Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From the Archives #18: Book Care Advice from the Girl’s Own Annual

Cover: September 1941
Between 1880 and 1956, a British paper for girls was published called The Girl's Own Paper.  The paper contained all kinds of stories, many by well know authors like Angela Brazil and Noel Streatfeild. At first published on a weekly basis and later becoming monthly, The Girl's Own Paper also contained articles on such topics as sports, clothing, hobbies, travel.  An annual was also published every year, conveniently in time for the Christmas season, that contained only the stories and articles, all advertising was eliminated.  
But after World War II started, paper was in short supply and war economy standards were imposed on printed matter.  The Girl’s Own Paper became a much smaller monthly and the annual was no long published.  The last annual was Volume 62, printed covering October 1940 to September 1941  
I have a small collection of Girl’s Own Annuals, that only consists of the last 6 years they were published.  I was looking through Volume 62 the other day, when I got to the last page of this last volume and I found this bit of sage advice on the care of books, which I now share with you:

A much more complete history of The Girl’s Own Paper can be found here.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Picture Book of Anne Frank by David A. Adler, illustrated by Karen Ritz

It is my turn to host Non-Fiction Monday today, so please simply leave your link in the comments section below and I will update throughout the day.  
Today I have chosen a book by David A. Adler, who is one of my favorite children’s authors and who is an extraordinarily prolific writer.  No only has he written numerous Can Jansen mystery books for young readers, but he has also a number of biographies and Holocaust books.
In his Holocaust books, Adler has always managed to take a frightening subject like the Holocaust and make it accessible to children without trivializing it.  A Picture Book of Anne Frank is an excellent example of his ability.
This biography is meant as an introduction for readers who may be too young to know much about the Holocaust and may not ever know who Anne Frank is.  It covers all the important aspects of Anne’s life, from her birth in Frankfurt am Main, Germany on June 12, 1929 to her death in March 1945 in Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp.  
Interestingly, Adler does not make any one area of Anne’s life more importance than any other area.  Often, writers will stress the diary, hiding in the attic or her personality and even her crush on Peter Van Daan, but here she is presented as a whole person, and these things, while important, are aspects of her life, no one thing is what defines Anne.  I like that as an introductory biography.  
Accompanying the text are illustrations by Karen Ritz.   A Picture Book of Anne Frank was her first picture book assignment and, she writes, the first time the Holocaust was illustrated in picture book form so teachers did not have to resort to historical photographs to teach young children about the horrors of the Holocaust.  For this book, she used watercolor to portray the story, and included graphic pencil drawing to look like photos of Anne’s life, which were based on actual photographs.  
The mixing of Karen’s art mediums and David Adler’s text are an excellent, effective way of writing about Anne’s life in this highly recommendable book.

This book is recommended for readers age 6 and up.
This book was borrowed from the Wakefield Branch of the NYPL.

An activity guide for A Picture Book of Anne Frank is available here.

And be sure to visit David Adler's website for more information about his many books, as well a Karen Ritz's website to see more of her outstanding artwork.

A Picture Book of Anne Frank
David A. Adler, author
Karen Ritz, illustrator
Holiday House 
29 Pages

Be sure to check out these excellent Non-Fiction reviews:

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has an iPad App review at

Natalie is offering a review of Raggin' Jaxxin' Rockin' and an interview at

The Swimmer Writer has a review on A Leaf Can Be,,, at

Tara has a review at A Teaching Life on two picture books at

Lisa at Shelf-employed has a special announcement about Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month at

Peggy at Anatomy of NonFiction also has an interview with the author of A Leaf Can Be... at

At SimplyScience, Shirley has a post on Filling the Earth with Trash at

At the Jean Little Library, Jennifer has a review on Prairie Dong's Hideaway at

Myra tat Gathering Books has a review of My Hands Sing the Blues at

Scope Notes offers a review of Giant Squid at

Books4Learning has a review of Multiply on the Fly at

Today, Laura Thompson has an interview with Cynthia Levinson, author of We've Got a Job: the 1964 Birmingham Children's March at

Jeanne at True Tales & A Cherry On Top is featuring Magic Trash - A Storu of Tyree Guyton and his art at

Heidi at Geo Librarian is highlighting All the Water in the World at

Amanda at A Patchwork of Books talks about What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World at

Over at Ms. Yingling Reads you can find reviews on both Little Rock Girl and Quarter Horese Are My Favorite at

At Apples with Many Seeds Tammy is looking at 13 Art Inventions Children Should Know at

At Booktalking, there are two books you might like - Underground and Fort Mose and the Story of the Man Who Built the First Free Black Settlement in Colonial America at

And finally, Nonfiction Book Blast offers What Lies Beneath? Exploring the Subterranean Fury of Plate Tectonics at

Caryl's first non-fiction Monday post is about Candace Fleming's Amelia Lost at

Beth at Literary Chicken takes a look at Girl Hero: Claudette Colvin Twice Towards Justice at

Friday, February 24, 2012

Resistance (Book 1) by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

Resistance is the first graphic novel in a trilogy about young resistance workers in southern France during the Nazi occupation of their country.  These graphic novels for young adults are a collaboration of Carla Jablonski, noted children’s author, and Leland Purvis, artist and writer of comic books.
At the beginning of the story, Jablonski has included an explanation about how France was divided between the occupied northern half and the so-called free southern half after it signed an armistice with Germany to stop the fighting in 1940  Now, it is 1942, and  up this point, life wasn’t too terrible for those who are living in southern France, certainly better than those who living in the occupies areas.
Paul Tessier may live in the “free” part of occupied France, but his father is German prisoner of war and no one knows anything about him.  And now, the Nazis everywhere, more brazen than even, always threatening the daily life of the French and helping themselves to whatever they want. .  Angered by all this, Paul is no longer content to simply post his anti-Nazi posters about town.  
Besides owning their own vineyard, Paul’s family has taken over the hotel owned by their friends, the Levy’s, who can no longer own it because they are Jews.  But when the Nazis requisition the hotel for their own use, the Levy’s disappear.  Afraid for them after hearing about the round ups and deportations of Jews in Paris, Paul worries about what will happen to the Levy’s, especially his best friend Henri Levy.  But he finds Henri in the woods, hanging out by a pond, completely unaware of what has been happening to the Jews in town.
Paul and his younger sister Marie decide to hide Henri in one of the wine cellars at the Tessler’s vineyard.  One night, Paul catches his older sister’s friend, Jacques, trying to get into the vineyard and discovers that Jacques is part of the Resistance.  Paul and Marie both want to join it, too and after passing a test, they are given an assignment - get Henri to Paris and safety using false identity papers.  
The plan goes well, but when the three of them arrive in Paris, Henri is in for a big surprise waiting for him.
This was a very well done graphic novel.  The textual part of the story is succinct and yet completely comprehensible, one of the amazing feats of good graphic novels. In an interview, Jablonski said that she used her experience as a playwright to get dialogue and gesture to convey the story.  As a playwright, she said, one must think visually and graphic novels rely so much on the visual to make the story come together.  
And that also means that just the right images have to be incorporated into the story.  And Purvis has done a brilliant job at rendering Jablonski’s novel, so that dialogue, gesture and image are wholly in sync.  His lines are hard and sometimes severe reflecting the the stress and tension of living in such an oppressive situation.  Purvis also differentiates his images from Paul’s, an artist in his own right, providing two perspectives of the action - Purvis’s show what is going on around Paul, while Paul’s drawings often reflect what he is thinking/feeling.   
But it was the cover of Resistance that first caught my eye - an effective up to date rendering of the biblical David and Goliath story - it says so much about Paul’s story in particular and the resistance movement in general.

The idea of young kids being part of a dangerous movement like the resistance may seem difficult to accept, but, in fact, there were many young people involved in these underground activities in all the occupied countries.  But young kids can get away with things that adults could never pull off and Jablonski makes their willingness and usefulness very clear in this first graphic novel of the trilogy. 

