Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the Archives #13: Pamela G.M, by Florence Gunby Hadath

Dustjacket image courtsey of
Lasting Words Ltd.
Northampton, UK
I was really in the mood for a 'jolly' school story, so I pulled Pamela G.M. off the shelf and reread it. It was published in 1941 and is the fourth book on Hadath’s Pamela series, but the only one I have read and, as far as I know, the only one set during the war.

The story opens sometime after the war has begun, but Miss Grammett’s boarding school for girls’ in the village of Chinbury, England is going to carry on as usual and resist evacuation.

The school has been given a mobile canteen, to be used for driving around to where troops are located and selling them cups of tea and biscuits, along with other necessary items like soap, shoelaces and razor blades. It was assumed that Miss Grammett’s husband would drive the canteen, but he has no interest in doing it. Pamela, a student who has already learned to drive, manages to finagle the necessary documentation allowing her to drive the canteen, even though she is underage.

But this is not just Pamela’s story, and the book skips around and tells of the adventures of different students, which are separate but still connected to each other. Each schoolgirl is given a job to help the war effort and Fanny Gates is made the treasurer of the War Savings Fund. Her job is to collect money from the people for the fund, and her trials of getting money from the other girls are recounted in one chapter. In another chapter, a student is sent to deliver a message to chair of the Chinbury Food Week campaign and manages to capture a German spy. Later, one of the younger students inadvertently ends up taking an airplane ride with a famous woman flyer modeled somewhat on Amy Johnson. Other girls are assigned to do knitting or land work for a neighboring farmer.

All of these chapters are quite humorous and entertaining except for the last one, which is quite serious. Pamela, along with her partner Martha Tydd, are driving around the countryside in their mobile canteen, trying to find out where the soldiers have been relocated, when they hear the sound of airplanes. Soon, they see bombs being dropped on the small village of Combe Edge. As they drive into the village, they see some shops burning and a badly injured woman being carried out to the street. Pamela hears the doctor say the woman must get to the hospital quickly or she will die, but the hospital’s ambulances have already been dispatched and nothing is available to transport her. Pamela tells them she can do it, and has the canteen emptied of everything, including the shelves and tea urns. The woman is laid on the floor of the canteen and Pamela whisks her off, getting to the hospital just in the knick of time. Returning to Combe Edge, they see more bombs falling in that vicinity. Arriving again, they discover that a bomb has fallen on a school and trapped two children and a teacher under the rubble. The rubble can’t be moved without causing further collapse, but there is a small opening. Pamela manages to slip through, and is able to drag the kids out and then help the teacher escape. The book ends with Miss Grammett receiving a letter telling her that Pamela has been elected to receive the George Medal.

The George Medal (pictured left) introduced on September 24, 1940 and was given by the King to citizens in recognition of their acts of bravery during the war and looks like this:

The King is, of course, George VI, whom we are all familiar with now thanks to Colin Firth’s brilliant portrayal of him in The King’s Speech. Curiosity about the George Medal is actually what prompted me to buy this book in the first place.

Like Frank Baum of Oz fame, who had earlier written the Aunt Jane’s Nieces and Mary Louise series under the name of Edith Van Dyne, the Pamela series was actually written by John Edward Gunby Hadath (1871-1954) under the name Florence Gunby Hadath. Hadath had previously written a number of books for boys before embarking on Pamela, all with the same great humor. Hadath’s sense of irony and wit is what I liked most about his writing. He follows a character’s line of thought from beginning to end, as the character rationalizes to him/herself how and why the thing they shouldn’t do can safely and justifiably be done. How many times have we all done that?

The Pamela series is not really readily available, but I am hoping that maybe sometime soon they will be reprinted. But, alas, I doubt that will ever happen, even though Pamela G. M. is, in my opinion, an example of British School Stories at their best, and if you like the Chalet School series, this is definitely one to try.

This story is recommended for readers age 12 and up
This book was purchased for my personal library

This is book 12 of my British Books Challenge hosted by The Bookette
This is book 14 of my Forgotten Treasures Challenge hosted by Retroreduxs Reviews

Monday, August 29, 2011

Surviving the Angel of Death: the Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Bucceri

Almost from the moment 10 year old twins Eva and Miriam Mozes stepped out of the cattle car that brought them to Auschwitz, they were separated from their mother, father, and older sisters, never to see them again. Eva comments over and over on the constant smell that permeated Auschwitz from the gas chambers, but even as she instinctively knows that this is the fateful death that the rest of her family had immediately met, she continues to hope they could somehow survive.

