Thursday, January 27, 2011

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Indifferance by Fritz Hirschberger (1912-2004)
by Barbara Sonek (1942-2010)

We played, we laughed
we were loved.
We were ripped from the arms of our
parents and thrown into the fire.
We were nothing more than children.
We had a future.
We were going to be
lawyers, rabbis, wives, teachers, mothers.
We had dreams, then we had no hope.
We were taken away in the dead of night
like cattle in cars, no air to breathe
smothering, crying, starving, dying.
Separated from the world to be no more.
From the ashes, hear our plea. This
atrocity to mankind can not happen
again. Remember us, for we were the
children whose dreams and lives were
                                                                    stolen away.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Make a Side by Side Image.

1- Open a new post.  Don't write any text yet.
2- Click on insert image and upload the images you want side by side.  When you have all the images, right click on the first and go the properties to get the URL address from wherever you save your images.  Highlight the URL and copy it.  I put mine in a word document.  Do this for each image. 
3- Using the HTML code shown below for the images, rreplace the red areas with your own information.  You may have to play around with the values for the height and width.  I used height 400 and width 240 for the images below.
4- Copy what you have done and paste it into the Edit HTML area.  Save it and you should be able to see what you have done in the preview.
5- If it doesn't work, check what you have written in the areas I have in red.


Going Solo

I don't know why, but when I pasted the HTML into the Edit HTML area where I wanted the images, they were blurry when I checked them in Preview and Compose.  I found that clicking the images to caption them created a large space under them that would throw the alignment of the second image off and I could not get it aligned again.  Blogger can be very frustrating.

For these smaller images, I changed the height and width values to 200h and 120w
Be careful writing text around the images.  If you get too close to them, the text will only go as far as the second image and again throw off the alignment.

name “Blitzcat

Going Solo

I couldn't simply write the HTML into this post with Blogger wanting to do something with and telling me it couldn't be save because my tags had errors.  So I printed it from Word, scanned it as a JPEG file and uploaded it that way.  If you click the instructions they will enlarge for reading. 
Also, if you upload images to Blogger the URL will only be good for that post.  Once you close it by saving or publishing, the URL no longer works for future use.
I am actually not sure all the things that can go wrong are worth the effort.  But then, I am not an HTML expert and maybe there are ways around  the problems.  You would think Blogger could come up with something better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bloggiesta - What I Did

Today is the last day of this fun 3 day marathon called Bloggiesta.

What a great idea it is to take time to re-evaluate your blog and do those tasks that always get put off to the tomorrow that never seems to come.  It has been a lot of fun and my muse and I would like to give our main challenge host Natasha at Maw Books and the mini-challenge hosts Amy at My Friend Amy, Callista at SMS Book Reviews, Tasha at Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books and Hannah at Hannah a rousing

Thank You Pictures, Images and Photos

So far, I have met almost all of my goals.  Today I plan on publishing my revised About Me, About My Blog statements, as well as my newly revised review policy and my new disclosure policy.

I have made a very nice banner for
That's The Way It Was Wednesday

I have added Meta Tags, cleaned up my labels, created a Blogs I Like to Read page, learned how to center my blog name and put a border around the header using CSS, which I will be happy to explain to anyone who wants to know how to do this.

Blogger does not easily let you put pictures side by side, but there is a way to do it.  It isn't ideal, but if you are careful, it works and can look something like this


Going Solo

I will be publishing an in-depth post on how to do this very soon.

I also did a free copyright, a free disclosure policy and got a free license.  Here are the addresses if you want them too:

Free Copyright My Free Copyright
Free Disclosure Policy Disclosure Policy
Free License Creative Commons

I don't know how necessary these really are, but it doesn't hurt to look into them.

Today I plan on finishing up.  I have three reviews to write, and I still need to clean up my flash drive and work on my challenges.  I may scrape the Facebook idea, it was iffy anyway. 

I am hoping my avacodas are nice and ripe today.  Yesterday I have hot sauce and chips, today would like a little guacamole with my chips. 

I hope everyone had a fun, productive weekend.  We will have to do this again next year!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ole! Bloggiesta Is Here!

This is my first Bloggiesta and I am very excited about participating.  I have given a lot of thought to what I would like to accomplish and these are my goals:

1- Write reviews of the books I have read and not written anything about. 
2- Clean up my tags.  Added meta tags successfully despite sweating hands when I was adding them to my blogs html.  I expected the whole blog to just disappear, but it didn't. 
3- My about me and about this blog need some major work, and policies need to be added, such as review, disclosure and privacy,
4- Clean up and update challenges
5- I need to back up my blog and organize the flash drive I keep all blog related information on
6- Deal with copyright and licensing issues
7- Maybe create a Facebook page for my blog

Mini-Challenges I am going to do include
1- Setting Goals - Amy from My Friend Amy
2- Designing your own Buttons/Banners Callista from SMS Book Reviews
4- 10 Things Bloggers Should Not Do Hannah from Word Lily

Maybe I will do other things, but I think for now these are the most important. 

So, it's time to party with Bloggiesta!!

Thanks for Natasha at Maw Books for hosting this party.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

The brief history referred to in the title of this novel is the entries made by the main character, Sophie FitzOsborne, after she receives a diary for her 16th birthday from her brother Toby.

Montmaray is a very small fictional island in the English Channel at the mouth of the Bay of Biscay. The FitzOsbornes are the reigning royal family on the island. However, its royal residents only include, besides Sophie, her 10 year old tomboy sister Henry (short for Henrietta), her beautiful cousin Veronica, 17 and Veronica’s father King John. They live in a crumbling castle at one end of the island, and, despite being royal, they have no money. Rosemary Chester also lives with the FitzOsbornes, caring for the King, who is now quite mad most of the time. Rosemary’s son, Simon, lives in London, working for the family lawyer. Toby FitzOsborne also lives in London, where he attends boarding school. Sophie has a serious crush on Simon, though he doesn’t seem to know it.

There is also an Aunt Charlotte in London, who never makes an appearance in this novel. She has some money, and wants to present her two nieces Veronica and Sophie to London society during the social season.

On another part of the island, the village, live their subjects, three adult and one child, who play a somewhat integral part in the beginning of the story.

Most of the first half of the novel is taken up with family and island history. Sophie also chronicles all the daily events that occur on the island, the ships that come by bringing mail and supplies, as well as news of political events happening in Britain and Europe. The Nazis have been in power for almost 4 years and the Spanish Civil War is still raging, and King Edward VIII of England chooses abdication in order the marry an American. When Simon comes to visit, he and Veronica have very heated discussions about the role the island should play in Europe’s politics, and about different political systems that are in conflict with one another. The animosity these two young people feel towards each other nicely echoes the kinds of current events taking place among the various countries.

After one of the villagers dies, the remaining three subjects decide to leave the island and live in England. Not long after, a boat arrives on Montmaray and two Germans, Otto Rand and his assistant Hans Brandt, disembark,. Though they are wearing Nazi uniforms, Herr Rand informs the FitzOsbornes that he is there not on official German business, but for personal reasons. He is a medieval scholar from Berlin and has come to Montmarmay to request permission to look at the vast library in the castle in hope of discovering something about the Holy Grail. They are refused entry, but sneak in one night anyway. This rash act of theirs spells trouble for the FitzOsbornes and the island where they had always felt so safe and secure and life will never be the same. There is much more, but to go into any more detail would spoil the story.

This is a character-centered novel in which everything is filtered through Sophie’s eye as she writes in her diary. Nevertheless, the main characters are well-developed and sympatric, even if they do ultimately challenge our sense of right and wrong when you are faced with an enemy like the Nazis. Sophie’s youth and inexperience serve as good devices for Cooper to present a great deal of historical information. Some of this information is factual, some of it is not, but the difference is made very clear. Through Sophie’s entries we also see the foreshadowing of actual things to come within the fictional story of the FitzOsbornes. So much of what occurred in the 1930s led to World War II that I think pre-war books like this are an important part of understanding how and why it happened.

And of course you will hear A Brief History of Montmaray compared to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, another wonderful book. They are definitely similar in some way, particularly the teenage diarists observing events around them. But Michelle Cooper has created her own distinct characters, distinct plotline and a distinct, extensive history for the island and its inhabitants. Still, if you like one, you will most likely like the other.

My only problem with A Brief History of Montmaray was the cover. It gives the impression that Montmaray is much smaller than it actually would be. However, the author, Michelle Cooper, has a website that includes information on her historical resources, maps of the island, how the castle is situated on the island and a floor plan of the inside of the castle and a very nice downloadable teaching guide. These are all very handy to have while reading and may be found at Michelle Cooper

This is a wonderful story; the kind that I hate to put down and can’t wait to get back to. And when I reached to end, I was comforted with the knowledge that there is a sequel, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, but unhappy to discover it will not be available in the US until April 2011. Without reservation, I would highly recommend this book to all YA readers.

