Thursday, June 28, 2012
The movie hasn't even begun when German soldiers swoop into the theater and round up all the boys. Before they know what is happening, they are sorted by age so that Sergio and Roberto are separated from each other. The boys are then put on trains heading north. All through Italy, the trains picks up more and more boys. Gradually, the trains head east to the Ukraine. The whole operation appears to be such a perfectly planned operation. A Western movie would and did draw only boys from the area, and no girls. Non of the boys in any of the groups speak the same dialect, so there is little communication among them. Soon, though, the boys realize the danger for Samuele, who is circumcised, so they change his name to Enzo and Roberto gives him his St. Christoper medal to wear.
Eventually, Roberto and Enzo end up in a labor camp, where all the boys are forced to build an airstrip for supply planes to land. The work is hard and there is little food, and as winter comes the boys must find whatever rags they can use to try to keep from freezing, usually striping what they can off dead bodies - dead soldiers and prisoners alike were fair game. At night, Enzo entertains Roberto with stories, most from the Old Testament, to keep his morale up. The friends continue to support each other, so when another boy discovers that Enzo is Jewish and demands he give him most of his food ration, Robert shares his ration with his friend.
Throughout their captivity, Roberto worries about his parents and about getting home, but there seems to be no end in sight for the boys. And to make matters worse, Enzo begins to weaken from the lack of food. And to top it all off, with winter's snows, survival becomes more and more difficult for the boys.
Will they ever see home again?
This was the kind of coming of age story that really makes you realize what the concept 'coming of age' really means. As you read Roberto's story, you can watch as he is transformed from a boy who had romanticized war to a thinking, feeling young man who realizes and appreciates the horrors of war without ever having been on a battlefield. Yet, right from the beginning, Roberto and Samuele witness shocking Nazi brutality whenever boys tried to run away or when they fainted while working. These were sobering lessons, and both boys heeded them in order to stay alive.
Stones in Water is a fast read, and for the most part it was excellent. Some readers seem to feel that the end of the book didn't have a satisfactory conclusion, but I liked it. Hinting at a sequel, I felt that Roberto has more in store for him than just going home. And indeed, a sequel was written, Fire in the Hills, continuing Roberto's story.
One thing did bother me about Stones in Water. It is based on reality, but I was sorry there was no Author's Note at the back of my copy to more fully explain the basis of the story, just an easy-to-miss brief mention in the acknowledgements. It seems that Napoli has a friend, Guido Fullin, who was taken by the Nazis as a boy, just like Roberto was and Stones in Water is loosely based on him. She did her own research but said no more about it. I would have liked a list of further reading, if one can be done, about Italian boys being taken and used as forced labor despite Germany and Italy being aligned with each other during the war. When I googled this topic, I didn't find much more than an interview with Donna Jo Napoli in which she reiterated what she wrote in her acknowledgements. The interview may be found at Examiner.com
Despite this, Stones in Water is a very worthwhile story for readers young and old.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library.
Monday, June 25, 2012
The Girl is Trouble opens just a few weeks after The Girl is Murder ended. The first anniversary of Pearl Harbor is approaching, Iris is still attending PS 110, and hanging around with and confiding in her best friend Pearl. The Rainbows, the school badies, are still mad at Iris for events that occurred in the first novel, including Benny, Iris's crush. In other words, Iris's life is status qua at the moment.
But then, all that changes. First, Iris is asked to investigate a series of anti-Semitic notes being left in the lockers of the students who belong to the Jewish Student Federation. Then, she finds a strange man outside her house after school one day who wants her to tell her private detective Pop that Stefan says hello. And Pop is definitely upset when she gives him the message. Lastly, when Pop accidentally leaves his safe open, Iris goes snooping and finds two sets of photographs. The first set are random, candid pictures of her taken from a distance, the second set are of her mother in the hotel room at the White Swan on East 86th Street where she supposedly committed suicide - only the photos don't look like a suicide, they like more like a murder.
Suddenly, Iris has a lot on her plate, but first and foremost she needs to finds out what happened to her mother. But Pearl refuses to go to the Upper East Side, a German American neighbor at the time, because she tells Iris Jews are no longer welcomed. Iris determines to go alone, but as she is sneaking out of school, she runs into Benny, who offers to go with her.
In the hotel room at the now abandoned White Swan, they are confronted not only with her mothers blood splatter on the walls and mattress, but by a man holding a gun. Turns out, he is the estranged husband of the woman, Anna Mueller, who found Iris's mom.
And so, off they go to the biergarten (beer garden) where Anna Mueller now works. She confirms that she found the murdered Ingrid Anderson, and called the police and was handsomely paid to keep her mouth shut and say it was a suicide. Turns out, Anna was well paid, she now owns the biergarten.
Meantime, at school, more students in the in the Jewish Student Federation have received anti-Semitic notes and they are getting really annoyed at Iris for not really doing anything to find the person or persons responsible.
This is an awful lot of responsibility for one 15year old girl to shoulder, but Iris feels determined to find her mother's killer, no matter what.
Kathryn Miller Haines has once again written a realistic historical fiction mystery, full of the kind of detail that a reader can sink their teeth in and though Benny teasingly calls Iris Nancy Drew, this book is not nearly as tame as a Nancy Drew mystery (don't get me wrong, I still love Nancy Drew books). And she has filled in the personalities of characters like Benny, Pearl and Pop more, making this second novel feel even more realistic. Maybe Haines has even given Pop a new romantic interest.
|1939 German American Bund march on East 86th Street NYC|
The Girl is Trouble will be released in July 3, 2012 and if you like a good YA mystery, this is a book for you.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was obtained as an ARC
If you want to read an except of The Girl is Trouble, be sure to visit the website of Kathryn Miller Haines.
This is book 1 of my Cozy Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Debbie's Book Bag!!
This book is book 5 of my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
Friday, June 22, 2012
First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their good wishes on my 2nd Blogoversary. When I go back over some of my posts, I am always surprised at how my blog has changed and yet remained true to its original purpose.
Second, The Children's War is a branded blog focusing on a specific area of children's and YA literature and ephemera having to do with World War II and its impact on the lives of young people. But I read other books all the time and so I am setting up a companion blog where I can talk about those books, including all those great reads I picked up at BEA this year. I will announce the new blog, which I am calling Randomly Reading, as soon as it it online, which I hope will be in the beginning of July.
Third, the winner of my 2nd Blogoversary is Jess from The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow
Congratulations, Jess and I will be in touch shortly.
Thanks again to everyone for their support and I am looking forward to another good year at The Children's War and hope you are too.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's top ten topic is a Summer TBR choice between books you are dying to read now or anticipated new releases. I have chosen a mix of both:
1. Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal - this is the second book in a series that takes place in London during WW 2. I have read and loved the first book, Mr. Churchill's Secretary, and was very excited to receive this second book at BEA this year and I got to meet Susan Elia MacNeal, who is really nice.
2. Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven - this is the third book in a series about Velva Jean. The first two were Velva Jean Learns to Drive and Velva Jean Learns to Fly. Another WW 2, Velva Jean volunteers to fly agents to Normandy, France after the successful D-Day invasion, but she is more interested in finding her brother who is MIA.
3. The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper - this is also the third book in a series about the FitzOsborne family. The first two novels were A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile. Written in journal form by teen Sophie FitzOsborne, she chronicles life in London during WW 2, while waiting for news of her MIA brother.
4. Wonder by E.J. Palacio - I sometimes think I am the only one who hasn't read this yet, but this summer I will be catching up with a few missed books and this is one of them.
5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - ditto what I said about Wonder.
6. Drift: the unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow - I want to read this out of curiosity and because I don't like that this country has become so militarized.
7. Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr - I got this at BEA and can't wait to read it this summer. Another very nice author.
8. All Fall Down by Sally Nichols - a YA story that takes place during the Black Plague in England that I want to read after reading the review over at We Sat Down.
9. Prodigy by Marie Lu - I read Legend last year after getting a copy at BEA 201111 and this year I got the sequel. And yes, another very nice author.
10. Adaptation by Malinda LO - I've read Ash and Huntress and am curious to read this because ti is supposed to be very different from these two novels. I got a copy at BEA and, yet again, a very nice author.
What are you looking forward to reading this summer?
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Number the Stars begins in September 1943 in Copenhagen Denmark. The Nazis have been occupying the country for three years, but having armed soldiers on every corner is still disconcerting for the peace-loving Danes. Yet, up until now, the soldiers have left the Danish people basically alone, including the Danish Jews. But when two German soldiers stop ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend and neighbor Ellen Rosen on the was home from school one day, it is clear that things are about to change.
The first real indication of change comes when the girls are sent to a neighborhood shop owned by Jews to buy a replacement coat button and discover the school is closed. Later, they learn that the Nazis are forcibly closing down all the Jewish owned businesses.
The next day, Ellen's mother, looking very concerned and worried comes over to speak to Mrs. Johansen; it seems the Nazis are starting to search for Jews and it is decided to leave Ellen with the Johansen's, to try to pass her off as Annemarie's sister while the Rosens go into hiding. And, indeed, the Nazis do come and search and question why Ellen has dark hair and Annemarie and her little sister Kristi are so blond. Luckily, Mr. Johansen has an answer for them and they finally leave.
The next day, Annemarie, Ellen and Kristi travel with Mrs. Johansen to her brother Henrik's house in Gillelje, a small fishing village. He and Mrs. Johansen grew up there and know the area very well. That night, a hearse arrives with a casket which is set up in the living room for mourners to pay their respects, according to custom. The children are told that their Great Aunt Birte has passed away, but Annemarie figures out that the casket is empty, there has never even been a Great Aunt Birte in her family.
What's really going on, then? Annemarie finds out when she is asked to undertake a dangerous job for her mother.
Without giving particulars away and spoiling this novel for anyone who may not have already read it, this is a story about the Danish Resistance. Resistance and Partisan stories are some of my favorites, because I like to think there will always be people who refuse to accept tyranny (and I like to think I would be one of them.) And of course, we have all heard of how the Danes saved so many Jewish lives by hiding and sailing them to Sweden in their fishing boats. But, even knowing that, it is the details of how things were done that makes Number the Stars such a good book.
Almost 8,000 Jewish people were saved by the Danish Resistance, undertaken at risk. It was a nationwide effort and the Danes were the only occupied country to actively resist the Nazi deportation of their Jewish friends, neighbors and even strangers.
Lois Lowry has captured the secrecy, the tension, the fear and the courage that surrounded the whole rescue operation in Number the Stars, as well as the level of cruel disregard Nazis held for the people in the countries they occupied. And, as always, Lowry has managed to tell this relatively short story in the same straightforward, well-done style that she is known for. And, not surprisingly, Lowry won the Newbery Medal in 1990 for Number the Stars.
If you haven't already read this award winning novel of hope and courage, now might be a good time. After all, Number the Stars is a favorite on summer reading lists.
This book is recommended for readers age 10-14
This book was purchased for my personal library
|Source: The Jewish Virtual Library|
This is the kind of fishing boat used to smuggle out 10-12 Jews per trip
|Source: A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust|
This map shows the the places where escape began in Denmark
Gillelje is located in northern Denmark
This is book 5 of my European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader
This is book 4 of my Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Actually, my blogoversary was on Monday, June 11th, but I am celebrating this whole week. And just so you can be part of the celebration, I am hosting a giveaway.
The Giveaway: the book of your choice from The Book Depository up to $20.00
The Dates: from June 13, 2012 to June 21, 2012
Who Can Enter:
This giveaway is open to anyone over 13 years old with a mailing address that delivers in the free areas of The Book Depository.
Winner will have 48 hours to respond to email or a new winner will be chosen.
All you need to do to win:
Followme, then leave an comment with your email address so I can contact the winner.
Follow me on Twitter and Goodreads
Winner will be chosen using Random.org and notified with 24 hours.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
This week on June 6th, I was sitting in the Children's Book and Author Breakfast at the BEA and listening to a short speech by Walter Dean Myers. Myers is at the moment serving as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and not surprisingly, he is also the author of more than a few children's and YA books. Myers work cover a wide variety of topical themes, tough topics such as war, murder, drugs, juvy jail. But Myers has also written some wonderful historical fiction for teens, like The Glory Field, the 250 year history of an African American family from the first ancestor forcibly brought to this country in 1753 to their lives in the 1990s.
Among Myers's other historical fiction is a short novel about the D-Day landings told through the eyes of a 17 year old boy, Scott Pendleton Collins, who enlists in the army, hoping to emulate the bravery of his great grandfather and father.who fought in the Civil War and World War I respectively. Their pictures hang in the Collins living room because they are considered war heroes by the family. And it is Scott's hope that someday his picture will hang with theirs.
No one was supposed to write anything about what was going on in a war in case they were captured and had written some vital information down that could be of use to the enemy. And Scott knows this, but he begins to write about his experiences anyway. And so we get a privileged look at his life at this pivotal moment in time, beginning in England and the monotony of training day after day while waiting for weather conditions to be perfect for a successful landing at Normandy Beach. The idea is to first take the beach back from the German army and that to quickly push the enemy further back until France is liberated. But finally the weather is good and the trip across the English Channel begins. It sounds so easy in theory, but when the chaplain prays for the souls of those who won't make it, war becomes a sobering reality. Scott begins to realize this and just before they reach France, he writes in his diary: "We know we're going to be fighting and some guys are going to get wounded or even killed. This is what war is all about. I am a little scared myself."
And scared for good reason - the invasion is not anything like Scott could have imagined. Knowing people would get killed was nothing compared to the reality of what happes in the water and on the beach. Yet, Scott manages to survive and keep going. As he moves forward, he gets separated from his outfit and has a few close calls trying to make his way back to them. But heavy loses keep forcing the army to reform the men into different outfits and companies and he finds himself in different units until he finally finds what is left of outfit his again.
More and more, Scott experiences the loss of old friends he grew up with in Virginia and new friends he made since joining up. This is perhaps the hardest part of the D-Day battle for him, prompting him to poignantly write in his diary "we had come over here as an outfit of neighbors. Now there were spaces in our minds where friends used to be."
Of all the books I could have chosen for D-Day, I thought this was the best one. I had two reasons for choosing it: 1- it shows, without the glorifying graphic detailed gore depicting the horrible realities of war which are always good to remember in the hope that we can avoid future wars, and 2- it reminds us that when we do remember battles like D-Day, it is the soldiers we honor and not the war.
I think Scott is a good example of a brave boy who didn't fully understand war and his diary was his way of trying to come to terms with it, as much as that is possible. Myers has created an excellent work of coming of age historical fiction, so real feeling there is even an epilogue telling the reader about the lives of certain characters after the war. In fact, Scott's diary is so realistic that once I even went to the copyright page to double check that it was indeed fiction. In the short span of three months, we can watch Scott's coming of age process, from being the kid they called Smoothie because he didn't even shave yet to becoming a seasoned war hero who definitely deserves to have his picture hanging next to his great grandfather and father.
The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins is the kind of book that ends up on summer reading lists and I hope that some kids actually do read it this summer, as well as perhps some of the other fine books by Walter Dean Myers.
This book is recommended for readers age 9-12.
This book was purchased for my personal library.
A discussion guide for The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins can be found at Scholastic.
Kid Konnection is a weekly meme hosted by Booking Mama
Thursday, June 7, 2012
1- Monday's Book Blogger Convention - blogger con was taken over by BEA this year and it was very nice to see and hear Jennifer Weiner's opening talk, I kind of felt that it was geared more towards the authors who participated than the bloggers. In other words, there was very little interaction among bloggers. I did like the first session: Blogging Today: What You Need to Know and What's Next. The topic of plagiarism came up which is something that does need to be addressed in the blogging world. The two afternoon session that I attended were Critical Reviews: Fine Tuning Your Craft and Creating Community and Driving Engagement. I picked up pointers from both sessions as well as useful handouts. Each panel of four had at least two bloggers, though I would have preferred all bloggers. Who better to help with blogging questions and advice that a fellow more experienced blogger.
2- Books. Like everyone else, I came home each night with a load of books. This year I decided to bring a rolling backpack, which I checked each morning for $3.00. Around noon, I would put in the books I have gotten that morning, so I didn't have to carry them around on the floor all day. If you have been to the Javits Center, you know how big it is. The drawback was, of course, not being the encumbered of the morning loot, you tend to let yourself accept books that you might not have otherwise.
3- Authors. I met some of my favorites. Among them were Malinda Lo signing a galley of her new book Adaptation; Doreen Rappaport who wrote Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust; Melissa Mar with Carnival of Souls; Erin Morgenstern with a paperback copy of The Night Circus; Marie Lu signing Prodigy; and I was very excited to finally meet Susan Elia MacNeal. She has a spy series out whose heroine's name is Maggie Hope. I just finished the first one called Mr. Churchill's Secretary in time for a signed of the next book Princess Elizabeth's Spy.
4- Breakfast and Tickets. I went to the Children's Book and Author Breakfast on Wednesday morning because John Green and Lois Lowry were speaking, along with Chris Colfer, Kadir Nelson and Walter Dean Myers. The speakers were wonderful and we were given copies of books by Green, Lowry and Colfer, but if you are going for the food and not the speakers, you will be disappointed. It was just muffins, bagels, coffee, tea and orange juice or maybe Tang, I'm not sure.
If you wanted books sign by certain authors, you had to line up at 7:00 AM each day to receive tickets that give you admittance to an area separate from the general exhibit floor. I never even considered doing this because I know if I said I was going to do this, I was lying to myself. But lots of people do do it. More power to them.
4- New friends and old. Well, standing on long long lines does lead to chatting and exchanging business cards. And I ran into some of the folks I met last year and had a chance to chat with them. On Tuesday night, some of the Kidlit people got together and went to the Houndstooth Pub for drinks and dinner and it was nice seeing them again. This year was very international - I met people from places like Australia, Canada, and England as well as some fellow New Yorkers.
5- One big Surprise. At 5:00 AM Wednesday, I got a phone call from my kiddo in China to tell me she is coming home after two years. On August 26, 2010, I wrote a post about her leaving for China and, oh boy, how times have changed. Then, I was kind of melancholy about her leaving. Now, my reaction about her return was Oy Vey, are you sure you want to do that? Of course, I will be glad to see her; after all, I still miss her...sometimes.
This afternoon I took one more walk around the exhibit floor of the Javits Center, ate lots of candy that had been put out for people, said some good-byes, got on the bus and came home - tired and pleased.
Thinking about attending BEA 2013? Dates are June 3-6, at the Javits Center. See you there!
Saturday, June 2, 2012
This coming Tuesday, June 5, 2012, is the official day for celebrating Queen Elizabeth's 60th years as the Queen of England. She has led an long, interesting life as Queen, wife, mother and grandmother, but before all that, she was just Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York, later King George VI, and his wife Elisabeth.
Being a queen is a pretty big deal, being a queen for 60 years is an even bigger deal, but did you know that Queen Elizabeth is the only head of state who served in uniform during World War II and is still living?
Princess Elizabeth was only 13 when World War II broke out in September, 1939. Beginning in 1940, she and her sister, Margaret Rose, lived at Windsor Castle, 30 miles from London, for the duration. It is kind of hard to be a princess and live an ordinary live, but they did what they could. At the tender age of 14, the future heir to the throne gave her first public speech on BBC's Children's Hour program, which was broadcast to the children who had been evacuated overseas (you can listed to it here)
Elizabeth had already joined the Girl Guides at age 11, and continued with guiding during the war, earning badges, camping, knitting socks and rolling bandages and just doing her bit for the war. At 16 she became a Sea Ranger, the branch of guides for girls with a strong naval interest. Then, in 1945, at age 18, Elizabeth joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and trained to be a driver and mechanic, even able to repair heavy vehicles.
In 1953, now married and the mother of two children, the 25 year old Princess became Queen Elizabeth in the first coronation to be broadcast on television to the world.
|Left to Right: 1942 as a Girl Guide; learning first aid; victory gardening with Margaret Rose; 1943 as a sea ranger; 1945 learning to change a tire in the ATS|
Coronation Chicken (as created by Constance Spry in 1953)
1 x 5 lb. chicken, poached. (I used 5 lbs of boneless chicken breasts)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion
1tbsp curry paste
1tbsp tomato puree
4 oz. red wine
1 bay leaf
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 canned apricot halves (I used 3 fresh apricots)
1/2 pint mayonnaise
4 oz. whipping cream
Salt and pepper
Watercress, to garnish
1- Remove the skin from the chicken and cut into small pieces. Place under the grill and cook until golden brown. Allow to cool.
I actually just poached the boneless chicken breast in cream in the over and skipped the grilling step.
2- Meantime, finely chop the onion. Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan and add the onion. Cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the union is soft and translucent. Add the curry paste, tomato puree, red wine, bay leaf and lemon juice to the onion.
3- Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until reduced. Strain the contents and set aside to cool.
4- Finely chop the apricot halves and puree them through a sieve or in a blender. Place in a bowl and mix in the mayonnaise. Add the cooled sauce and mix well.
5- Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold this into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
6- Fold in the grilled (poached) chicken, making sure all the pieces are well coated.
7- Garnish with watercress.
Weekend Cooking is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads