Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, a day to take some time and think about those men and women who served their country and are no longer with us.

I found this poem on the International War Veterans' Poetry Archives: War and its Consequences, a site where veterans' and their families can post poems about their experiences.  The poem below was written in 1981 by Kelly Strong when he was in high school.  It is a tribute to his dad who was a career marine and served two tours of duty in Vietnam.  I think this poem speaks for itself this Memorial Day.

FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked a him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought…how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves
No, Freedom is not Free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still;
I listened to the bugler play,
and felt a sudden chill;

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend;

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No. Freedom is not Free!

Used with permission ©Copyright 1981 by Kelly Strong
You can contact him at kellystrong@aol.com

In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #17:: Top Ten Favorite Things to do in NYC when you come for BEA or just to visit


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

I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in NYC.  I know many of you will be here for 2015 BEA or just visiting at some point in the summer.  Either way, I hope this is a helpful list for you. Some of these suggestions are free, some only cost a minimal amount of money, but all are fun ways to enjoy NYC besides the typical touristy things.

1- Walk the Highline - the Highline is a repurposed railway turned linear park that runs for almost 1.5 miles above ground.  You can just walk and appreciate the gardens, but there are also all kinds of fun things happening on it, too - art, performances, tours, storytelling, stargazing.  Check the Highline website to see if any will fit your schedule.


The Highline runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, some of the access points have elevators and are wheelchair accessible.  And here's a bonus - the new Whitney Museum of American Art has just moved to 99 Gavsevoort Street, right by the Highline.

2- Visit the NYPL on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.  This the is research library, but there are interesting exhibits and there are free one hour tours at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.  And you can drop by the the Children's Center and have a lovely visit with the real Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends.


3- Ride the Cyclone - you can easily take a subway ride to Coney Island for this.  The Cyclone isn't the world's biggest roller coaster, but it is an old wooden coaster, so you feel every bump and jiggle and it continues to be voted among the best.


Go for a ride on the Cyclone, stay for a real Nathan's Hot Dog just down the street on Surf Avenue.

4- Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit - head down to Greenwich Village for this unusual art show May 30th and May 31st if you are still in NYC.  Begun in 1931 by Jackson Pollack and Willem DeKooning who set up some of their painting to sell on the sidewalk when they were desperately in need of money.  They were soon joined by other artists needing money and it jsut grew from there.  My dad used to exhibit some of his painting there when we were kids, so I have a soft spot for this particular art show.



5- Shakespeare in the Park - You'll have to get up really early to snag 2 free ticket per person for this year's production of The Tempest beginning May 27th, but it's worth it. This production stars Sam Waterston and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, among others.  If you decide to do this, get to the line about 6-7 AM, tickets are given out around noon, first come, first served.  There are bathrooms, and food, but bring your own food it you can, and something to sit on.  And your linemates are usually pretty friendly, or you can read a new gotten book from BEA, either way, it itmakes the time go faster.


6- See a Mets Game - the Mets are playing home games during this year's BEA and you can get inexpensive tickets HERE, then take a subway out to Citi Field.  Friday nights are free t-shirt night for everyone in attendance, and Saturday, May 30th, it's free beach towel day to the first 15,000 people.



7- See a Broadway show - drop by the TKTS booth in Times Square to see what up on the boards - you might just snap some cheap tickets to a great show, same day tickets are usually 50% off.



8- Visit the Strand Book Store - I know, you're here for Book Expo, but you might want to go visit this iconic book store even if it is only to walk among the miles of books you will find there.  You might also want to check their calendar of events to see if there is anything of interest while you are here.



9- Do check out the Food Trucks - you will find food trucks almost anywhere in NYC, probably outside the Javits Center now, or you can download a mobile app called NYCFoodTruck to help you find what you want and where they are.  Food Trucks are different from sidewalk vendors, which are also good, but the trucks tend to have more upscale food and there is a great variety to choose from.

10- Visit the Bronx Botanical Garden - you can take a subway there or get a MetroNorth train at Grand Central.  The Botanical Garden is beautiful in the summer and they have a wonderful Frdia Kahlo exhibition at the moment.  During the warm weather, every Saturday, you can enjoy a Frida Al Fresco Evening, a evening of art, gardens, music, performance art and the price of admission, $25.00, includes a complimentary Modelo Especial draft cerveza or Jose Cuervo Tradicional margarita.



So grab a subway map, buy a Metro Card and have some NYC fun while you are at 2015 BEA!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dead in the Water (World War II Book 2) by Chris Lynch

Hank and Theo McCallum are about as close as brothers can be, so when it looks like war is inevitable, their plan is to enlist in the navy together.  That way, they can look out for each other.  Except their father isn't having any of that - his thinking is that it would only take one torpedo to kill both his sons.  Before they even leave the house to enlist, it Hank for the navy, Theo for….the Army Air Corps.

A few weeks later, Hank and Theo are off to the Navy and Army, and it isn't long after boot camp that Hank finds himself on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, heading to the Pacific Ocean after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  On board the Yorktown, Hank is an airedale, which means his duties are plane-handling on the flight deck, doing everything except flying the aircraft he takes care of.  But Hank also has a reputation for always wanting to throw a little ball.  Before the Navy, Hank and Theo were all about baseball, and when they left for the war, Theo gave his well-used glove to Hank.  Now, with two gloves and a ball, Hank was always looking for someone to throw with during down time.

Once in the Pacific, the Yorktown doesn't see any real action until after a visit to Pearl Harbor.  Seeing the aftermath of the attack there, however, finally makes the war real for Hank, but he has absolute faith that the US will win.  Meantime, he meets a throwing partner, who actually has a few baseball tricks he can teach Hank, who is pretty good himself.  Mess Attendant First Class Bradford had played in the Negro Leagues before the war, but now he is generally stuck below deck, serving the pilots, sleeping far down in the ship, even below the torpedoes, because of the Navy's policy of racial segregation.

Hank and Bradford soon become friends and throwing buddies, often joined by two of the pilots whose planes Hank services whenever they fly missions.  At first, the Yorktown and its partner ship the Lexington still don't see much action, but a bad attack on the ships causes the Lexington to sink and the Yorktown to have to limp back to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

With time on their hands, Hank, Bradford and their two pilot friends decide to head to Waikiki Beach, even though Bradford isn't allowed to be there because he is African American.  When two policemen try to get them to leave, they refuse and they prevail.

Soon the Yorktown is really to sail again, headed for Midway Island and a life and death battle with the Japanese.  Once again, the Yorktown is hit, and sinks.  Can Hank survive a sinking ship?

Dead in the Water is narrated by Hank and although he and Theo are close, we don't really ever know how Theo is doing.  This is Hank's story (Theo is book 3).  Lynch always manages to make his narrators so believable and so historically real sounding, and Hank is no different.  He has a real 1940s way of speaking.  My only complaint is that there is too much baseball involved.  On the other hand, Lynch doesn't overdo it on the military stuff, including combat details.  There's just enough description and not too, too detailed on that front.

At first, I was afraid that taking on the racism that black sailors faced in the Navy (in fact, in all the Armed Forces in WWII), might be a bit over the top in a book like this, but it really works and he manages to make his points quite nicely, the beach incident is packed with tension.  I did find it a little surprising that Hank, baseball obsessed as he is, never heard of the Negro Leagues, and the Newark Eagles, for which Bradford played.

Dead in the Water is the third Chris Lynch book I've read, and I have to be honest and say they have all been very good.  The story flows nicely, they are historically correct, and most important to me, Lynch doesn't glorify war.

 And, of course, now I am curious to know what happened to Hank and his friends.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Funnies #21: The Boy Saboteures

I really enjoyed reading The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Philip Hoose this week.  At the back, in his Notes and his Bibliography, Hoose listed an issue of True Comics, one I am familiar with.  Naturally, I went back to my e-copy of the comic and sure enough, there was the story of the Churchill Club in the September 1943 issue.  Given the times, the Churchill Club in comic form makes perfect sense.

Comics were very popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and great vehicle for wartime propaganda.    But educators and librarians weren't particularly happy with their growing popularity, seeing no redeeming value to them.  In an attempt to offer something a little more substantial that would offer an educational alternative to kids, Parents Magazine, Inc. introduced True Comics.  The idea was to introduced kids to stories about real heroes, people like Winston Churchill, FDR, national heroes from history, explorers and innovators, brief histories of famous places and things such as airplanes, ships etc., and away from more sensationalized comics.

And since all Nazi attempts to censor what was happening in Denmark, it isn't surprising that the resistance efforts of the boys in the Churchill Club became internationally known, especially after they were arrested.  Their story and True Comics seemed made for each other.  Of course, the comic version is a little different from the book The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, but not by much and certainly not a substitute for the book (so don't use this version for your book reports, kids).

(click images to enlarge)









You can read more True Comics at Comic Books+

And here is an from the March 8, 1943 edition of the New York Times about some of the activities of the Churchill Club:


Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

When the Germans invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, many Danes welcomed them, but many more were filled with anger as they watched these soldiers taking over their towns and cities.  But what could they do?   The Danish army was simply no match for the Germans.  They may not have been willing to take on Hitler but Knud Pedersen, 14, a successful student living in Odense, Denmark, decided he might just be able to do something himself.

Very carefully, Knud, his older brother Jens, and a handful of fellow students decided to form a resistance group.  Calling themselves the RAF Club, named for the pilots who were defending Britain against Luftwaffe attacks, and modeling themselves on what they knew of the Norwegian Resistance, their goal was to disrupt their occupiers anyway they could.

It didn't take long for the RAF Club to gain a reputation, irritating the Germans and eluding the Danish police.  But in the spring of 1941, Knud's father, a Protestant minister, moved his family north to Aalborg and a new church.  Knud and Jens were enrolled in the Cathedral School there, and again, it didn't take long for them to form a new resistance group with their new school chums.  This time, they called themselves the Churchill Club, after their hero, Winston Churchill.

The boys of the Churchill Club, with bikes as their only means to transportation, began to commit acts of satotage all over Aalborg.  Not satisfied with vandalizing Germany property, usually setting fire using a small can of petrol they carried in the book bags, the boys decided they needed weapons.

Cautiously waiting and watching, the boys slowly began to acquire guns from unattended German cars, creeping into rooms and taking guns right out of the holdsters of German solders, even sneaking into coat rooms in restarurants to help themselves to whatever weaponry they could find.  Pretty soon, they had quite a cache of guns and ammunition, even snagging a machine gun at one point.

And the boys managed to frustrate the Germans to the point that their resistance activities were known about in Nazi headquarters in Berlin.  Both the Danish police and the Nazis were trying to catch these resisters, at first never dreaming these acts of sabotage were being committed by a group of schoolboys.  And there were plently of close calls that could have ended in their capture.

But in May 1942, the Chuchill Club's luck ran out and the boys were arrested.  They were tried and imprisoned, most of the boys sent to an adult prison, where they were essentially in solitary until their release in 1944.  Imagine their surprise when they returned home and discovered to what extent the Danish Resistance had grown.  Because a handful of young boys, ashamed of their country's behavior in the face of occupation, decided to do something on their own?  Certainly, that is what Philip Hoose implies and I am inclinded to agree.  Once the boys were caught, and despite Nazi censorship attempts, the Churchill Club became an international story.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is a inspiring, rivating story about courage, conviction and action.  Hoose interviewed Knud Pedersen for a week in 2012 and so a great deal of this book consists of his recollections, told verbatim.  In between, Hoose gives the reader enough information about Denmark, including why it was important to the Germans, about life under the German occupation, the attitude of the Danish people - including Nazi collaborators.

There are numerous photographs throughout the book, including photos of the boys in the Churchill Club.  In the photo below, I believe the tall boy with the pipe is Knud, since he comments several times that he was the tallest of the group.  I read the ARC, so I hope this photo is labelled in the published edition.  And a word about the pipe - all of these boys, who were in their mid-teens, smoked a pipe.

The Churchill Club
Hoose does end the book by telling the reader what became of each of the members of the RAF and the Churchill Club after the war.  These is also a Selected Bibliography, including books, articles and web sites, even YouTube recordings the reader can listen to, and extensive Notes.  

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club is a well-written, well-researched book by an author who specialized in nonfiction about young people making a difference and is one that I believe teen readers will find exciting, informative and even relatable.

Philip Hoose offers an excellent teracher's discussion guide for this book HERE

During May 2015 you can enter to win a copy of The Boys Who Challenged Hitler on Goodreads 

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley and will be available May 12, 2015.

This is book 4 of my 2015 Any War Reading Challenge hosted by War Through the Generations