A Brief History of Montmaray received the following well-deserved honors:
2008 Shortlisted for the Golden Inky Teenage Choice Award
2009 Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature
2009 Recommended Parents’ Choice Book Award
2010 Listed American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults

A paperback edition of A Brief History of Montmaray will be available in the US in March 2011.
This book is recommended for YA readers.

This is book 1 of my YA Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by YA Bliss
The book was borrowed from the Inwood Branch of the NYPL

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Award - WOW!

Ottilie Weber  is a college student and author who gave me this award and I would like to thank her very much.  Ottilie possesses one of my favorite names.  Be sure to check out her blog.

There are 4 duties to perform to receive this award
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2.. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Seven random things about myself would include

1- My favorite comfort food is still a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.
2- When I was 5, I wanted to be a Blackfoot Indian.
3- I have loved coffee since the first time I tasted it, which is not to say I live on it.
4- I collect snow globes.
5- Snoopy has been my muse since I was 10 and I still have the first Snoopy that started it all.
6- I never eat dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate in or on it.
7- I used to be a Leo, but now I am apparently a Cancer on the cusp of Leo (August 10th) So now I can use identity confusion as my excuse for procrastinating.

The 10 recently discovered deserving blogs I have chosen for the Stylish Blogger Award are
1-   A Bookish Libraria: The Dame Reviews
2-   Brook Side Reviews
3-   Tiptoe Kisses
4-   Erin Reads
5-   The Competitive Bibliomaniac
6-   Estella's Revenge
7-   Finding My Legend
8-   Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian
9-   Sheri Doyle
10- The Writer's Armchair

Thanks to Mother Reader and Lee Wind for their Comment Challenge 2011 which has helped me discover many new blogs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.

Today we honor him and his dream.

Wing Flyers is the story of another man who also had a dream. His dream was to fly and his story is told by his young and very proud nephew, who now shares his love of flying. It is interesting that we never learn the names of uncle and nephew, making it feel like a collective honor for all the men who were part of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

His uncle had wanted to fly from the time he was a little boy. He tried to fly at the age of 7 by jumping off the barn and flapping his arms like a bird.

At 11, he paid 75¢ to a barnstormer for a ride. Eventually, his uncle became a Tuskegee Airmen. In 1941, the US Air Force created the 99th Pursuit Squadron. This was their first squadron made up entirely of African-America men. In 1942, the 332nd Fighter Group was formed (three squadrons form a group.) Training these men t become pilots took place in Tuskegee, Alabama, where everything had to be built from scratch or brought in because segregation was still in effect in the south.

This is a beautiful book. There is minimal text, yet so much is conveyed. Much of that is in conjunction with the outstanding artwork by Loren Long. It is also an excellent book to use as a springboard for introducing younger readers to the Tuskegee Airmen and their outstanding history.

The story of the Wind Flyers is proof that dreams can come true.

This book is recommended for readers age 5-8
This book was borrowed from the 97th Street Branch of the NYPL

Wind Flyers received the follow well-deserved awards
Bank Street Best Books of the Year
Delaware Diamonds Award Program Master List
Emphasis on Reading Program Master List (AL)

More information on Wind Flyers may be found at Wind Flyers
and at Wind Flyers (yes, they are different sites)

An excellent source for more information on the Tuskegee Airmen may be found on their website at Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

The Tuskegee Airmen served as escort planes, escorting bombers and as the narrator’s uncle tells him, they never lost a plane they were escorting. That is the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen flew over 3,000 missions in Europe and destroyed hundreds of enemy aircraft.

The Tuskegee Airmen were give the following awards for the achievements in World War II
150 Distinguished Flying Crosses earned
744 Air Medals
8 Purple Hearts
14 Bronze Stars

More information on Martin Luther King, Jr. may be found at Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

Dr, King’s complete “I Have a Dream Speech” may be seen and heard at YouTube: I Have a Dream Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Activities may be found at Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Activities

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr

This novel begins like a typical teenage love story. “Buddy” William Raymond Boyle is a 16 year old boy from a lower middle class family, living in a small village near Montauk, Long Island, NY, where his father is the local policeman. Buddy works part time in a soda shop for a pot-head named Kick Richards, where he sees Skye Pennington whenever she comes into the shop. Skye is the daughter of an oil mogul, who summers with her family at their beachfront estate. Attracted by Buddy’s good looks and her own root-for-the-underdog nature, Skye agrees to go out with him.

Buddy is completely impressed by the Pennington estate and the lavish, carefree life-style they live. He had to thumb three rides to get the estate for his date with Skye; the Pennington’s have 6 cars in their garage, including a Rolls Royce and a Jensen. But Buddy isn’t the only fish out of water at the Pennington’s. While waiting for Skye to finish getting ready for their date, Buddy meets Nick De Lucca, a short, bald man wearing yellow tinted glasses, a hearing aid that seems always to need adjusting and holding a fake cigarette to help him quit smoking. De Lucca is a journalist and guest of Mrs. Pennington, a collector of underdogs just like her daughter.

To impress Skye, Buddy does the only thing he can think of – visit his maternal grandfather in Montauk, a man Buddy barely knows and who is estranged from his mother. Frank Trenker is a cultured, sophisticated man, one who listens to music, loves animals and lives in an impressive house at the end of a long private driveway. The house is filled with books, paintings and antiques – all things the Skye is completely comfortable with while poor Buddy doesn’t have a clue about any of them. When they arrive, Madam Butterfly is playing on the stereo, one of Skye’s favorites. Skye is completely impressed by Buddy’s grandfather, as he had hoped she would be.

Buddy is blinded by his feelings for Skye and lives for the moment he can call her. When he promises his father that he will take his younger brother swimming, the promise is forgotten the moment Skye asks him to come over to see her. His feelings for her and his disregard of his brother begin to cause a riff between Buddy and his father, and even though Buddy knows he is in trouble, he is unable to do anything about it, other than go running whenever Skye calls.

Sunday comes and Buddy is supposed to take his brother fishing, but lies and promises something special when he comes back from seeing Skye. Once there, he can’t bring himself to leave. That night, as Skye and her friends are sitting around a bonfire on the beachfront part of the Pennington estate, Mr. De Lucca wanders over and joins them. It isn’t long before some anti-Semitic joke is casually made, causing everyone to laugh but De Lucca. This is followed by a girl’s poem about an alcoholic boyfriend she one had. De Lucca then begins to recite a poem he said was written by a 15 year old girl called Gentlehands. It is about an SS guard who plays the aria O dolci mani or gentlehands from the opera Tosca to torment the Italian prisoners and whom they nicknamed Gentlehands. The girl is his murdered cousin. She had been a prisoner in Auschwitz when this man was a guard there. Everyone has assumed that DeLucca was Italian, and are quite surprised when he tells them that he is, in fact, an Italian Jew. Upset, Skye tells Buddy she has to get away.

A few days later, they decide to drive out to visit Buddy’s grandfather again. The music for the evening is La Traviata, another of Skye’s favorites. They are offered a glass of wine, but only Buddy accepts. Skye and Trenker have a long conversation about expensive pipes and he tells her that his pipe is hand-carved block meerschaum imported from Turkey, costing about $8,000. Trenker also tells them about his one love, a woman he had lived with in Cuba and who had died before he could marry her. The two kids are, by now, completely impressed with Trenker. By the end of the evening, Buddy has had too much to drink and has to stay with his grandfather, while Skye drives herself home. Buddy ends up staying there for four days, using his grandfather’s jeep to go to work and visit Skye.

On her third visit to Montauk, Trenker plays the opera Tosca. At the end, she explains to Buddy that they are singing the aria O, dolci mani or O gentle hands, the same thing the SS guard played at Auschwitz Somewhat freaked, she lets slip that De Lucca has been sitting outside Trenker’s house, watching it, but Trenker just shrugs it off. Soon after this night, DeLucca publishes a story in the newspaper accusing Frank Trenker of Montauk of being an SS guard that tortured and killed people in Auschwitz, including his cousin. His proof is irrefutable.

If this story began like a typical teenage love story, it doesn’t end like one. It was, in fact, a very disturbing story. Kerr plays around a lot with the idea of appearance and reality with a good dose of irony and asks the reader to look at their own definitions of what, for them, is a good person. Basing our definition of a good person on those who appear to be refined, knowledgeable and sophisticated and whose possessions reflect this can be very seductive, as they were for Buddy. But what happens when harsh reality comes knocking and it doesn’t fit this picture? That is what Buddy must contend with in this coming of age novel

The story seemed to drag somewhat in the beginning, but that appears to be Kerr’s style. There is a lot of time spent on Buddy’s relationship with his family and with Skye. I felt it was a little too much time. Then, all of a sudden, things really moved. The flat, expository style at the beginning increased to a sharp contrast at the height of the story, only to slip into a sort of flatness again at the end. But that reflects the rhythm of life.- most days just go along and then, boom, an event of some kind breaks the sameness of ours days for a while, then back to going along, hopefully changed and wiser.

I always find that when I read Kerr’s books, I can’t put them down. This was also true of Gentlehands, making it a book I would highly recommend.

This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up.
This book was borrowed from the Hunter College Library.

Gentlehands was honored with the following well deserved awards
1966-1992 ALA Best of the Best Books
1978 ALA Notable Children’s Books
1978 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
1978 School Library Journal Best Children’s Books
1978 Christopher Award winner
1978 NYT Best Children’s Books
1993 cited for Margaret A. Edwards Award

More information about M E Kerr may be found at M. E. Kerr and Mary James

This is book 1 of my YA of the 80s and 90s Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen
This is book 2 of my YA Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by YA Bliss

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday #2 on Wednesday: Top Ten Blogish/Bookish Resolutions

The Bookish and the Broke has a weekly meme called Top Ten Tuesday, in which participants list their top ten answers to the weekly theme. This week the theme  by Jen is Top Ten Blogish/Bookish Resolutions. Thank you for this great meme.

Here are my Top Ten Blogish/Bookish Resolutions for 2011
1- Organize my books better, and the flash drive I keep all blog/book related material on.

I tend to stick everything in a computer folder and fool myself with the idea that “I will take care of this later” but later never comes.

2- Use my Nook more, even though I like books better.
Sometimes I guess an e-reader is handy, but I am not good about using it. I have borrowed some library books on it, but that is about all. Barnes & Noble will never break the bank on my e-purchases.

3- Create lists of books for the challenges I have elected to participate in.
Another thing I put off for that “later” that never comes.

4- Read the books on the above lists.
OK, truth is, I would read books for the challenges even without lists.

5- Update my Good Reads and Library Thing accounts and keep them updated.
I am very bad about these, but resolve to either do better or cancel the accounts.

6- Since my blog is branded, try not to feel guilty when I read book not pertinent to it.
This refers to the list I made last Top Ten Tuesday.

7- Find or start an active book club in Manhattan.
Most book clubs here fill up fast and close. Starting my own would definitely be better – perhaps in the local indie store or Barnes & Noble.

8- Read more non-fiction.
Not my favorite, yet the non-fiction I have read is always so interesting.

9- Learn how to do things on Blogspot.
I need to find an easier way to get pictures side by side and learn a little more html.

10- Finally read Black Beauty the book instead of the Classics Illustrated comic I used in 3rd grade for my book report.
I am kidding myself again - that’s not going to happen.  I just don't like that book.

Revised 10- Try to do Top Ten Tuesday on Tuesday.
Getting better already, today is Wednesday, just one day away from Tuesday.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo

When I was a kid, I read comic books, lots of them and all kinds – everything from Archie to Superman. So I know the power of putting together graphics and text. And I have to confess, that when I was in school, we could still find Classics Illustrated* in second hand comic stores and I may have actually used one or two of these for book reports. But today, all kinds’ graphic books are available, of considerably better quality than Classics Illustrated were and very popular among readers of all ages. Now, more and more graphic books are being written and published that cover important aspects of history and, in the same way Art Spiegelman’s Maus books are used in schools to study the Holocaust, Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660 is an ideal vehicle for presenting a different aspect of World War II to students.

Miné Okubo was studying in Europe on an art fellowship when war was declared in 1939. She managed to get herself to the home of some friends in Berne, Switzerland and after a long wait and many difficulties, finally obtained the necessary papers she needed to travel to France. From there, she set sail for the US on the last boat out of Bordeaux. Shortly after Miné arrived back in the United States, her mother passed away and she went to live with her brother, a student in Berkley, California.

Things went well for them, even when the US declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But as suspicion and fear grew, President Roosevelt was forced to issue Executive Order 9022 in 1942. Miné was required to report for an interview that would lead to her eventual relocation in an internment camp: “As a result of the interview, my family name was reduced to No. 13660.” (pg 19 left below.) The Okubo siblings were then issued a number of tags to use for their belongings and themselves with this number.

They were scheduled to leave on May 1, 1942 for the Tanforan Assembly Center at the race track in San Bruno, California. At the camp they were assigned a former horse stall in a stable to use as their living quarters, with no privacy or conveniences (pg 35 below right.) It was here that Miné decided to use her talent as an artist to record the day to day life and small events in an internment camp.

On September 16, 1942, Miné and her brother were relocated again, this time to the Central Utah Relocation Center called Topaz. Conditions here were somewhat better, and eventually restrictions were loosened making life more bearable until they finally left.

Citizen 13660 is the first personal account of what life was like for people in a Japanese internment camp. It was originally published in 1946, but went out of print in the 1950s when people wanted to forget the war. By the 1960s and early 1970s many Sensi, or Japanese-Americans who were born in the camps, were incensed about what had happened to their parents and grandparents and that it had all been forgotten, brushed under the rug, so to speak. Wanting to understand more about their historical past in the US, these students were a moving force behind the establishment of Asian Studies programs as part of many university curriculums. One of the results of this was a reprinting of Citizen 13660 in 1973 and again in 1983.

The structure of the book is similar to a picture book. Each page has one graphic with text below it. Each graphic is done in black and white, some are done in great detail, and others are simpler, while text can range from one line to very extensive. Miné is in every graphic, reinforcing the idea that she has witnessed what she draws and writes, and never relies on rumor or hearsay. The loss of her family name for a number sets the tone of this memoir, which is decidedly impersonal factual reporting. Aside from the author, the reader never learns the name of any other person not even that of her brother reinforcing the feeling of invisibility the Miné must have felt. Ironically, this objective technique proves to be a very effective style for conveying the feelings of the internees, their anger, confusion, disgrace, humiliation, injustice, loss and even patriotism, resulting in a very emotional document about this period in American history. It is not surprising that this technique works for her – Miné Okubo once described herself as “a realist with a creative mind.”

The National Park Service has provided information on Tanforan Assembly Center at the National Park Service Confinement and Ethnicity

More information about the Topaz Internment Camp at the Topaz Museum

Miné Okubo passed away on February 10, 2001 and her obituary may be found at Miné Obuko; Her Art Told of Internment

This book is recommended for readers aged 12 and up.
This book was borrowed from the Hunter College Library.

For those who don’t know about Classics Illustrated, they were a series of comic books, which were adaptations of classic literature. I remember using this one in 7th grade (the other one was Black Beauty; I did go back and really read The Red Badge of Courage, but not Black Beauty)

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted this week by Tales from the Rushmore Kid 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday #1 on Saturday: a little late for the dance!

The Bookish and the Broke has a weekly meme called Top Ten Tuesday, in which participants list their top ten answers to the weekly theme.  This week the theme is the Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2011.  Thank you for this great meme.

My choices are as follows:

1- Skippy Dies Paul Murray
So many good things were said about this book by different bloggers and I love an intriguing mystery.

2- A Place to Die Dorothy James
This is also a mystery written by my former professor who told me the last time I saw her she was going to do this. It also got good blogger reviews. And it was a Christmas present.

3- The Ninth War Jewell Parker Rhodes
Charlotte of Charlotte's Library wrote about this book and her post was too tempting to pass up.

4- Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
I never was really aware of Steampunk before, so I thought I would give this one a go.

5- The Sandman Book of Dreams Neil Gaiman
What list is complete without one of the masters?

6- The Wee Free Men Terry Pratchett
Another master, I can’t resist Pratchett any more than I can Gaiman.

7- The Mysterious Benedict Society Trenton Lee Steward
I promised a ten year old I would read this, so we could discuss it. I try never to break a promise to a kid.

8- Speak Laurie Halse Anderson
Just because it was so controversial last year.

9- The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: five sisters, One Remarkable Family and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
I read an early review by a blogger on this and have enjoyed books about this region in the past. This one sound intriguing.

10- As Always, Julia: the Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto Julia Child
Not because I am a cook, or because I loved Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia but because I really have enjoyed everything I have ever tasted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It pays to live with a good cook.

These are in no particular order and number 9 won’t even be available until March 15th. I can honestly say that many of these books were chosen because of reviews I read on various blogs and in the NY Times Book Review. I have read other books recommended by fellow bloggers and have never been steered in the wrong direction yet. So keep up the good work!

There are other books I want to read, but these are first and foremost, except, of course, what I read for my blog.

I should also add that I have signed up for Comment Challenge 2011.  This ides of this challenge is to leave 5 comments a day for 21 days, beginning on January 6th.  It is hosted by Mother Reader and so far I have found many new and interesting blogs, as well as a few old favorites.  Thank you, Mother Reader, for this great challenge.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

From the Archives #5 - Mystery at Witchend by Malcolm Saville

It has been a while since I have done a That's The Way It Was Wednesday post, so I thought I would start the new year off with one of my favorites - Mystery at Witchend.

This is the first Lone Pine book in a series of 20 which were written over a period of 35 years, beginning in 1943. It begins when the Mortons – mother, son David and 9 year old twins Dickie and Mary – leave the bombings of London for the countryside of the Long Mynd region in Shropshire, while Dad is off flying for the RAF. On the train there the kids meet a sailor, Bill Ward, who comes from the area. He tells them that they will have lots of adventures and fun at Witchend, their final destination, but to be careful of the weather and of the Stiperstones, a range of rugged hills topped with large dark stones, one of which is called the Devil’s Chair. Folklore has it, Bill Ward says, that when the chair is empty the weather is fine and clear, but when Satan is sitting in his chair, a thick, blinding foggy mist rolls in from the west.

The first friend the kids make after their arrival at Witchend is Tom Ingles, an evacuee living on his uncle’s farm where the Mortons get their milk. Tom is around 14, a bit older than David. Still fascinated by the stories Bill Ward told them, the Morton kids go exploring the Long Mynd region. Their goal, to reach the top, is ruined when Dickie gets stuck on a bog and, luckily, their next new friend comes along on her horse Sally and helps free him from it. Peter, short for Petronella Sterling, is also around 14 and lives with her father, who is responsible for maintaining the local reservoir. The kids continue up the mountain with Peter and spot a man rushing along, heading in the direction of a farm called Appledore. Peter explains that a Mrs. Thurston had moved in there 6 months earlier. Thirsty and tired, the kids also head over to Appledore for some water. When Mrs. Thurston invites them in, Macbeth, Mary and Dickie’s little Scotty dog and constant companion, refuses to enter the house and viciously snaps at her.

The next day, when Peter rides over, the kids decide to form a club, which would also include Tom Ingles, and call it the Lone Pine Club, after the single pine tree that stands in the hidden area they pick for their club hideout. While out, Mary and Dickie run into Mrs. Thurston and once again, Macbeth goes after her. Mrs. Thurston is on her war to Witchend to see Mrs. Morton and the twins feel obligated to go with her in order to protect the secrecy of their hideout. While at home, they see Mrs. Thurston kick the Macbeth, when the dog barks at her and she thinks no one is watching.

On their third morning at Witchend, Tom comes over early to ask Mrs. Morton if she will come to the farm and stay with Mrs. Ingles who has fallen, while he and his uncle fetch the doctor. Meanwhile, David goes to town to see if their bikes have arrived. The twins, left alone with the housekeeper, decide to have an adventure of their own and discover what appears to be a lost air force pilot sitting in the club hideout. He explains that he was looking for Appledore and Dickie decides to take him there. On the way they again meet Mrs. Thurston, who says she is bird watching to explain the binoculars she is always carrying. At Appledore, she gives the twins their tea and they start back home. But on the way the weather changes suddenly, as Bill Ward warned that it could and the twins get lost in the misty fog. After a while, they hear a plane flying low back and forth over them, followed by the sound of several owls’ hooting, one of whom turns out to be Jacob, a servant from Appledore. Cold and afraid, Mary and Dickie decide to tag along with Jacob against his will, and the three of them come across a man in a raincoat who has injured his ankle. Mrs. Thurston isn’t happy to see the twins again. When they ask her to drive them home, she says the car is broken and locks them in a bedroom for the night.

By now Mary and Dickie have been missed and David, Tom and his uncle eventually figure out where they are and go to Appledore. Hearing the dog barking, David climbs up to the bedroom window, gets the twins and the dog out and they all quietly sneak away.

So many suspicious things have gone on in just a few days, and the kids begin to suspect that Mrs. Thurston and her company are up to no good. Walking around with binoculars and claiming to be interested in bird watching, she has shown an inordinate interest in the area and in the reservoir under the care of Peter’s father. What could she and her visitors be up to? This is a war-time story so it is a pretty sure bet that all the excitement has to do with that. Yet, there were no munitions factories or air bases to spy on in the area, but they clearly behaving suspiciously. Ultimately the Lone Piners find out who Mrs. Thurston and her mysterious strangers are and what they are up to.

This is an exciting though slow moving story, in part because the Lone Piners must be introduced to the reader. Saville’s style seems to also be to provide lots of exposition and explanation throughout the novel, which is fine particularly since his writing is very pleasant to read. The story is dated only because it takes place during World War II, but holds up well for a present day reader. What is interesting about this character-centered novel is that the region plays the part of another character making it more than just the setting. In his forward, Saville explains that the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones actually exist, only Witchend, Appledore and Hatchholt, where Peter and her father live, are imaginary. The book also includes a map of the area which I found myself consulting a number of times as I read the story.

On the whole, I found this to be a very enjoyable book and I would highly recommend it.

This book is recommended for ages 9-14
This book was purchased for my personal library.

The Devil’s Chair looks foreboding even in good weather.  More information on folklore about this area of Shropshire may be found at
Legend of the Devil's Chair

This is book 1 of my British Books Challenge hosted by The Bookette
This is book 1 of my Forgotten Treasures Challenge hostby by Retroreduxs Reviews

Monday, January 3, 2011

Remember D-Day: the Plan, the Invasion, Survivor Stories by Ronald J. Drez

This award winning book was written by Ronald Drez and published by National Geographic to honor the 60th anniversary on June 6, 2004 of the invasion of Normandy, or D-Day as it is more commonly called. Drez begins with some background information. In the first chapter, Hitler’s War, he describes Hitler’s desire to dominate Europe and the British Isles. Drez also explains show the United States entered the war as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Lastly, he relates how Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, wanted British and American forces to open a new battle front in the west because he was fighting Hitler in the east and could not hold out much longer. A new battle front would divert some of Hitler’s forces and relieve the Soviets.

The second chapter, Fortress Europe, covers the fortifications on the western front that Hitler had in place for defending Germany and the countries he has already conquered. Given these defenses, Drez discusses why Normandy Beach in France was picked by General Dwight Eisenhower for the invasion of Europe, which was code named Operation Overlord, and the problems facing the Allies in order to accomplish the first part of the invasion. One of those problems was that the Normandy has not port facilities. But the problem was solved and how it was is fascinating reading in this book. Basically, the reasoning was if there are not ports, bring them with you.

But part of a war is always trying to through the fool the enemy so he doesn’t know what you are up to, and Chapter 3, The Deception, covers this aspect. Security surrounding Operation Overlord was as tight as it could possibly be and everything was scrutinized and monitored to make sure there were not leaks. Drez does relate a curious coincidence about the code names for all the operations involved in the invasion. In a series of crossword puzzles, the words Omaha, Utah, Mulberry, Overlord and Neptune were answers to clues. Omaha and Utah were codes for where the Americans were to land in Normandy, Mulberry was the code named for the ports that being built, Overlord was, of course, the name of the invasion operation as a whole, and Neptune the code name of the cross Channel crossing of the Allied Forces. This was an interesting coincidence that readers of All Clear by Connie Willis will appreciate. As are tactics like placing rubber tanks around the English countryside, used to make the enemy think British forces were larger than they actually were, and building fake camps for troops that didn’t exist. There is also a great picture in this chapter of the computer (one of the first) used to break the German’s “unbreakable” Enigma code.

In Chapter 4, The Decision to Go, Drez really captured the tension surrounding the decision about when to start the invasion. The weather and conditions in the English Channel played the major role in determining the best time to go, because both can change on a dime. D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5, 1945, but weather conditions forced it to be postponed to June 6, 1944. I can only imagine what it was like for the troops holed up in cramped conditions waiting to take off by air or sea after being psyched up for the 5th of June and than having to postpone.

In Chapter 5, The Invasion, Drez explains what happened to everyone who was part of the invasion, beginning with the paratroopers whose job it was to secure the beaches. He details for the reader how things were done, mistakes that were made, consequences of carrying out the invasion and the success of the operation. Drez does not dwell on the horrible deaths of the soldiers who were initially killed by German machine guns, but he does provide enough information about massive number of men who gave their lives for this operation.

One interesting fact that was omitted from Remember D-Day which surprised me is that there is no agreed on meaning of the term D-Day. As far as the Allied invasion is concerned, no one really knows what it stands for, if anything, although there are lots of theories.

I am not very interested in military things, my bent is much more social cultural. Yet, I believe it is still good to understand some military things. This is one of those really excellent books that explain these kinds so well that it keeps your attention throughout. And there is so much more to it than just this brief synopsis. Drez is able to present events, incidents and people in a clear, logical way so the readers doesn’t get lost or confused, yet he is never condescending to his target readers. He has also included a number of photographs, maps and eyewitness accounts, even that of a former German soldier who was defending Normandy. In addition, Drez also discusses the different parts the British, Canadian and American leaders and troops played, so the reader understands it was not just an American victory but a concerted effort. I cannot praise this book enough and highly recommend it.

Remember D-Day received the following well deserved honors:
2004 The School Library Journal – Best Books
2005 ALA Notable Children’s Book
2006 International Reading Association’s Young Adults’ Choices

This book is recommended for readers age 9-12
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL

More information on D-Day may be found at
D-Day June 6, 1944
D-Day Museum and Overlord Embroidery
Be sure to check out the Overlord Embroidery here.

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted today by Charlotte's Library