The girls were put into a barracks with all the other twins chosen for the sadistic, inhuman medical experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death. Eva, the stronger of the twins, takes it upon herself to look after and care for her sister Miriam. Like all of Mengele’s twins, Eva and Miriam were allowed to keep the clothing they arrived in, as well as their hair, but they were forced to scrounge and “organize” for anything else that would help them survive, even as they were being experimented on.

The strength and resourcefulness of these two girls amazed me. Once day, for example, Eva was given a shot that Miriam was not also given. During the night, she began to run a high fever, within 48 hours her legs were swollen and covered with red patches. Despite the pain and chills these caused, Eva was determined to stand for roll call and not go to the infirmary, since the only way out of it was death and they knew that if one twin died, the other would be killed. She missed roll call thanks to an air raid, but was soon sent to the infirmary to die anyway. On a visit with other doctors, Mengele indicated she had only two weeks to live. But Eva was determined not to be sent to the gas chamber, even though she was not fed or given water. Desperately thirsty, each night, she would crawl on all fours to the end of the infirmary barracks to a water faucet, determined to live. After two weeks, Eva’s high fever broke. But she had to learn how to manipulate the thermometer to fool Mengele into thinking her temperature was normal. Unfortunately, when Eva returned to the barracks and Miriam, she discovered that, because the doctors believed that she would die, her sister had been subjected to injections that caused to her to quite listless and which ultimately stunted the growth of her kidneys.

Both of these 10 year old sisters managed to stay alive in Auschwitz, despite Mengele’s horrendous genetic experiments. Their story is a testament to courage and determination, which will, hopefully, be especially interesting to young readers. And, although I am a firm believer in forgiveness, even I am amazed that Eva was able to eventually find it within herself to forgive Mengele. I’m not sure I could or would go that far. Mengele, after all, was the arbiter of life and death at Auschwitz.

Surviving the Angel of Death: the Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz is told in a straightforward manner, neither too graphic to scare readers nor so sketchy that it diminishes the level of cruel, heartless treatment Mengele’s twins were subjected to. The writing style is intimate and informal, as though Eva Mozes were telling her story to Lisa Rojany Bucceri and I was allowed to listen in. It never gets pedantic, and there is never a sense of self-pity. I suspect Eva is still the same strong feisty fighter now that she was at 10. The book also contains a number of personal family photos of the Mozes family, some from before the war, some from after, as well as pictures their life after the war. There are also general photographs of Auschwitz.

After the war, Eva lived in Israel for a while, and then moved to Terre Haute, Indiana with her husband, Michael Kor, another concentration camp survivor and with whom she had two children. She still lives in Terre Haute, where she founded the Candles Holocaust Museum in 1995.
This book is highly recommended for readers age 12 and up.
The book was a received as an E-ARC from

An excellent and extensive Teacher’s Guide to Surviving the Angel of Death: the Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz, created by Natalie Dias Lorenzi, is also available.

Ara Pacis Initiative presents an interesting profile of Eva that appeared in Vanity Fair Italia in 2010.

NB The photo on the cover of this book was taken by the Russians when they liberated Auschwitz.  The photo shows Eva on the left and Miriam on the right.  It was, however, a staged photo-op, in which the twins were told to wear the striped clothing of Auschwitz prisoners, something Mengele's twins did not have to do.

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted this week by Capstone Connect

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh

It seems only natural that the biography of a comic book artist should be told in a graphic book. Lily Renée Wilhelms was the 14 year old daughter of well to do Jewish parents in 1938 Vienna, Austria. The family had many friends in Vienna, but when Austria became part of Germany that year, they lost not just their friends, but eventually everything they owned.

In 1939, Lily was invited to by her English pen pal to come live with them. She became part of the Kindertransport before it ended in September 1939. England should have been a refuge for Lily, but her pen pal’s mother turned out to be a rather cruel woman who expected her to do all the housework and shopping. She also neglected to feed her during the day, so Lily was forced to live only on high tea in the evening.

Eventually she ran away and took work as a mother’s helper for various doctor’s families. But in 1940, England considered people of German and Austrian descent to be Enemy Aliens and they were placed in internment camps. Again, Lily was forced to run away, to London, where she is encouraged to turn herself in to the police. Because she is still a minor, Lily is again placed on another Kindertransport, this time to the United States.