On the other hand, in her Author’s Note, Jablonski writes that resistance workers were brave, but they were not saints and she has remarkably captured  the range of their feelings - the fear, the anger, the frustration, the sense of oppression and even the bickering among themselves, giving the whole thing are great touch of reality.
This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up.
This book was purchased for my personal library.
Resistance was a 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Winner
Resistance was named a 2011 YALSA Great Graphic Novel
Resistance, Book I
Carla Jablonski, writer
Leland Purvis, artist
Hilary Sycamore, colorist
128 Pages

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

It is the middle of World War I and on the battlefield, Private Thomas ‘Tommo’ Peaceful, 17. is sitting watch, keeping track of the time on an important newly acquired watch, afraid of falling asleep and missing precious moments of this particular night.  As he sits there, Tommo recalls his life, beginning with his family in the village of Iddesleigh and, later, in the trenches of France.

The Peaceful family live in a house on the estate grounds of the Colonel, a mean local squire  Life wasn’t too bad for the Peaceful family until Mr. Peaceful, an estate forester, is killed by a falling tree, which the young Tommo believes is his fault.  After that, Mrs. Peaceful must go to work in the Colonel’s house in order to be allowed to remain in the cottage they are living in.  Great Aunt Wolf moves in to look after the children - older brothers Charlie and Big Joe, who is disabled, and Tommo.  She is a mean spirited woman runs the house with an iron hand and takes every opportunity to belittle the boys.
Things aren’t much better in school.  Mr. Munnings, one of two teachers, has it out for Charlie, and starts in on Tommo his first day of school.  Big Joe doesn’t go to school but wanders singing Oranges and Lemons, a children’s nursery song, everywhere he goes.  At school, Tommo meets Molly and it is love at first sight for him.
Soon Charlie, Tommo and Molly are inseparable friends, doing everything together, including poaching fish and game from the estate grounds.  Throughout everything, having fun or getting into trouble, Charlie has been there for Tommo, so when he realizes that Charlie and Molly are secretly meeting without him, he feels betrayed, but keeps it to himself.  
Charlie and Molly’s relationship leads to pregnancy and when Molly is sent packing by her parents, she and Charlie are married.  When the war in France intensifies, the Colonel decides if the Peacefuls are to remain in their cottage, Charlie must enlist.  After Tommo, who is too young to enlist, is called a coward by an old woman caught up in the war’s jingoism, he also decides to enlist and the brothers manage to pass themselves off as twins for the recruiter.  
During basic training, they serve under the cruel, sadistic Sergeant “Horrible” Hanley who has it out for both the Peaceful boys from the beginning.  And it is because of Hanley’s viciousness that Tommo is keeping this particular watch.
Generally, when I read books that are a person’s recollections of their life, I feel at though I am being told their story and the storyteller is conscious that they are addressing someone.  With Private Peaceful, I felt as though I (as a reader) were simply privy to Tommo’s private memories.  He wanted to be alone for the night and consciousness that I was there as a listener would have defeated his need to be alone.    
Private Peaceful is a well written novel, but there are some graphic descriptions of trench warfare.  It is written in the plain, straightforward language of a young country boy at that time, such there is a real eloquence to it.  
There are two important issues at the center of Private Peaceful.  The first issue Morpurgo brings to light is that sometimes the enemy is not the fellow facing you across the battlefield in waiting in his trench, but is right there, side by side with you.
The other issue in Private Peaceful is a moral issue that inspired Morpurgo in the first place.  When the Peaceful brothers are finally sent to the front, they find themselves at Ypres, Belgium.  For anyone who has ever seen the gravestone in Flanders Field, you what a particularly horrendous field of carnage it was.  But among the thousands who were shot on the battlefield, are almost 300 graves of soldiers who were shot for cowardice.  These men were give a fast trial, without representation and the without regard to the effects of war on their minds as well as their bodies.  Some of them were still just kids, like Charlie and Tommo.  And, Morpurgo writes in his Postscript, that although most countries have give pardons to there soldiers, Britain has not.    
Private Peaceful is a must read for anyone interested in war literature or in humanity in general.
The Telegraph has an excellent article from 2003 about Morpurgo and Private Peaceful that you can read here.
This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up.
This book was borrowed from the Fordham branch of the NYPL

Private Peaceful is book 2 of my World War I Reading Challenge
Private Peaceful is book 2 of my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Private Peaceful
Michael Morpurgo
2004 (2003)
208 Pages

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

The Berlin Boxing Club is an historical fiction novel about a young secular Jewish teen coming of age in Nazi Germany between 1934 and 1939.  Karl Stern has never considered himself a Jew and his Aryan looks have always helped him get away with that.  But not anymore.  
After receiving a vicious beating by some former friends turned Hitler Youth bullies, Karl has the good fortune to meet boxing champion Max Schmeling, who knows immediately that he had been beaten up.  He offers to give Karl boxing lessons at his club in exchange for a Georg Grosz portrait of himself which Karl’s art dealer father owns.  Though the Stern’s desperately need money not boxing lessons, Karl’s father reluctantly agrees to the deal.
While Karl becomes more and more proficient at boxing, life at home becomes more and more difficult.  His father is always angry and critical of Karl, his younger sister is unhappy and afraid and his mother is severely depressed and distant.  To make matters worse, he has started a relationship with an Aryan girl in his apartment building, something expressly forbidden in Nazi Germany.
And things just get worse.  His father’s art gallery is forced to close, and the family must live on the little money earned from his private printing business, which includes making flyers for parties given by a drag queen named The Countess.  Eventually, the Sterns are evicted from their apartment for being Jews and forced to live in the closed art galley.
Karl’s one saving grace is boxing, but when he is outed at a German Youth Tournament in 1937 and barred from competing, he not longer can use boxing as an escape, and stops going to The Berlin Boxing Club.  When he finally does return, he discovers that the club has been sold and turned into place where blankets are made. 
Meanwhile, Max is in the US, preparing for a rematch with Joe Lewis, the famous African American boxer he had previously defeated in 1936 much to the joy of the Reich.  But when Max loses the rematch, he also loses all his standing and creditability with the upper echelons of the Nazi regime.  He returns to Germany, defeated and degraded, living in the Excelsior Hotel.
And this is where Karl finds him after the gallery had been destroyed during Kristallnacht by roving Hitler Youth members and his father’s subsequent arrest for owning a forbidden printing press.  Now, Karl really needs help from Max.
Sharenow effectively demonstrates the effects of the increasingly tightening noose that the Nazis put about the Jews in Germany in the 1930s in The Berlin Boxing Club.  I thought the characters were well drawn, both realistic and sympathetic.  Through them,  Sharenow was able to show how strongly many secular Jews had considered themselves to be German first, Jewish second and why that thinking may have caused  a great deal of confusion when the Nazis first took over.  This is really apparent in Karl, who even wishes he could join the Hitler Youth along with the other boys in school, a not uncommon wish of may Jewish boys and girls in the early days.  Like many people, the Sterns thought that Hitler and his regime wouldn’t last or that things would at least calm down.  I certainly would have felt the same way at that time.  
Extra kudos to Sharenow for adding a drag queen character, no doubt a remnant of the old Weimar Republic days, and I thought the subsequent courageous part s/he ultimately played in Karl’s life very touching.  
Unfortunately, there were two things that diminished this book for me.  I felt overwhelmed by boxing descriptions and found myself glossing over them.  I do think boxing is a nice metaphor for this coming of age story.  The reader sees Karl’s going from a undisciplined fighter to well-trained boxer just as he learns to overcome his youthful impetuousness on his way to becoming a more thoughtful man.  
My other problem was the language.  It was just too modern.  People in the 1930s simply did not use many of the clichés used in today’s world - such as “at the end of the day.”  I felt these clichés happened too often and it took away some of the authenticity of the novel
One this of note: Sharenow writes that he was inspired to write The Berlin Boxing Club by the true story of Max Schmeling helping to save the lives of two Jewish boys by hiding them in his hotel room until he could secure passage for them to escape to the US.  This act of kindness and heroism had remained unknown until 1989, when one of the boys, Werner Lewin, invited Schmeling to the US to thank him.  
Robert Sharenow was awarded the 2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Teen Reader Category.
This book is recommended for readers age 13 and up
This book was borrowed from 67th Street Branch of the NYPL

Be sure to visit Robert Sharenow’s website for a wonderful Discussion Guide on The Berlin Boxing Club

Max Schmeling by Georg
**Lots of wonderful German Expressionist artists, besides Georg Grosz, are mentioned in this book, and in his list of Sources, Sharenow mentions the Neue Galerie as a great place to see the works of some of these artists, so do visit if you are ever in NYC, and try the wonderful old world brunch at the Cafe Sabarsky, one of my favorite things to do on Friday morning.

The Berlin Boxing Club
Robert Sharenow
Harper Teen
404 Pages

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943 by Laurie Calkhoven

This is the third book in Laurie Calkhoven’s series Boys in Wartime, having previously published Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 and Daniel at the Siege of Boston, 1776.  I picked up Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943 one night simply because it was on the table by my side, I started to read and I didn’t put this book down until I finished it later that night.  That is how exciting and interesting this novel is.
It is 1943, and the Nazis have been occupying northern France since June 1940.  Life is hard, people are hungry and cold, but all supplies are sent by the Nazi occupiers back to the Germany.  So when his friend Jacques shows up on his fire escape one night holding the hand a little Jewish girl during a Nazi roundup of Jews in Paris, 13 year of Michael Durand begins to realize that Jacques in involved with the French Resistance and, indeed, Jacques manages to get the little girl and her brother to safety.  Now, Michael wants to join the Resistance, too.  
With the help of Jacques and his older brother, François, 16, Michael soon learns the ropes of resistance work.  Once he has proven himself capable and trustworthy, he is given the job of helping downed Allied pilots escape France.  And the fact the Michael is half American on his mother’s side and speaks English comes in very handy, at least with his Resistance work.  Not so with the Gestapo, who watch the Durand family after they are brought in for questioning about his father’s whereabouts.
Helping to bring downed Allied aviators to a safe house until they can get forged documents and make their way to Spain with a guide goes very well for Michael - that is, until the day things go wrong and he must make a decision that will put his mother and younger sister, Charlotte, in danger.
As a young protagonist, Michael is a bundle of emotions.  Even before the war, Michael knew that his father favored his older brother Georges, to the point where he basically ignored Michael.  And to make matters worse, Michael is also plagued with a guilty conscience, blaming himself that Georges, was arrested by the Gestapo when the Nazis swept into Paris in 1940, arresting French soldiers in the wake of France’s defeat.  Georges was sent to a German prison camp, and no one knows if he is now dead or alive.  Now, with Georges missing and his father having escaped to London and working with General Charles de Gaulle for Allied victory, Michael desperately wants to do something that will make his father proud of him. And, of course, Michael is angry that his beloved France is now in the hands of Nazis.  The French Resistance offers Michael a way to cope with these feelings while doing important work and, with the help of an Allied aviators from America, a way of learning about himself in the process.  
This is a thrilling, action packed story.  Since it is told from Michael’s point of view, the language is straightforward, and his narration makes some of the more complicated material of war and resistance very clear and understandable.  The text is supplemented with historical notes, including Children’s Roles in the French Resistance and on the real-life people who are mentioned at length in the book.  There is also an in-depth timeline of the events in World War II, a useful glossary of unfamiliar word and suggestions for further reading. Maps to help the reader understand some of the escape routes used by the Resistance to help Allied aviators escape France.
I like historical fiction in general, but when I learn something new in the process, I like it even more.  I always knew that aviators carried escape kits, but didn’t know what exactly they contained.  Well, now I do - photos for pasting into fake IDs, compasses and silk maps, pills to keep the awake and currency for each country they flew over, and, of course, chocolate bars (Hershey bars to be exact.)   
And though Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943, is part of a series called Boys in Wartime, kind of making it sound like a ‘boys book,’ I think it would have equal appeal to girls who like history and/or exciting novels.
Laurie Calkhoven has written a number of historical books for young readers, both fiction and non-fiction.  To learn more about Laurie and her books, be sure to visit her website. 
This book is recommended for readers age 8 to 12.
This book was an ARC provided by the publisher.
Michael at the invasion of France, 1943
Laurie Calkhoven
Dial Books for Young Readers
February 16, 2012
240 Pages

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

I have an oddly eclectic bunch of books in my mailbox this week.

From the library

The first Aftrican American armoured unit to see combat in WW II

A WW I book written by our newest National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

A novel about a Jewish boy who learns to box in Nazi Germany under the tutlage of Max Schmeling

Books I bought
A new coming of age story, orginally the author's dissertation 

Something old: I haven't read Rosamunde Pilcher since The Shell Seekers hit the charts 

Something older: I have been hunting an affordable, complete copy of this for a long time and finally found one

A new WW II Kindertranspot story for YA readers 
Just for Fun
Not sure what I will do with this, but it should be fun

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

At the end of The Brief History of Montmaray, the first book in the (thus far) trilogy about the FitzOsbornes, royal family of the Kingdom of Montmaray, they were running for their lives in the midst of a Luftwaffe attack.  Book 2, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, continues following these royals after their safe arrival in London as recorded by Sophia FitzOsborne in her journal. 

Now, it is 1937 and the FitzOsbornes have found refuge at Aunt Charlotte’s Milford Park estate in Dorset.  Sophie has been looking forward to making her debut in society, excited more by the elaborate parties and the beautiful gowns. Veronica, her beautiful cousin, couldn’t care less about making her debut and instead is focused on getting Montmaray away from the Germans, Henry, short for Henrietta and Sophie’s younger sister, is up to her usual tricks, even managing to acquire a pet pig named Estella. Toby, the future king of Montmaray, is more interested in Simon Chester than school or his monarchy, and Simon, son of housekeeper Rebecca Chester and the late King of Montmaray, has just been made Lord Chancellor in an attempt to appease his claim on the Montmaravian throne.  
Needless to say, this all makes for some interesting reading.  Oh yes, and wealthy Aunt Charlotte rules over the FitzOsbornes with an iron hand, doing her best to get Sophie, Toby, and Veronica married off to suitable partners, and away from ideas of returning to Montmaray, and getting Henry under control and more girlish.

Sophie continues to journal about the everyday things in the lives of the FitzOsbornes, providing a window into 1930s English upper class society and politics.  And Sophie is the ideal chronicler of all that goes on around her.  She is shy and quiet around people, becoming the girl no one notices, but also the girl who takes in everything she observes and uses it for, as Simon Chester learns, rather Machiavellian purposes.  

Of course, with the world on the brink of war, politics is everywhere in The FitzOsbornes in Exile. with lots of mentions of real-life characters like Unity Mitford, the Mitford sister who likes wearing her Swastika badge everywhere, British Fascist Sir Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts, and Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, Sophie’s new friend and daughter of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy.  And if these are unfamiliar names, don’t worry.  Cooper makes it all very clear and intelligible for readers who might not be so familiar with this time period.  And you would think that the assassination attempt on Veronica for her strong anti-Fascist opinions, a target of the Fascist movement in Britain, but, well, I’ll leave the crazed assassination bit for you to discover yourself.

Of course, there is also plenty of humor.  My favorite bit being when Henry and her Girl Guide patrol of evacuated Basque girls are invited to Buckingham Palace for tea, along with several other Guide patrols.  Things quickly go downhill for Henry when she graphically explains to Princess Elizabeth how the Germans could annihilate London should war be declared, much to the horror of many of the Guides present and Queen of England herself.  After all, England was maintaining a policy of appeasement and the delusion that they were still friends with Germany.  In fact, England’s early refusal to take Germany seriously is demonstrated throughout The FitzOsbornes in Exile.

Australian Edition
All in all, The FitzOsbornes in Exile a very worthy sequel to The Brief History of Montmaray, though somewhat more of a historical novel than the first book.  It is still witty and fun, and there is plenty of action and adventure to satisfy.  The book covers pre-war Britain, beginning in January 1937 and continuing through August 1939, less than two weeks before war is declared.  But, do not be despaired wondering if the FitzOsbornes will ever get their island kingdom back - there is a third book, aptly names The FitzOsbornes at War.  It is being released in Australia and New Zealand in April 2012, lucky ducks, and in England and North America in October 2012.  Umm..I wonder how much the postage from Australia to the US is?  Tempting!  

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

For more information on the FitzOsbornes books, including the forthcoming The FitzOsbornes at War (you can read an excerpt there) please visit Michelle Cooper’s website.

The FitzOsbornes in Exile received the following well deserved honors:

Listed in the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults by YALSA, a division of the American Library Association.
Named in the 2012 Rainbow Books list of 'quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content', compiled each year by the American Library Association.
Named one of the Best Teen Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews.
Shortlisted for the 2011 Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature (NSW Premier's Literary Awards)
Longlisted for the 2011 Gold Inky Teenage Choice Award
Notable Book for Older Readers in the 2011 Children's Book Council of Australia awards
Shortlisted for the 2010 Western Australian Premier's Young Adult Book Award

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour: Interview with Ron Mazellan, Illustrator

I am very excited to welcome Ron Mazellan to The Children’s War as part of the second stop of the Sydney Taylor Award blog tour.

Ron is the winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Older Readers category for his illustrations in Marcia Vaughan’s Irena’s Jars of Secrets, the story of Irena Sendler, a young woman who managed to smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and certain death during the Holocaust (see my review here.)

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to “outstanding books for children and teen that authentically portray the Jewish experience.”  Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) since 1968, the Award “encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature.”
Ron, congratulations on winning the 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Award.  It must be a great honor to win an award for your work.  I was wondering if you would share some personal history about yourself with us? Have you
always wanted to be an illustrator? And how did you get started
Ever since I was a child I loved to draw. I knew even then I desired to
create for a living, I just didn’t know what to call it.  Eventually, the life of
an illustrator took hold of me and since 1982 I have been practicing my
Professionally,my career began following graduation from Wheaton College. Naively, I
moved to California and began my search for a career in Southern California.
I began as a layout artist with the Yellow Pages and then moving on to The
Disneyland Hotel as a graphic designer
I thought the the illustrations in Irena’s Jars of Secrets are so reflective of the what was happening to the Polish Jews.  On the one hand, they capture the feelings of fear and of secrecy that shrouded the lives of the families giving up their children, of the children themselves and of Irena Sendler.  On the other hand, there is still a feeling of hope.  Perhaps you would share a little about your creative process, for instance, how do you prepare for illustrating a book such as Irena’s Jars of Secrets?
My preparation includes personal reading regarding Irena, the time period
described and research regarding World War II and the Holocaust.  Also
included are hundreds of drawing studies regarding composition, design,
conceptual ideas, clothing, uniforms, hairstyles all of which contribute to
the narrative.
I proceed first with absorbing the manuscript.  I then move into making
small compositional studies, followed by more research, which then triggers something
to inspire the content of my paintings.

Once the idea is generated, a larger slightly refined drawing is made and
submitted for approval.  If approved, a much more refined drawing is made and
resubmitted.  Once again if the drawings are approved, I then think
through a color palette which will describe the emotion of the text and
painting through a layered process in oils. 
Perhaps you could tell us what you find to be the most challenging
aspects about your work? The most rewarding?
The most challenging aspects of my work is the excellence I demand of
myself, and the conflict of embracing what is possible for a painting it in
the midst of an advancing deadline.
The most rewarding aspect of my work is the pure joy of doing what you
I know that you have previously illustrated two other books about World
War II and the Holocaust - The Harmonica by Tony Johnston and There Come a
Soldier by Peggy Mercer. Can you tell us what interested you in illustrating
Marcia Vaughan’s book Irena’s Jars of Secrets?
I was excited about illustrating this book based on the three objectives:
subject matter, manuscript and cultural impact.  But what intrigued me most
was the truthful description of a telling narrative, which surrounds the
life of Irena Sendler.  Her life is an inspiration me.  Irena’s actions describe
what is possible when someone chooses to act for good on behalf of another.
She models multiple selfless acts of kindness and courage towards those who
had no hope of survival.

Could you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
I am working on my own project called Dream Once, Dream Again.  The primary
intent is to encourage 8-15 year old students to dream big, but dream beyond
one dream.  It is my hope to create a thought-provoking book using written
and visual narrative to motivate young student athletes who aspire to dream
against the odds. 
The broader initiative is to honor players/coaches who continue to beat the
odds beyond football.  The selected men will be those who strive to create
positive impact and make extraordinary contributions to culture outside
The book will use the metaphor of professional football and training camp in
particular to communicate the concept of adjusting vision and dreams into
new and unexplored possibilities highlighting a select group of men of
Thank you, Ron, for giving us some insider information about life of such a creative artist.  I am sure everyone is looking forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
There are so many more interesting authors and illustrators on the Sydney Taylor Award blog tour and I hope you will visit all of them this week.  The schedule can be found at 
the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted by Capstone Connect