Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? by The Anne Frank House

In 2005, the United Nations issued a declaration stating that January 27th would be designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It only seems fitting to remember the victims of the Holocaust with a new book
about the secret annex where Anne Frank, her family and four other people hid from the Nazis in the annex of her father's business at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam for more than two years.

Anne is a young girl whose short life has resonated in the lives of so many young people since her diary was first published.  The Diary of a Young Girl.  It is a moving account of Anne's life in the Annex, in which readers discover Anne's humorous side, her mischievous side, her budding sexuality, her hopes and dreams.

But Anne wasn't alone and although she mentions names and incidents in her diary, what do we really know about the other people in the Annex?  Or the helpers on the outside?  What did the people in the annex do all day?  What did they eat? Where did their food and other needed items come from?

The decision to hide from the Nazis, to live in such close quarters for more than 2 years, from July 1942 to August 1944, couldn't have been an easy one to make and definitely requited a plan, detailed organization, and the help of trusted people who could provide them with food and other necessities.  

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who is a comprehensive book that brings it all together so that we may understand the risks and dangers everyone connected to Prinsengracht 263 faced on a daily basis.

The book begins with a very brief history of post WWI Germany, Adolf Hitler's rise to becoming the German chancellor in 1933, blaming the Jews for all of the country's problems.  Otto Frank immediately decided to leave Germany and settle in the Netherlands.  There he set up his business at Prinsengracht 263.  But in 1940, after Germany invaded the Netherlands, they immediately put anti-Jewish regulations in place, making life harder and harder for all Jews living there, until, in 1942, Otto Frank moved his family once again - directly into hiding.

The book continues with description of the daily routine of the hiders, food and it distribution, and other daily discomforts, how holidays and birthdays were celebrated.  Even a detailed description of the building they were hiding in.

This is followed with detailed biographies of all the people in hiding, those that helped them, other people who worked in or around Prinsengracht 263, even the cats are included.  Any one of those peripheral people could have (and may have) turned in the people in the annex to the Nazis if they became aware of their presence.

Anne Frank and her diary have held the attention of readers, young and old, since it was first published, but the publication of Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? gives readers a more detailed, more rounded out picture of who each individual was, making them more human and less the shadowy people we know from the diary.

It's hard to imagine what it must have been like to be cut off from everyone and everything for more than two years, never going outside, never even breathing fresh air from an open window, and living in silence day by day.  This is an ideal book to be used in conjunction with Anne's diary as a way of introducing the Holocaust to young readers.

The book also contains an abundance of photographs, some never before published of everyone and everything related to the secret annex, including photos of all the helpers.  There are also maps, including one of the concentration camps that the hiders were sent to after being discovered, a Concise Timeline along with the Lifeline of helpers and hiders, and a useful Glossary, a list of Sources, and suggestions for further reading.

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? is available only as an ebook.

And on this 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Day,  please take a moment today to think about all those who were victims of this tragedy, those who didn't survive as well as those who did.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Open Road Media

Curious about Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who?  Here's an excerpt you can read:

“Daily Life in the Secret Annex”

                  “At a quarter to seven, the alarm clock went off in the Secret Annex. The eight occupants would get up and wash before the warehouse workers arrived at half past eight. After that, they had to keep noise to a minimum. They walked in slippers, avoided the creaking stairs, and didn’t use any running water. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, or quarreling was absolutely forbidden. To kill time, the eight would spend the morning reading and studying. Some did needlework, while others prepared the next meal. Miep, working in the office on the first floor, along with Johannes, Victor, and Bep, would go upstairs to the Secret Annex to pick up the shopping list.

“It’s twelve thirty. The whole gang breathes a sigh of relief,” Anne wrote. At noon, the warehouse workers went home for lunch and the annex occupants could relax a little. The helpers from the office usually dropped in, and Jan Gies sometimes joined them. At one o’clock, they all listened to the BBC on the illegal “little baby radio” before having lunch. After the lunch break, the helpers went back downstairs and most of the occupants took naps. Anne often “used this time to write in her diary. Silence prevailed for the rest of the afternoon: Potatoes were peeled, quiet chores done for the office, and reading and studying continued, while below, the helpers worked in the office. Miep and Bep would slip out during the afternoon or after office hours to work their way through the shopping list, which usually included food, clothing, soap, and even birthday presents.

When the warehouse workers left at around half past five, Bep gave the occupants a sign. As the helpers returned to their own spouses or families, the Secret Annex came to life: Someone would grab the warehouse key and fetch the bread, typewriters were carried upstairs, potatoes were set to boil, and the cat door in the coal storage bin was opened for Peter’s cat, Mouschi. Everyone had his or her own task. After dinner, they sometimes played a game. At around nine o’clock, the occupants prepared for bed, with much shuffling of chairs and “the folding open of beds. They took turns going to the bathroom. Anne, being the youngest, went first. Fritz stayed up late studying Spanish in the office downstairs. By about midnight, all of the people in the Secret Annex would be fast asleep.

On Saturday mornings, the warehouse workers would put in half a day’s work, but in the afternoons and on Sundays, the Secret Annex occupants took time for a full sponge baths in a tub, each in his or her own favorite spot in the building. The laundry was done then, too, and the Secret Annex was scrubbed and tidied. There were businesses located in the two adjacent buildings, so during the weekends, the occupants didn’t have to be quite so cautious. But the curtains always remained closed.”

More Curious about Who Was Who?
Five anecdotes behind the faces of the Secret Annex

• While everyone was assigned chores, Peter was instructed to haul the heavy bags from the greengrocer up to the attic. On one occasion, “one of them suddenly split open and a torrent of brown beans went cascading down the stairs. It was weeks before the last beans were found, they had been wedged into every nook and cranny of the stairwell.”

• The Annex’s Romeo and Juliet: Anne Frank’s roommate and the eldest occupant of the Secret Annex, Fritz Pfeffer - the only one without family or loved one at his side - was gripped with loneliness. His evenings were filled with writing letters to his “Lotte,” his great love Charlotte Kaletta, a Catholic woman whom he was forbidden to marry due to the Nuremberg Race Laws. He relied on Miep to serve as messenger to deliver the letters where he professed that Charlotte’s love will strengthen him.

• Miep was deemed the pack mule and carrier pigeon for the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annex. “Every Saturday, she also brought along five library books, which the Secret Annex occupants eagerly looked forward to. ‘Ordinary people don’t know how much books can mean to someone who’s cooped up,’ Anne wrote.”

• After the betrayal that led to the Secret Annex’s exposure and the inhabitants’ arrest, the ladies were sent to Westerbork transit camp where they “were forced to dismantle batteries, a dirty and dangerous business. The workday began at five o’clock in the morning. Seated at long tables, the women broke open batteries in order to remove the carbon rods. Then they picked out the sticky brown mass, which contained poisonous ammonium chloride. Finally, all the components were separated for use in the arms industry.”

• When Frank Otto, Anne’s father and lone survivor, returned to the Secret Annex, he “found the rooms practically empty and abandoned. For him, that emptiness symbolized the loss of his fellow sufferers who had not returned from the camps. For this reason, Otto later decided that the Secret Annex should remain this state.” 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

War in My Town by E. Graziani

Even as late as March 1940,  life in her small mountain village of Eglio, in northern Tuscany was still relatively pleasant for 11 year-old Bruna Pucci Guazzelli , despite the war in Europe and not having ever met her father, living in Brazil.  Bruno is the youngest of her siblings - two brothers - Cesar, 25; Alcide, 17;  and four sisters - Aurelia, 27; Eleonora, 23;  Pina, 21; Mery, 15.  Eglio is a village where everyone knows everyone else, and whenever hard times hit, the villagers rally to help one another.

But when Mussolini declared war on Britain that France on June 10, 1940, things all over Italy begin to change.  First, all the Italian men and eldest sons were drafted into the army.  For the Guazzelli family, that meant Cesar, followed by Alcide, who is sent to the Russian Front; meanwhile, for the eldest girls, it meant working away from home, either as cooks for other people, or for Eleonora, working in an orphanage.

At first, Bruna says, most Italians supported Mussolini and his alliance with Adolf Hitler, but as rationing, separation and hardship begin to take their toll on the home front, and after learning that even the Italian army fighting for Mussolini is so poorly supplied as the war escalates, people begin to turn against him.  In September, 1943, Mussolini is removed from power and Italy forms a new alliance with the Allies.

These are major events, but Bruna and the rest of the people of Eglio still remain relatively isolated from the fighting in Italy and the rest of Europe, mainly because Eglio is a far removed mountain village, so no one really expects anything to happen there.

Elio, Northern Tuscany, Italy
That is until the spring of 1944, when the Nazis arrive and life for the villagers changes drastically.  Elgio lay in a direct path of what was called the Gothic Line, one of the last fronts in WWII.  First, all food and blankets and even houses are taken by the German soldiers, and because they know where the Germans are, it doesn't take long for Allied bombing to begin.  But, when the villagers of Eglio are used as human shields in a last ditch effort by the Nazis, not everyone is lucky enough to survive the arrival of the Allies.

War in My Town is a fictionalized version of author E. Graziani's mother Bruna's true story.  It is told in the first person by the young Bruna, as she recounts the events that impacted her family and her neighbors between 1940 and 1945.

Bruna's personal story is emotional and compelling, but as the title indicates, it is really more about her town and the people who lived there.  That being said, I am sorry to say I found the writing style to be very dry and it was hard to stay focused.   I also found the  chronology of historical events to be confusing at times and found myself having  to backtrack a lot.

Despite that, I would still recommend this book simply because there aren't many narratives about life in Italy during WWII and since War in My Town is based on actual experience, it gives a more realistic picture of what life was like then.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #18: Top Ten Books I've recently added to my TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Today's Top Ten Topic is the Top Ten Books I've recently added to my TBR.  Since I haven't read any of these yet, I am including the Goodreads description for each.

1) American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

Connor’s grandmother leaves his dad a letter when she dies, and the letter’s confession shakes their tight-knit Italian-American family: The man who raised Dad is not his birth father.
But the only clues to this birth father’s identity are a class ring and a pair of pilot’s wings. And so Connor takes it upon himself to investigate—a pursuit that becomes even more pressing when Dad is hospitalized after a stroke. What Connor discovers will lead him and his father to a new, richer understanding of race, identity, and each other.

2) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are  Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

3) Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who was who? by the Anne Frank House

For two years during the Second World War, young, Jewish Anne Frank lived in hiding from the Nazis. Everything she experienced, thought, and felt, she confided in her diary. She was just as frank in her descriptions of the seven other people in the Annex and of the five helpers who endangered their own lives to look after them. Years later, Anne Frank’s diary became world famous. The Secret Annex was so well set up that the hiders survived there for over two years. Who were these people, how did they meet, and what happened to them?
This book shows the background and organization of the Annex and the personal stories of all involved, as well as their relationships and their fates. It also offers many never-before-published photographs. The result is an extraordinary group portrait that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

4) Journey to Munich (Maisie Dobbs #12) by Jacqueline Winspear

Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in this thrilling tale of danger and intrigue—the twelfth novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s New York Times bestselling “series that seems to get better with each entry” (Wall Street Journal).

It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas.

5) The Bettanys on the Home Front by Helen Barber

1914, and the Bettany family—fourteen-year-old twins Madge and Dick and their little sister Joey—are enjoying a seaside holiday with their guardian. But the news is disturbing and their happy time is cut short by the announcement that war has been declared.

Back home in Taverton, Madge is faced with a rapidly changing world. With Guardian away on war business and Aunt Josie preoccupied with her own family, it falls to Madge to hold the household together without neglecting the all-important world of school and the challenge of a new form which seems to have no place for her. But what is Nanny’s mysterious secret, and is she a proper person to care for Joey?

6) My Name is not Friday by Jon Walter

Well-mannered Samuel and his mischievous younger brother Joshua are free black boys living in an orphanage during the end of the Civil War. Samuel takes the blame for Joshua's latest prank, and the consequence is worse than he could ever imagine. He's taken from the orphanage to the South, given a new name -- Friday -- and sold into slavery. What follows is a heartbreaking but hopeful account of Samuel's journey from freedom, to captivity, and back again.

7) Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein

Welcome, boys and girls, readers of all ages, to the first-ever Library Olympiad! Kyle and his teammates are back, and the world-famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, is at it again! 
This time Mr. Lemoncello has invited teams from all across America to compete in the first ever LIBRARY OLYMPICS. Will it be fun? Like the commercials say. . . HELLO? It’s a Lemoncello! But something suspicious is going on . . . books are missing from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. Is someone trying to CENSOR what the kids are reading?! In between figuring out mind-boggling challenges, the kids will have to band together to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Now it’s not just a game—can Mr. Lemoncello find the real defenders of books and champions of libraries? Packed with puzzles, clues, and thrilling surprises, this is a deliciously fun, action-packed sequel to the New York Times bestselling Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Let the games begin!

8) The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked... and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth - or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

9) Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

10) Women in Black History: Stories of Courage, Faith, and Resilience by Tricia Williams Jackson

Within the pages of American history are the stories of remarkable African American women who have defied the odds, taken a stand for justice, and made incredible strides despite opposition from the culture around them. Now young readers can discover their exciting true stories in this eye-opening collection. 
From well-known figures like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks to women rarely found in any history book, "Women in Black History" explores the lives of writers, athletes, singers, activists, and educators who have made an indelible mark on our country and our culture. Perfect for kids, but also for adults who like to read about important figures and unsung heroes, this collection will delight, surprise, and challenge readers.

What's are your Top Ten TBR books?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story written and illustrated by S. D. Nelson

The last book I reviewed here, The Liberators,  was a novel about two friends who joined the Marines and serves in the Pacific theater.  Our Hero, the Ira Hayes Story is about a man who really did serve in those sames places - Vella LaVella, Bourgainville, and who ultimately became one of the heroes who raised the flag at Iwo Jima.

Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian, born on the Gila River Indian Reservation in a remote part of the northern Sonoran Desert in Arizona in 1923.  His family were poor farmer, working the land, but living without electricity or running water.  They had four sons, and Ira was the oldest.  He was quiet and shy, but always felt lonely and seemed to fit in with the other kids on the reservation or in the Phoenix Indian School when he was sent there.

But, while still in his teens, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war.  Ira felt it was his patriotic duty as an American to fight for his country and he joined the Marine Corps in August 1942 at age 19.  Sent to basic training in San Diego, Ira didn't experience the kind of segregation and low level jobs reserved for the African American soldiers because many believed that Native Americans were fierce warriors and so they trained with the white soldiers.

After basic training, Ira volunteered to train as a Paramarine.  Joining the military and going through such rigorous training seems for forge strong bonds of friendship among the soldiers, and it was in the Marines that Ira finally felt like he belonged.  Ira and his fellow Marines arrived in the Pacific theater in March 1943 and fought there for two years.  After the month long battle at Iwo Jima, Ira was one of six Marines who raised the flag over Mount Surabachi, a moment captured in a photograph by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal:

Iwo Jima - Ira Hayes is the last man on the left
Ira came home a true Native American hero, but civilian life wasn't easy for him.  Most of his buddies didn't survive the war and Ira found it difficult to be celebrated knowing the terrible price his buddies had paid.  And once again, Ira felt like an outside, not fitting in anywhere.  Ira became severely depressed, and started drinking heavily.  In 1955, at the age of 32, Ira Hayes passed away.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

S. D. Nelson has written a very moving and insightful picture book for older readers about a real hero, showing us that even heroes aren't perfect.  He could have easily written the Ira Hayes story up to the flag raising at Iwo Jima, and left it at that, but instead he chose to continue and let his readers see that heroes are human and sometimes flawed.  Ira Hayes may have officially died of alcoholism, but I would say the loneliness, despair and depression were the real causes of his death.

Hayes' wartime experiences make up the majority of this book, but Nelson doesn't ignore his youth on the reservation and his time at the Indian School, giving us a clear picture of this very sensitive, isolated Pima Indian growing up in poverty, but surrounded by a loving family:

As you can see from the illustration above, Nelson's text is accompanied and complimented by his beautifully detailed acrylic illustrations using a widely varied palette of colors.  And be sure to read the Author's Note at the back of the book, where he includes a more detailed account of the life of Ira Hayes, as well as very useful Bibliography for further investigation.

You can find an extensive Quiet Hero Teacher's Guide provided by the publisher, Lee & Low.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Liberators (World War II Book 4) by Chris Lynch

As much as he loved playing baseball, when the Eastern Shore League suspended operations in 1941 for the duration of the war, player Nick Nardini could understand why: "I guess it just seemed suddenly really dumb to have the fittest guys in America playin' ballgames when the rest of the world was out there killing each other in a war that was without a doubt gonna eventually include the USA."

Nick convinces his best friend and teammate Zachary Kleko to join the marines with him, despite the fact that Kleko has a girlfriend and the promise of a job at a plant in Ypsilanti, MI manufacturing B-24 Liberators (heavy bombers) for when the US enters the war.  Nick's idea is that they will go through basic training and the war on the buddy system.

Nick and Zach are first sent to Parris Island, SC for seven weeks of basic training, and then paramarine training at Camp Lejeune, NC, where they learn to how to parachute jump within 16 weeks.  Finally, after all those gruelling weeks and weeks of training, the two friends and the rest of their 650 troop Second Parachute Battalion set sail for the Pacific on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) carrying supplies, including vehicles and ammunition.  They arrive at the pacific island of Vella Levella, recently won back from the Japanese with the help of New Zealand soldiers, but the enemy isn't finished there.  As the men and supplies are disembarking, Nick and Zach get their first taste of real fighting, attacked from above by enemy dive bombers,  who finally drop a 500 pound bomb on the LST.  Their job on Vella Lavella is to protect the airstrip there, strategically important for the Allies (the battle was fought in 1943, to give you a sense of time).

From Vella, they are sent to Choiseul Island, where they encounter 5,000 Japanese soldiers to their 650 troops.  The mission is to divert enemy attention (and men), so that the Third Marine Division can land at Bourgainville. It's a dangerous mission, code named Operation Blissful, especially because the Second Parachute Battalion will truly be on their own, without any backup.  Naturally, after making their slow, wet way through the jungle, they again encounter the enemy.  After that, there is a lot more fighting in store for Nick and his fellow Marines on different islands.  Eventually, though, Nick finds himself in a hospital with dengue fever, malaria and early stage jungle rot.  After six weeks, he is reunited with his battalion, heading for Okinawa, and another brutal battle, cut short by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war in the Pacific theater.

Their next job is to enter Japan on a POW recovery mission.  Lynch brings his WWII series full circle when Nick and Zach find Hank McCallum, who recognizes Nick from past ballgames.  Hank, you may remember from Dead in the Water Book 2, was on the USS Yorktown when it took a direct hit and sank at Midway.  Now, with the war over, these three baseball players are ready to return to civilian life and the game they all love so much.  

After reading and reviewing all the books in this series, there isn't much new I can say about them.  The Liberators is every bit as well written and researched as the other three books.  The main characters are all minor league baseball players on teams that make up the Eastern Shore Division, but they are all so different from each other that they really stand out as individuals.

Lynch's writing is sharp, and has the kind of snappy way of speaking that you find in many movies made between 1939 and 1945, whether or not they were war movies (I've often wondered if real people ever spoke like that).  His books are powerful and exciting, but some of the details he include, while realistic, will not make many young readers yearn to be part of a war.  The Liberators is narrated in the first person by Nick, following the same format used in all of Lynch's war books, including his Vietnam series, so the reader gets first hand experience of the action.

As much as I dislike looking at books through a gender lens, I really think that this World War II series (and the Vietnam series) will appeal more to boys than most girls, especially since there are very few females in them, and none with a major role (I don't think Lynch is a chauvinist, I think that the male perspective is simply what he knows best).

If you are looking for good realistic historical fiction about WWII, this is a series that is sure to appeal to you.

This book is recommended for readers 11+
This was an EARC received from Edelweiss/Above the Treeline

This should give you an idea of just where Nick and Zach were sent:

Friday, January 1, 2016