Sadly, up until now, she had no idea what had become of her parents, but she is told that her parents are in now New York, so when her ship docked, the family is finally reunited.

Away from the war and the Nazis, the Wilhelms family begins to adjust to living in New York City. Lily works as an artist for catalogues, but soon her mother encourages her to apply for a job at Fiction House Comics. From there she worked her way up, from eraser to penciling a character named Jane Martin, to getting her own character, Senorita Rio.

As a long time lover of comic books, I thought this graphic memoir was quite well done. The story of Lily's life was clearly presented, and there were short but thorough explanation of some of the events that impacted the lives of her and her parents. My only problem was the timeline. Sometimes, I felt I was led to think some of Lily’s experiences lasted longer than they turned out to be.

At the end of the book is section called ‘More about Lily’s Story.’ This includes a short glossary of German to English terms that are used, followed by a section that gives the reader broader explanations of many of the different things in Lily’s world that they might not be familiar with, ranging from such topics as the difference between Nazi Concentration Camps and British Internment Camps to a description of the Automat, an inexpensive eatery that no longer exists.

The artwork in Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer is excellent. The drawings are clearly and cohesively done, portraying the events that impacted the Wilhelms family, as well as their reactions. The colors are vivid and somehow seem so appropriate for the period this memoir covers.

The author, Trina Robbins, is herself a comic book artist, one of the founders of the all-women’s comic book ‘Wimmen’s Comix.’ She is also a writer and historian of feminist pop culture. She is a co-founder of Friends of Lulu (of Little Lulu fame, my favorite comic book), which is dedicated to women and comics.

On the whole, I think that Lily Renée,Escape Artist : From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer would be an excellent story for middle grade readers who are curious or are learning about the Holocaust, and I would recommend this graphic biography to anyone with an interest.

This book is recommended for readers age 9-12.
The book was a received as an E-ARC from It will be released on 11/1/2011.

More information about Lily Renee may be found at Woman in Comics

Lily in 2007

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

It is that time of the year again...Book Blogger Appreciation Week September 12-16

Don't forget to register at Book Blogger Appreciation Week so you can nominate your favorite book blogs.  Nominations close on August 13th, so hurry.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


The winners of my Dog Days of Summer Giveaway are
Bekka has won The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Rebel has won Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Suz has won Crossed by Ally Condie

Charlotte has won The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Jessica has won Winter Town by Stephen Emond

Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who participated.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Harry Potter Read Along and Giveaway

I was answering a question from someone about how to set up a challenge and I clicked on A Novel Challenge to get the correct address for this website and, lo and behold, there was a Harry Potter Read Along and Giveaway challenge hosted by Bekka at Pretty Deadly Reviews.

Well, I had intended to reread all the HP books before the last movie, HP and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, came out, but alas, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I never got around to the reread.  So, I thought, OK, here is my chance and next thing I knew, I was signing up.
If you feel like rereading or reading Harry Potter for the first time, it isn't too late. 


Thursday, August 4, 2011

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

My Name Was Keoko is written in the first person, but with an interesting twist. The story of the Kim family in Korea during World War II is told in the alternating voice of Sun-hee, 10, and her brother, Tai-yul, 13. The story begins in 1940. The Japanese have occupied Korea since 1910, systematically suppressing Korean culture in favor of their own, and now, they want every Korean to change their names to a Japanese name. Sun-hee becomes Keoko, Tae-yul is given the name Nobuo and their last name Kim is changed to Kaneyama. Everyone is unhappy about this name change, but what can they do? Quietly resisting, the Kim family can and do remain Korean within their homes and within their hearts.

Their father’s brother, Uncle, lives with the family and runs a printing store. As the Japanese become more and more restrictive, it seems that Uncle is cozying up to them, getting many additional printing jobs from them. Sun-hee and Tai-yul are wondering if there fiercely pro-Korea Uncle has suddenly become Chin-il-pa, a “lover of Japan.” Chin-il-pa is are Koreans who gets rich because they cooperate with the Japanese government (pg 22) and they are thought of as traitors by other Koreans.

Sun-hee and Tae-yul decide to investigate Uncle’s activities, only to discover that he not Chin-il-pa, but working for the Korean resistance movement. His outward friendly display towards the Japanese is an attempt to keep their suspicions at bay. One night, Sun-hee’s old Japanese friend Tomo comes by to hint that Uncle is in danger. Sun-hee immediately warns her Uncle and he disappears, no one knows to where. Now, during their nightly accounting, when everyone must stand outside their homes for as long as the Japanese want them to, they search the Kim home to find evidence of Uncle’s activities.

The Japanese authorities continue make life very hard for the Koreans, asking for more and more to be sacrificed for the Emperor. And they become even harsher and more demanding as they begin to lose the war. Families are forced to give up metal including pots and pans and their jewelry to be melted into munitions. Small acts of defiance follow these demands – Sun-hee’s mother hides a meaningful dragon brooch in her underwear. When her rows of Sharon trees, which had been the national flower of Korea, are ordered cut down and burned, in favor of Japanese Cherry Trees, she has the children save one small tree. They replant it and hide it in the tool shed.

Then, to make matters worse, towards the end of the war, Tae-yul, who has always been fascinated with machines and airplanes, unknowingly volunteers as a kamikaze pilot in the Japanese Special Attack Unit. Must they now make the ultimate sacrifice for their oppressors?

When My Name Was Keoko moves along less by action and more by description, almost like a diary of each child’s experiences. This also means that Park can more naturally include a lot of Korean history and culture without lapping into a kind of pedantic exposition that would cause the reader to lose interest. Park’s characters are well rounded, with a true to life feel to them. I was particularly drawn not just to Sun-hee but also to her elderly neighbor Mrs. Ahn, who in her own way refuses to accept the Japanese.

Among the many things in her Author’s Note at the end of the novel, Park writes that this novel was inspired by many of the stories her parents told her about their lives growing up in Korea during World War II. In fact, the name Kaneyama Keoko was really her mother’s Japanese name at that time. Her parent’s stories must have helped her form the alternating voices of gentle, thoughtful Sun-hee and her angry, impulsive brother, giving a broader picture of what life was like under the Japanese and the frustrations Koreans felt as they watched helplessly while their culture was decimated. Park has used other true events not connected to her family, but these are tailored to the Kim family in the novel. It is things like this that give a novel a realistic feeling such as that found in When My Name Was Keoko.

There is a note on Korean terms of address included, as well as a very useful short bibliography in addition to the Author’s Note. I really liked this book, it is a quietly powerful story that stayed in my mind long after I finished it, and I highly recommend it.

This book is recommended for readers age 9 and up.
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL.

The Wake County North Carolina Public Libraries have provided an excellent study guide for When My Name Was Keoko.

This is book 3 of my East and SouthEast Asia Challenge hosted by Violet Crush

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I digress...Dog Days of Summer Giveaway

Summertime and the livin' is easy...

These hot, sultry summer days are the perfect time for a Dog Days of Summer Giveaway of 5 YA novels, all perfect for reading at the beach, pool or in the AC. 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
4.58 of 5 Stars on Goodreads (225 ratings so far)

From the publisher:
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.
This book is an ARC and was given to me by the publisher.
It will be released 9/27/2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
4.45 of 5 Stars on Goodreads (218 ratings so far)

From the publisher:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
This book is and ARC and was given to me and signed by the author.
It will be released on 9/27/2011

Crossed by Ally Condie
3.84 of 5 Stars on Goodreads (301 ratings so far)

From the publisher:
In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.
This book is an ARC and was given to me by the publisher.
It will be released on 11/1/2011.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
3.65 of 5 Stars on Goodreads (99 ratings so far)

From the publisher:
It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.
Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM. Josh is her best friend.
They power up and log on and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.
Everybody wonders what their destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out
This book is an ARC and was given to me by the publisher.
It will be released on 11/21/2011.

Winter Town by Stpehen Emond
3.83 of 5 Stars on Goodreads (12 ratings so far)

From the publisher:
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
This book is and ARC and was given to me by the publisher.
It will be released in December 2011.

To enter this giveaway:

1- You must be a follower of The Children’s War
2- Post a comment telling me which book you want
3- Please provide some way to contact you (blog or email, etc.)

Additional Information:
1- This giveaway ends one week from today (August 9, 2011 at Midnight)
2- Open to participants in the US and Canada
3- One winner will be chosen for each book
4- Winner will be chosen randomly by and contacted via email
5- Winner will be announced and contacted August 10, 2011.
6- Winner will then have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen