practicing baseball. These two strands create a very unique character.
There are too many great lines from this book for me to quote, but here are a few: "Music Makes Memories" the sign in Sister's practice room. The sign provides great subtext for the novel. When Theo plays the piano he describes it as "music jumping out of his fingers." Uncle Raymond: "I don't know nothing about raising kids. Especially ones that remind me of the bad times." Theo: "I'll start acting like family when you do." Uncle Raymond: "I hate everything that happened. I hate you having no one but me." ********** Why did Augusta Scattergood name the town Destiny? Why does Uncle Raymond want to leave Destiny? How does Theo figure out a way for them to stay and a way for them to be a family. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
I am giving away a copy of the Audio CD expertly narrated by Michael Crouch. If you would like to win, please leave me a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog) by 6 PM August 20, 2015. If you become a new follower of my blog, or share this post on Facebook or Twitter, I'll give you additional chances to win; just let me know in your comment what you did.
This review originally was published on LitChat on July 28, 2015...more
To be honest, at first I didn't think about historical fantasy being a genre until I read Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget and was conTo be honest, at first I didn't think about historical fantasy being a genre until I read Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget and was contemplating how I wanted to review it. But then I realized I've read many books with both historical and magical elements--although typically they take place prior to the 20th century.
Set in Kansas right before the Civil War, this is the story of how a young girl, Hallelujah Wonder; and her best friend, Eustace, who is a slave, deliver a dangerous Medicine Head to the cold depths of Antarctica to prevent a Captain Greeney, a wicked Navy captain from using it to work evil.
In a nutshell, these are the historical and magical elements of this middle grade book that is a story of adventure, friendship, and sacrifice.
The reader gets a great glimpse into Hallelujah's (who prefers to be called Lu) character when she tells the reader that she intends to be "the first lady scientist in Kansas--maybe the only scientist at all in this sunbaked, throny-plant, tree-lonely, dirty-water, skinny-animal, dusty-air, grasshopper-happy, God-forsaken place." (p. 8,9) We also find out that her role model is her father who Captain Greeney murdered. He was not only a great explorer who discovered Antarctica, but he brought home a number of valuable artifacts. So valuable that they are hidden in a cave which only Lu and Eustace know about.
One of the artifacts, the Medicine Head that talks, can only be heard by certain individuals--including Lu. Bundled in a crate with the instructions, "KEEP COOL. DO NOT DESTROY!" Lu feels the head calling to her. When she can't resist touching it, she sees visions from the past; including images of Captain Greeney pursuing her father in order to possess the Medicine Head's power.
With Captain Greeney on her trail, but now knowing all of the Head's powers, Lu decides it's her job to get the Head to Antarctica--where it is cold and will never be destroyed.
At the same time, pre-Civil War unrest infiltrates Tolerone, her midwest town. A fight between the Abolitionists and slave owners leads to a devastating fire leaving Eustace temporarily without a master. Recognizing that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be free, Eustace leaves Kansas with Lu on her quest to take the Medicine Head to Antarctica.
Like I said, the story mixes fantasy with history and I enjoyed the historical parts the best--which shows you what kind of reader I am! I particularly appreciated how Lu describes the changes she sees in Eustace after leaving Kansas and arriving in New Bedford, Massachusetts where they hope to find passage to Antarctica: "Eustace is walking funny. He moves through the lanes of New Bedford with a confidence I never saw in him at home." (p. 206)
Seeing Eustace's freedom through Lu's eyes tells the reader a lot about both characters: I try to feel what Eustace is feeling right now. I'm sure he misses his ma. I know he does. But if he had stayed in Tolerone, he'd probably have been separated form her away. He'd probably have been shipped off to work all day, every day, for mean old slave owners who would never appreciate a single thing he did or knew. They'd probably never realize how smart Eustace is. They'd probably never appreciate how loyal he is. They'd probably never see how strong and courageous he is. Or how forgiving he is. Even if he is a mama's boy and hits girls. I wonder if he's looking around and thinking about all the possibilities he has. All those things had had hoped for his life, about being a cowboy or a scientist, are suddenly possible. I feel happy for him. But I feel a bit of unhappiness, too. I know that at some point, our journey, successful or not, will be over, and Eustace and I will have to separate. (p. 218) When Lu finally rids herself of the Medicine Head, she's no longer a prisoner to its whims. She has found her freedom; in the same way that Eustace has found his. ******* To win a copy of this novel for yourself or for a middle grade reader, leave me a comment by 6 PM on Wednesday, July 29. If you want to increase your chance of winning, please share on Facebook or Twitter and let me know in your comment which you did.
This review was first posted on LitChat on July 2, 2015. ...more
Rory is a 12-year-old street smart orphan who keeps her promises.
First, she is determined to keep her promise to her dying mother that she’ll take carRory is a 12-year-old street smart orphan who keeps her promises.
First, she is determined to keep her promise to her dying mother that she’ll take care of her younger sister, Violet.
Second, she will absolutely not break her promise to five-year-old Violet: Nothing will ever, ever separate them.
It’s just that keeping these promises proves to be a lot more difficult than even spunky, Irish Rory Fitzpatrick ever imagined.
Co-authors, Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols use the facts of the Orphan Trains in this fictionalized account starring Rory as the sharp-witted, courageous heroine. Between 1853 and 1929 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children were put on trains and brought out west. The Children’s Aid Society of New York sponsored many of them. At times, the families used the children for underage labor; this was before there were child labor and foster care laws. On the other hand, The Foundling, a Catholic organization, took great care to place the orphans in their care in “good, Catholic families.”
Although Rory herself is a fictional character, many of the other characters in the book are real: Sister Anna, the nun in charge of placing the children; George Swayne, the agent who worked with The Foundling; Father Constant Mandlin a young French priest who couldn't communicate well with his parishioners as well as the white women who were furious when Mexican working-class families received children and they didn’t.
But I am getting ahead of the story.
Rory’s goal to make sure she and Violet stay together drives this story forward. As far as she’s concerned, not even plans to take Vi out west to the Arizona territory will stop her. Although she successfully sneaks on board the orphan’s train, her journey is not without moments of doubt. Families who couldn’t have children of their own wanted cute little 5-year-olds—but would anyone want her sister also? But the more happy families she saw, the more she wondered if Vi had a future that might not include Rory. If Vi had a chance for parents and a home, could Rory stand in the way of that? p. 144
After a stressful journey, when the train finally arrives in Clifton, Arizona Territory everyone is shocked. First, the stench of sulfur and a building belching dark smoke greet them. Rory soon learns that the town revolves around mining copper. In the small station, a mob of loud, white women pound on the train’s windows. Later Rory is told, "This place is bad for making babies. The air is thick with fumes and the water is full of metals from the mines. Nothing grows here. No trees. No babies.” (pp.171-2)
A new conflict—one based on history—enfolds. The Protestant women believe they have a right to the children since they are the same race and skin color. But the children have been promised to the Mexicans so they can be raised in “good, Catholic homes.”
The white women are demanding and ugly. Rory is actually relieved when Violet and a little boy, William, are assigned to two kind Mexicans, Elena and Ramon Martinez. But her relief that Violet has found a family is tempered by her anguish of wanting to stay with her sister. Can she find a way to convince the Martinez family to adopt her also?
Rory’s concept of family--people who look alike--is challenged and her courage and loyalty are severely tested. She needs every ounce of her abilities to think quickly and to act fast to help the orphans and to keep her promises.
At the risk of including a spoiler, I must share one of my favorite parts of this book. At the end, when she tells Violet about the Martinez’s plan to take them both to Mexico Rory says,
"We’ll never see the Foundling again—or Sister Anna or the other kids,” she warned. “We’ll have to learn a new language too, Vi. And there won’t be any American kids to play with. We’ll always be different."
“Special?” Vi asked, her blue eyes shining with pleasure.
“”I guess so,” Rory said ruefully. (p. 250) Leave it to a five-year-old to have a different perspective on what their new life will be!...more
I'm going to tell you from the start this review contains spoilers. It's a story driven by a young boy's desire and need to survive. But of course, thI'm going to tell you from the start this review contains spoilers. It's a story driven by a young boy's desire and need to survive. But of course, the spoiler is implied by the very nature of this book. Prisoner B-3087 by North Carolina author Alan Gratz, is based on the true story of Jack Greuner, an Holocaust survivor.
The book opens in 1939 in Kraków, Poland. Yanek Gruener (much later he changes his name to Jack) is ten-years-old and his father doesn't believe that Hitler's invasion of Poland will last for more than six months.
His family soon finds out how deadly wrong he is.
In magnificent prose that combines accurate details from Yanek's life with historical research, Alan Gratz has woven together a painful-but-true portrayal of a young boy's determination to survive which carried him through ten concentration camps in six horrific years.
Within three years the family goes from rationing; to losing jobs, their synagogue, and access to schools; to being sealed off within the walls of the ghetto. Life is horrible, but at least Yanek has his family around him. After his secret bar-mitzvah, he is terrified when the sick and elderly are killed. He thinks, I was a man and I wanted to do something. Something to stop the Nazis. To save my family. I asked myself over and over again what I could do to help, but I had no answer. p.50 He argues that his family should not give in to the Nazi's demand to be "selected" and buys more time for them all. But one day he comes home and witnesses his parents being brutally herded away by the Nazi soldiers.
Yankee is sent to the Płaszów concentration camp and is amazed to find his Uncle Moshe who gives him survival instructions: From now on, you have no name, no personality, no family, no friends. Do you understand? Nothing to identify you, nothing to care about. Not if you want to survive…We have only one purpose now: survive. Survive at all costs, Yanek. We cannot let these monsters tear us from the pages of the world. (pp. 68, 70) As Yanek is packed into cattle cars and moved from one concentration camp to another he learns what he must do to survive: Don't share your portion of bread with someone, even if that person might be kept alive by what you have. Don't miss a roll call. You will be beaten. Don't show fear. The Nazis' dogs will attack. Don't befriend anyone. Always obey orders. Don't think for yourself. Don't question orders even if it means moving back-breaking rocks from one side of the yard and then back again. Don't fight back. If you do, you'll be killed. Don't complain when you are forced to sing and entertain Nazi soldiers feasting on a dinner. Look away so your stomach won't grumble and you won't be shot. Yanek clings to the smallest "comforts" in his pursuit of survival: I stood at the water pump, scrubbing my body. It was bitterly cold out, but I didn't care. I would scrub my body, I decided, each and every morning, no matter how cold it was, no matter how tired I was. I was alive, and I meant to stay that way. …I paid careful attention to where I had been tattooed. Too many others had let their tattoos get infected, and that had taken them to the camp surgeon. You didn't want to go to the camp surgeon. Ever. I even rubbed my teeth with my wet fingers--we had not toothbrushes or toothpaste, of course, but it felt important to remember what it was like to be human. (p. 136) As the war ends, Yanek's will to survive does not: The war had come to Dachau, and any moment a shell or a bomb might fall on our building and kill us all. So many times I had wished for a bomb to fall on me, to end my suffering, but now I prayed that no bomb would hit me. Not now, when I was so close to the end! If only I could survive a little longer, I thought, just a little longer-- (p. 242) As I said in the beginning of this review, it is obvious that Yanek Gruener does survive. So, it's not a spoiler to quote the last lines of this memorable book: I stepped on board the train and didn't look back. For nine years I had done everything I could to survive. Not it was time to live. (p.256)...more
“As an African-American child growing up in the segregated pre-Civil Rights South, Sarah Bracey White pushed against the social conventions that warne“As an African-American child growing up in the segregated pre-Civil Rights South, Sarah Bracey White pushed against the social conventions that warned her not to rock the boat, even before she was old enough to fully understand her urge to defy the status quo. In her candid and poignant memoir, Primary Lessons, White recalls a childhood marked by equal measures of poverty and pride—formative years spent sorting through the “lessons” learned from a complicated relationship with her beloved, careworn mother and from a father’s absence engendered by racial injustice and compromised manhood.” (Press release from CavanKerry Press)
I don’t normally quote a press release when introducing a book, but I couldn’t improve on this synopsis of Sarah Bracey White’s memoir. I first “met” Sarah in the pages of Childrenof the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black in America. After reading about her experiences as a Sumter, South Carolina teen working in a camp for wealthy New England girls, I friended her on Facebook and told her about my work-in-progress. She promptly sent me a copy of her memoir which, has since helped fuel writing Half-Truths. I think Sarah's memoir is best revealed in her own words. "The city buses are a sore spot for me. We don’t have a car, and I seldom have a dime to ride the one that travels from Liberty Street downtown to the shopping area. Even if I did, I wouldn’t want to ride the bus because I hate sitting at the back. Maybe we are poor, but even if we had extra money, it wouldn’t change the thing I hate most: the fear colored adults exhibit toward white people, even white children." (p. 127)
At one point their small house is vandalized. Sarah writes, "Even though we had nothing of value, it’s frightening to think that strangers have spent the day in our house—on my bed. Why had they picked our house? Would they come back?... Why had they smashed them [the figurines]? Were they angry because they found no money or valuables? Whoever they were, they had to be colored. White boys stood out too much in a colored neighborhood to consider mischief like this. "(p. 131)
She recalls the role of supportive teachers: "Maybe my teachers like me because they can see that I’m an outsider, trying to fit into a life I don’t want. Or maybe they like me because they like my mama and know the hardships she endures. Whatever the reasons, my teachers are a source of comfort. They give me approval and confidence. By the time I reach high school, they no longer tell me to stop talking so much. In fact, they encourage my outspokenness and open doors that make it possible for me to use my gifts in ways that benefit me." (p. 142)
In an unusually frank conversation her mother admitted, "The people in this town. They always said I wasn’t good enough for your daddy. He came from a fine respectable family, and I came from nothing. They used to say my real daddy was a white doctor who my mama worked for."
I’m shocked by Mama’s confession. "Is it true?" I ask.
"I don’t know. I was always scared to ask my mama about it. When I was about ten, I went over to the doctor’s house and hid behind a tree until he came home. I wanted to see if I looked like him."
"Not one bit! I didn’t look like my daddy either." Mama pauses. Her eyes glaze, and she sighs deeply. “I loved my daddy. He used to call me his sunshine. Said I was the light of his life and that it was my job to banish the darkness. I never understood what he meant by that. I love the darkness. In the darkness, I’m the same color as everybody else.'" (p. 164-5)
When Sarah asked her mother why she didn’t move north like her siblings did, her mother replied, “When you move out of the south you leave your past behind. The only thing that counts up north is how much you got in your pocket. Everybody up north is running away from their past. The past is all I’ve got."
Sarah wrote, "Today I feel like she has exposed the rusty chain that holds her prisoner in Sumter." (p. 165-6)
When Sarah is getting ready to make her debut she considers, "Until those cotillion classes, I’d only been given instructions on what not to do. A long list of restrictions seemed to say that I was the problem, that my only for survival was to be invisible. But I don’t want to be invisible. I want to stand above the crowd and shine. That’s not the life plan for young colored girls like me. Yet being selected as a debutante has nurtured a rustling hope inside me. Maybe, just maybe, I can escape my fate." (p. 176)
At the cotillion she thinks, "Tonight the fact that we're colored doesn't matter. Tonight I feel like a princess, smiled upon and feted by people I respect and who respect me. Tonight I'm more than just another poor little colored girl living in the shadows. I'm filled with the infinite possibilities of who I can become." (p.179)
Sadly, two weeks after that special evening, Sarah's mother suddenly dies. At the funeral Sarah looks at her mother and thinks, "She looks more peaceful now than she ever looked alive." (p.197)
Sarah has no choice but to continue carrying out her plans. In 1963, she works as kitchen help in Vermont before entering college and receives an education: "When I ask Mrs. Lee [the woman who supervises the help] why we can't ride the horses or swim in the lake she smiles sadly and says, 'We're the help, and the help doesn't mingle with the campers.' Up north, it seems segregation is a matter of class and skin color."
Despite my anger at these restrictions, I am shamelessly curious about the campers. Never before have I been in such close proximity to so many white people. Daily it gets easier to eavesdrop on their conversations as they grow used to our brown presence and we become about as significant as the pine trees. No one worries about a pine tree hearing secrets. Soon I learn that white skin brings no solace from problems, that money doesn't ensure smooth boy-girl relationships or prevent sadness and heart ache. I also learn that white girls are cruel to other white girls. I had always assumed that whites were only cruel to colored people. I'm especially shocked to learn that white girls openly envy one another's looks. Almost every girl wants to be blond (I always thought long hair of any color was beautiful) and that every white girl would die for a perfect tan. I don't understand why they want to have skin like ours if they don't like colored people. (p.224)
In another conversation with Mrs. Lee Sarah questions why the white counselors make more money than she does, even though they are all "college girls."
Mrs. Lee shrugs, just the way Mama used to. "That's how life is," she says.
I can't understand why adults accept everything. Just because that's the way it's always been doesn't mean that that's the way it should always be. When I get to be an adult, I'm gonna change things. (p.225) ************ Sarah is now the executive director of arts and culture in the town of Greensburgh, NY and teaches at the Hudson Valley Writers Center. For more information about how Sarah is busy "changing things," please visit her website. ...more
The first thing I noticed about Susan Moger’s book, Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: An In-Depth Resource for Learning About the Holocaust Through thThe first thing I noticed about Susan Moger’s book, Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: An In-Depth Resource for Learning About the Holocaust Through the Writings of Anne Frank was her personal connection to Anne’s story. Here are the opening words to the preface: I was born the day Anne Frank went into hiding-July 6, 1942. When I first read The Diary of a Young Girl, I was 13, the same age as Anne when she started her diary. That combination of events, and the fact that I, too, kept a diary, forged a connection between Anne and me. (p. 5) The second thing I noticed was the book’s superb organization. Beginning with a lengthy note to teachers on how to use the book and ending with “Resources and References” which is divided by grade level, the author has created a classroom resource which will make reading A Diary of a Young Girl not only memorable, but also a starting point for a learning unit with historical and sociological implications.
Ms. Moger worked hard to show the historical context of Anne Frank’s life. But that broad worldview is balanced with personal snapshots showing how Anne was a “normal” teenager in an abnormal time. The book's timeline reflects this by showing what was going on in the Frank family in correspondence with world events.
Each of the five chapters incorporate resource pages amplifying the author's mission: to teach young people about the Holocaust so that Anne Frank's legacy will influence present and future generations.
You'll have to get the book to appreciate the depth of resources which Susan assembled in this curriculum resource. I can't begin to showcase her project suggestions, response journal topics, thought provoking discussion questions, and excerpts from Holocaust survivors. Here are just a few examples which spoke to me.
http://www.theholocaustexplained.org/... This map is similar to the one reproduced in the book. If you click on this website you can see a succession of maps showing the progression of German occupation.
This photograph captures Anne and her dream of one day becoming a journalist or a writer.
National-Socialist German Workers' Party Party Secretariat Head of the Party Secretariat Fuehrer Headquarters, July 11, 1943 Circular No. 33/43 g.
Re: Treatment of the Jewish Question
On instructions from the Fuehrer I make known the following: Where the Jewish Question is brought up in public, there may be no discussion of a future overall solution.
It may, however, be mentioned that the Jews are taken in groups for appropriate labor purposes.
signed M. Bormann
Distribution: Reichsleiter Gauleiter Group leaders File Reference: Treatment/Jews
Source: Documents on the Holocaust, Selected Sources on the Destruction of the Jews of Germany and Austria, Poland and the Soviet
Union, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1981, Document no.160. p.342.
This is one of several documents used in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials. Ms. Moger also devotes several resource pages and discussion questions on the topic of doublespeak and euphemisms.
A Dead Child Speaks by Nelly Sachs
My mother held me by my hand. Then someone raised the knife of parting: So that it should not strike me, My mother loosed her hand from mine. But she lightly touched my thighs once more And her hand was bleeding –
After that the knife of parting Cut in two each bite I swallowed – It rose before me with the sun at dawn And began to sharpen itself in my eyes – Wind and water ground in my ear And every voice of comfort pierced my heart –
As I was led to death I still felt in the last moment The unsheathing of the great knife of parting.
(Translated by Ruth &Matthew Mead) Holocaust Poetry: Compiled and Introduced by Hilda Schiff.
from http://www.annefrank.ch/diary.html I read the Diary of Anne Frank over fifty years ago and I still remember some of the feelings it evoked in me. Photocopies of actual pages from the diary startled me. Of course I knew that her journal was a hand-written account and not a typed paperback. But seeing her handwriting and the photos she inserted with her comments, connected me to my younger self who kept a diary because that’s what Anne Frank did. It made me wonder: how many other young women and writers have been inspired by Anne’s example?
The Diary of a Young Girl is a classic book appreciated by readers young and old. Hopefully this curriculum supplement will continue to facilitate Anne’s purpose: to document a piece of history that the world can’t afford to forget.
Ms. Moger is giving away an autographed copy of this award-winning book. A perfect addition to any school or home school library, I hope my faithful blog readers will share this post with teachers and/or enter on behalf of a local school. To enter, please leave me a comment by April 23. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to this blog. ******* If your class is studying the Holocaust, here are several other books on the topic which I have reviewed on this blog:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Rose Under Fire Liesl's Ocean Rescue Prisoner of Night and Fog
******* MORE RESOURCES: Visit Anne Frank Foundation for more pictures of Anne and her family.
Visit Biography.com for interviews about Anne's diary.
Read Annexed by Sharon Doger for a fictionalized story about Peter Van Pels....more
I have never read a Spinelli book that I didn't like, and this is no exception. Get the inside view of why a kid becomes a bully--and how his life getI have never read a Spinelli book that I didn't like, and this is no exception. Get the inside view of why a kid becomes a bully--and how his life gets changed around. ...more
Hands (or I should say paws) down, Constance Lombardo’s love for all things feline shine through her fun illustrations and text in Mr. Puffball: StuntHands (or I should say paws) down, Constance Lombardo’s love for all things feline shine through her fun illustrations and text in Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars, an entertaining graphic novel for readers from grades 3-7. Constance admits that Mr. Puffball is a mix of all the cats she’s ever loved. “Cats have funny, pensive faces, come in so many different colors, stripes, patches, etc. I can't look at a cat without imagining a speech bubble. They've got lots of personality and like to do their own thing and most of them do want to be movie stars!”
Mr. Puffball’s egotistic-yet-adorable voice is communicated in the opening lines. “My name is Mr. Puffball, and this is my story. It all started in a little town called New Jersey, home to such famous American landmarks as my house.”
His life is changed forever when he sees the movie, Cow-Cats & Aliens starring El Gato. From that moment on, this precocious kitten decides he must become a movie star. Despite nay-sayers among his siblings, his mother fuels his dream by telling him about his great-grandmother Zelda, a star in Cleocatra meets The Mummy.
That’s all the inspiration Mr. Puffball needs. With his tiny replica of Mr. Gato tucked into a cloth waistband and a newspaper ad for a movie audition for The Great Catsby, Mr. Puffball leaves for Hollywood and sends postcards home to his mother.
Having just experienced a recent close run-in with Kansas tornadoes, I appreciated this illustration:
Unfortunately, fame and fortune don’t come as easily as expected. Metro-Olden Meower studios is closed and Mr. Puffball is twenty years late for the audition. His audition at Purramount Studios falls flat. But when Chester Grumpus (the producer of such great movies as The Sound of Meowsic and Attack of the 50 Foot She-Cat) takes him under his wing (err…his paw), Mr. Puffball meets three friends who help get his career off the ground.
Despite his excellent audition in Nine Lives to Live, Mr. Puffball only receives a part as an extra. Nine Lives is “a classic western with handsome heroes, sinister villains, and old-fashioned rattlesnakes… [the hero] El Gato is after Billy the Kitten, who square-danced with El Gato’s one true love, Veronica, even though she prefers ballroom...They steal Billy the Kitten’s ten-gallon hat, which turns out to only hold five gallons. Laughing about their misadventure, El Gato and Veronica ride into the sunset where they hope to open a hotel with a water slide.” (p. 96)
Determined to make El Gato notice him, Mr. Puffball lands himself a job as his stunt cat and becomes Bruiser’s prodigy: “Ride bad-temper horse now! Going backward! Faster! Don’t fall or you be trampled. See what I tell you?” (Hmm… Wonder whose dialogue Constance mimicked here?)
Hilarious scenes ensue that both children and adults will enjoy. Mr. Puffball rides in El Gato’s limousine equipped not only with cup holders and a mini fridge, but also a climbing wall and catnip. At a night out at the Brown Tabby, he eats fish tacos, plays with Wacky String, and meets Rosie, a (cute!) fellow Kung Fu Kitty.
Although the illustrations will draw readers in, the "a-hero-isn’t-always-who-he-appear-to-be" plot is clever and inspirational. Mr. Puffball’s adventure culminates at the opening night of Nine Lives.
Constance finishes the story with a flourish, a flash-mob, and a glossary that made me laugh out loud. I can't wait for the sequel--fortunately, she is already working on it. Constance writes, “In the next two books, Mr. Puffball will continue pursuing his biggest dream: to be a movie star! Wherever he may travel, whatever television, modeling, stunt or corporate work he takes on, he always keeps his eyes on the Oscar!”
I don’t want to spoil this book for you. Let me suggest you catapult this book onto your “to be read list” and discover a catacophony of puns and a memorable story about a remarkable tabby cat....more
How many of you have heard of pellagra? Before reading Red Madness, I was unfamiliar with the disease. But reading it resolved a personal mystery forHow many of you have heard of pellagra? Before reading Red Madness, I was unfamiliar with the disease. But reading it resolved a personal mystery for my husband's 85-year-old uncle. He finished the book and said, "Now I know what I had as a child."
This disease which produces a horrible skin rash, leads to severe intestinal problems, causes neurological problems, and often leads to death, no longer afflicts wide portions of our population--the way it did during the first half of the twentieth century. Pellagra has been eradicated from most developed countries because of the tireless work of one physician: Joseph Goldberger. Red Madness by award winning author Gail Jarrow, describes how this medical mystery was solved.
Written with clear language accessible to readers from age ten through adult, Gail Jarrow chronicles the history, myths, and treatments associated with pellagra. Dr. Goldberger's tireless efforts to determine the primary cause of pellagra included hosting "filth parties." In gruesome detail, Gail describes how Goldberger tried infecting himself with pellagra in order to prove that it was not contagious or a result of infection.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2... "This Oklahoma sharecropper and his family pick cotton in 1916. The older two children--ages six and five--together picked twenty-five pounds of cotton a day. Goldberger tried to communicate his message about diet to farmers and mill workers, two groups that suffered from pellagra." (p.100) Since the disease appeared most often in poor households where diets were limited to 3-M's: meal (cornmeal baked into bread), meat (fatback, form the fatty layer on a pigs back) and molasses (syrup), Goldberger was convinced that pellagra was probably caused by a diet deficiency. But how could he prove that? Goldberger spent eleven years, traveling frequently in the South where the disease was most common, and performed experiment after experiment.
In 1923 his efforts finally paid off. Experimenting with dogs who were experiencing pellagra symptoms, Goldberger fed them brewer's yeast (something missing from most pellagrins' diets). Quickly, the dogs recovered. In 1926 the Mississippi River flooded. 700,000 people lost their homes and 45-50,000 developed pellagra. The Red Cross took Goldberger's recommendation to add yeast to the impoverished people's diet. Within two months people were cured.
After Goldberger died in 1928, other scientists continued searching for the vitamin that would prevent pellagra. Eventually, Conrad Elvehjem discovered that nicotinic acid (now known as niacin) was indeed, the pellagra-preventing vitamin. Ten years later bakers began adding niacin, along with other Vitamin B complex vitamins to bread. That was the beginning of the enriched bread we enjoy today.
According to a recent Writer's Digest article, "Straight Up Nonfiction with a Twist," one way authors enhance text is by using sidebars for supplemental material. Gail and her team at Calkins Creek did an excellent job of interweaving newspaper headlines, facts, and photos such as this one into the body of the text.
"Some doctors referred to the butterfly-shaped rash on the girls neck as the Collar of Casal, named after the first doctor to write about pellagra." (p. 83) In addition, dozens of case histories of individuals whose lives were torn apart by the disease, are sprinkled throughout the book.
In a recent SCBWI, Bulletin article, "What Teachers Want from Nonfiction Authors," Alexis O'Neill said that teachers wanted authors to share about their research and writing process. Accordingly, I asked Gail a few questions about her process.
Carol: What was it like for you to see the images of people afflicted with pellagra and pulling them together for this book?
Gail: Part of me approached this topic in a clinical manner. I have a background in biology, and I was fascinated to learn how a vitamin deficiency could lead to such dramatic physical symptoms. But when I read the accounts of patients’ suffering written by their doctors, I felt upset knowing this disease was so easy to prevent. Even after pellagra’s cause and cure were discovered—and publicized—people continued to fall ill and die. Many victims lacked the resources to eat properly or didn’t realize how diet affected their bodies. Tragically, other deaths occurred because some physicians refused to accept that pellagra was a diet deficiency disease.
Carol: Was any part of this writing/publishing journey more difficult than another?
Gail: The hardest part—and this is always the case when I write a non-fiction book—is locating and obtaining the primary documents. Those were key because secondary sources were contradictory about the early-20th-century understanding of pellagra, Joseph Goldberger and his research, and other details included in my book. Whenever possible, I go back to the original sources and do not necessarily trust what I read elsewhere. Too many times, I’ve found errors in the secondary sources.
For more information on the nitty gritty behind writing this book, see the informative Author's Note at the end of the book and Gail's interview in the School Library Journal. Teachers, make sure you utilize the educational activities which Gail has assembled. With such a detailed analysis of the disease, what caused it, and the stigmas associated with the disease, Red Madness will be an excellent supplement to history, sociology, and science lesson plans.
Read this book and maybe you'll discover answers to the mystery disease which left its mark on someone you know. ...more
In some ways books are like babies: conceiving them and bringing them into the world requires a lot of effort. The mother (writer) does most of the woIn some ways books are like babies: conceiving them and bringing them into the world requires a lot of effort. The mother (writer) does most of the work, but there’s usually a team that assists with the delivery.
As the critique coordinator for the SCBWI Carolinas Charlotte group for over twenty years, I had the privilege of helping several fellow writers "deliver" their books. Whenever they did, I’ve been as proud as an aunt and enjoy celebrating the arrival of their “babies.”
You heard about Linda Phillips’ book Crazy last fall and now it’s Miriam Franklin’s turn. Both authors brought their books through one laborious draft after another until their stories emerged- beautifully formed and ready for a world of readers.
Over ten years I read several drafts of Miriam’s debut novel Extraordinary (Sky Pony Press, May 2015). In each one the kernel was the same: Ten-year-old Pansy's best friend, Anna, develops meningitis after a spring break camp. Pansy decides that if she becomes extraordinary, Anna will forgive her for all the promises she didn't keep. “Extraordinary” Pansy also wants to be the first person Anna sees after her brain surgery that hopefully will reduce her seizures.
Pansy’s wishful thinking—that she and Anna will return to the days of swimming at the beach, playing LEGOs with Anna’s twin brother Andy, and being Girl Scouts together—is not uncommon for children and adults when facing tragedy.
Pansy hasn’t forgiven herself since she backed out of her promise to Anna to attend camp over spring break. Pansy got scared, the two girls fought, and Anna slammed the door behind Pansy. The next time she saw Anna, her friend was in a hospital bed. "Anna couldn't talk, she couldn't understand what people were saying, and she didn't act like she knew me at all." (p.3)
While going for a hike with Andy, she thinks about how his family had to stay home with Anna. "You couldn't push a wheelchair on a trail in the mountains." (p. 86)
Pansy doesn't want to admit her fears: In the spring they'll come with us. I wanted to say. And Anna will win Poohsticks, like always, and she'll be the first one down the steps to the falls. But I kept my words inside. Maybe I was afraid to say them out loud, afraid they would just disappear as soon as they were out of my mouth--as if by telling someone else how I get, I might keep my hopes from coming true. (p. 86) The book is full of Pansy's efforts to become extraordinary in order to be the type of friend Anna deserves. Some of her actions have funny, unexpected consequences. For example, she attempts to improve her Rollerblading skills but ends up being pulled by two huge dogs around a park. But her drive to redeem herself for her failures and be an extraordinary friend propels her forward.
Before Anna's brain surgery Pansy reflects, No matter how worried or nervous I was, Anna always believed in me. And I knew she still did. I would never have put on skates, gone to the top of the list for Independent Reader, or joined Girl Scouts if it weren't for Anna. But now, it was my turn to be there for her. To believe that she as going to pull through this surgery, that she was going to come out of it stronger than ever before. That she was going to be Anna again and that she would be so proud of me for all I'd done. So I blocked out all those questions and concentrated on one thing: in less than two weeks, I'd be sure to have my best friend back. (p. 151)
Pansy wrestles with the hard facts of Anna's illness and discovers that by following Anna's brave example she can conquer some of her own fears. In that way, Pansy finds her own path to extraordinary.
Miriam Franklin has captured a difficult topic for young readers to understand: how do you respond when your best friend suffers a serious illness. I hope you will consider pre-ordering this well-written book for yourself, or for a young reader in your life. This will be a perfect book for families who have experienced similar tragedies and will speak to adults as well as children. As Angela Ackerman said in a recent blog, this book is very relatable.
This is the reason I love well-written historical fiction: It draws me into a place and time that I am barely familiar with, brushes me with informatiThis is the reason I love well-written historical fiction: It draws me into a place and time that I am barely familiar with, brushes me with information and imagery, and leaves me wanting to know more.
Enter Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose. Written from the points of view of two fictional characters: Alis, the daughter of one of the British colonists to settle Roanoke Island and Kimi, a Native American who lost her father and sister at the hands of the English, this novel-in-verse creates a plausible story of the British who came to be known as the Lost Colony.
Rose's excellent deep POV makes the reader feel like you can reach out and touch the protagonists; their longings, conflicts, beliefs and fears are exposed to the reader in simple, yet powerful language. The alternating viewpoints are an excellent way to show what it meant to both the English and Indians for colonists to settle the New World.
Be warned. In order to share the beauty of Rose’s free verse, but at the risk of including some spoilers, this review consists of portions of the novel. (Please note: I am quoting from an ARC which is the uncorrected text.)
The book opens with the colonists’ arrival at Roanoke and Alis remembering her uncle’s words when he give her a small carving of a bluebird. This snippet foreshadows Alis’ conflicts:
“The graceful bird its wings rest so daintily. This Uncle Samuel promised me: Birds return home no matter how they fly. One set free might wander but will eventually rejoin his flock." (p. 28)
Kimi watches with curiosity as Alis explores the area outside the palisade. Kimi is surprised to find a young girl in their midst; she longs for the her dead sister’s company. But she also deeply mistrusts the English. She returns to work with the other women: “Like the corn, a woman spreads her roots wide, like the bean, a woman settles her roots deep.
If we hope to rid ourselves of them, push them from us Once and for all, We must do it Before their roots take hold." (p.34)
Their first meeting is poignant. First from Kimi’s viewpoint: “Her eyes fly to me, grow wide but do not falter, though she wears panic on her face.
Her skin too delicate, like a thin-barked tree; her body bundled, thick like a caterpillar." (p.45)
Then Alis’ viewpoint: "Motionless she stands. Markings spiral up her arms, snake down below her fringed skirt- the only clothing she wears- Like fine embroidery stitched into skin. Copper flashes at her earlobes, a rope of pearls encircles her neck. Short hair covers her forehead, the rest gathered behind. She studies me." (p. 46)
Kimi finds the wooden bird when Alis accidentally drops it. Alis doesn't go anywhere without it and Kimi assumes it is a source of power to her. Here are Kimi's thoughts and observations:
"I dance her wooden bird across my fingertips, perch it on the back of my hand.
The girl is not welcome here.
Her hair, so colorless, her eyes, pale pools of water.
I imagine her cowering in her village without her power. I want to see her weakness.
She comes from brutal people, yet is as loving with her mother as we are.
Can both things be true?" (p. 62)
The girls, both longing for a friend, are drawn together risking discovery and disapproval from their families. From Alis:
"I stay long enough to study the patterns on her arms, close enough to meet her eyes with no urge to lower my gaze.
We are not together, but neither are we apart.
Three times I have come here. Three times we have met.
Something fascinating, fragile grows between us." (p. 94)
Even as they are drawn to one another, tragic events swirl around them. Their budding friendship is tested by old prejudices, present fears, and the painful consequences of their families' decisions. From Alis:
"I cannot escape the truth that living here brings danger.
I imagine meeting Kimi in a place we mustn't hide.
It never was expected we'd remain on Roanoke.
If we had never journeyed here, how much my life would lack.
We are impoverished, desperate.
I'm most myself when with her.
How might I find peace when two worlds war inside?" (p. 311)
This beautifully written novel will be an excellent classroom resource for readers ages 10-14. And even if you don’t win it, I hope you will read and/or purchase it for the middle grade girl in your life. The images of friendship, loyalty, and self-sacrifice—and the blue birds themselves--will stay imprinted in your mind long after reading it....more