Friday, March 30, 2012

Ole! Bloggiesta is Here!

I am so glad Bloggiesta has come round again.  I kept putting off some needed housekeeping tasks, telling myself I would do it during Bloggiesta.  Well, now it is here so here are my 2012 goals:
1- Add a Favicon This may or may not show up one of these days.
2- Fix my grab button
3- Revisit Polices and About Me page
4- Clean up Google Reader and RSS feed
5- Learn how to use Pinterest more effectively with a Mini-Challenge hosted by Joy’s Book Blog 
6- Clean up labels with a Mini-Challenge hosted by BethFishReads 
7- Set up a rating system with the how-to as part of the Mini-Challenge hosted by The Bluestocking Society 
8- Make some pages with a Mini-Challenge hosted by Charlotte’s Library
9- Fix up my Facebook page as part of a Mini-Challenge hosted by Sockets and Lightbulbs
And last but not least, remember to
    Make new friends,
    Keep the old,
    One is silver,
    The other is gold.
A big Thank You to all the kind people hosting the various new Bloggiesta Mini-Challenges, all of which you can find at It's All About Books 
and, of course, flashback Bloggiesta challenges can be found at There's a Book

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday #6 - Top Ten Books I Would Play Hooky With

It's Top 10 Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is
Top Ten Books I Would Play Hooky With

And here are my choices:

1- All the Peter Whimsey books by Dorothy Sayers, because I just love Lord Peter and with him comes Bunter - what adventures. 

2- Ulysses by James Joyce, because I would love to walk around Dublin for a day with Leopold Bloom again.

3- The Chalet School series by Elinor Brent-Dyer because I never went to boarding school and The Chalet School sounds like so much fun, not like school work at all.

4- The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett- Nick and Nora Charles, what a great couple to hang around with drinking martinis.

5- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, because I would like to time travel back to England in the twenties.

6- The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling because I am basically a realist, so Harry takes me away from that for a while.

7- Midnight’s Children by Salmon Rushdie because if Harry is magical, this book is pure magical realism.

8- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because I totally understand the whys of the need to read.

9- Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk because reading this book under my desk saved me from a horrible seventh grade year.

10- Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery because my mom gave it to me when I was very sick in fourth grade and I just love it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

All the Children Were Sent Away by Sheila Garrigue

It is the summer of 1940 and the war has finally found its way to the home front.  Air raids in London are becoming more and more frequent and bombs are beginning to fall.  And so when her uncle in Vancouver, BC writes to her parents in London and suggests that they send 9 year old daughter Sara Warren to Canada for the duration, they also think this would be a good idea.
They decide to place Sara in the care of Lady Drume, who is making the same trip for war related reasons. Sara has some reservations about meeting Lady Drume, but her mother reassures that it will be fine, though she does admit that Lady Drume is a funny old thing.
And that turns out to be an understatement.  Lady Drume immediately begins to order Sara around, before Mrs. Warren has even said good-bye, and once on the ship, she demands “implicit  obedience” from Sara.  This means staying in their cabin and never wandering around the ship alone.  But when the friendly old sailor Wilfrid Horace Mickleby a/k/a/ Sparky invites up on deck to watch the ship weigh anchor, Sara commits her first infraction of Lady Drume many rules. 
Luckily, Sara sits next to the friendly ship doctor for meals, who later takes her to the lounge to meet the other children being evacuated from the East End of London, including siblings Ernie and Maggie.  Sara immediately likes them, but Lady Drume tells her she may not hang out with “guttersnipes” while under her care.
Lady Drume is, to say the least, a dictatorial snob.  Not only does Lady Drume avoid all the other people on the ship except the Captain, she refuses to attend the lifeboat drills should the ship be attacked and decides that she doesn’t need to wear her life jacket even though it is mandatory.  
When the ship is attacked and sustains damage, it is "guttersnipe" Ernie who leads Lady Drume and Sara to safety.  Sara hopes that now maybe things will change.    
Yet, nothing really changes.  The day after the attack, Sara is told to fetch a book for Lady Drume, and she decides to bring an apple to the doctor on her way.  Sara gets delayed helping out in sick bay, and once again, finds herself in trouble.  Lady Drume had focused on Sara’s hair from the beginning.  Sara had been desperately trying to grow her fine limp hair so she could wear braids like all the other girls she knew.  In a rage over forgetting her book,  Lady Drume commits the unthinkable, Sara doesn’t think she will ever be able to forgive her.  But Lady Drume isn’t done with Sara yet and there is still so much traveling time left.
Sheila Garrigue was evacuated to Canada at 7 years old, and it is clear much of her shipboard experience in the U-boat infested Atlantic Ocean during the war made its way into this novel.  This was a somewhat unique adventure since overseas evacuations didn’t last long when ships, like the one here, were hit by torpedoes and sunk, killing some of the evacuees.  
This novel is not really wonderful, though.  The characters fall a little short of being authentic, and often feel very stereotypical.  Lady Drume’s refusal to acknowledge the war and its dangers seemed odd given that she was going to Canada to organize a war relief drive and than back to England because “my country needs me.”  Sara, for all she didn’t like Lady Drume, continued to inadvertently get into trouble and then allowed herself to become a timid victim.  Neither character ever seems to learn how to operate in the situation in which she finds herself.    
Oh, and as for the end of the story - let’s just say not very likely!
This book is recommended for readers age 10 and up.
This book was purchased for my personal library.
For more information on the Overseas Evacuation of Children, see visit The Second World War Experience Centre 

All the Children Were Sent Away
Sheila Garrigue
170 Pages

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Greater than Angels by Carol Matas

Though the story is fiction, this novel is based on a true story of the French village that hid the many Jewish children from the Nazis and helped to save their lives. 
When the Nazis rounded up Anna Hirsch, 15, her mother, her Aunt Mina and her elderly Oma (Grandma) one night in October 1940, they feared they would be sent from their home in Mannheim, Germany to Dachau. But, instead, they were put on a train to Gurs in Vichy, France and put in a refugee camp there. 
Conditions at the camp were deplorable. No bathrooms, sleeping on straw, always cold and hungry, sadly, it doesn’t take long for Oma to succumb to it all. But, at least, Anna’s friend Klara was there, too. 
Almost a year after arriving at Gurs, Anna and Klara are given the opportunity to live in a children’s home run by the Swiss Red Cross in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon along with Klara’s brother Rudi and others, their mothers do not hesitate a moment about sending them, even though they know they will probably never see each other again. 
At Le Chambon, the refugees are allowed to attend school and live a relatively normal life. They are even allowed to send and receive letter from family at Gurs and Anna even gets permission to return there to see her mother at one point. But as the war continues and things start to go badly for the Nazis, word comes to Le Chambon that the camp residents have all been deported east. 
Eventually, conditions in Le Chambon become dangerous for the Jewish children. Anna and Klara find themselves on the run from the Gestapo who are looking for them, but they always manage to find a place to hid with the French residents, but they know that they can’t continue to run and a permanent solutions needs to be found or they will be arrested. 
Anna and Klara are fictional characters, but they could have been any one of the over 3,000-3,500 Jews who were hidden and saved by local French residents of Le Chambon under the guidance of André Trocmé, a Huguenot pastor and pacifist. 
Matas has written an interesting, realistic novel based on true events. Greater than Angles is a short, but powerful novel, at times filled with nail-biting tension  Yet, it is an extraordinary novel about courageous people - both the French who also risked possible death for sheltering the young Jews from increasing the danger of the Nazis and the young Jews themselves, whose will to survive is admirable, even in the face of unspeakable conditions and loss.  
On a personal note, I particularly liked the many references to Berthold Brecht's The Threepennny Opera - an old favorite.
This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up.
This book was purchased for my personal library.
If you would like to read more about the Jewish children who survived in Le Chambon-sur-Chambon, please visit The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to read their excellent article.
Some of the actual young survivors of Le Chambon
Greater than Angels 

Carol Matas
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
177 Pages


I seem to have hit the Remove Formatting button by mistake and so if you see Greater than Angels in Goodle Reader and click on it you won't find the post here.  That is because it is somewhere in cyberspace and will return as soon as I can do it.  Thanks for patience and if you know why I can't undo Remove Formatting (Blogger won't let me) I would appreciate your suggestions.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Paradise Barn by Victor Watson

It is September 1940 and the Blitz has begun in full swing.  More children are again being evacuated from London, including Adam Swales.  But when Adam decides to get off the train at Great Deeping instead of his original destination, he finds himself living at  the Ely Guesthouse, in the company of best friends Mollie Barnes, whose mother runs the guesthouse, and Abigail Murfitt, her neighbor.
Around the same time Adam arrives at the Ely Guesthouse, so do two more guests - the very kind, friendly Cuffey, an older engineer working for the government, and Hilda Pritt, a young but loud obnoxious pilot with the ATA (AirTransport Auxiliary) ferrying planes around England.
Mollie and Abigail have been involved with trying to solve two seemingly unrelated mysteries.  The first is the murder of a mysterious man found shot on the public footpath , the second mystery is the theft of various items belonging to some of the residents of Great Deeping.  One night, Mollie suddenly realizes that the bricks in the floor of their hangout, Paradise Barn, have been changed, and things begin to  heat up.  And when the kids dig up the bricks, they discover the stolen items along with a painting missing from a museum in Paris, tying the murdered man to it since he is finally identified as a French art dealer as well as the local thefts. 
Ironically, Adam is quite an accomplished artist himself and recognizes the painting from an art book he left in London.  He and Mollie go there to fetch the books one afternoon and get caught in a Blitz raid during which Adam’s house is totally destroyed.  
Back in Great Deeping, the three children set about seriously looking for the thief/killer.  They suspect everyone, including Hilda, after they see an American pilot friend of hers nosing around Paradise Barn, and, after all, she does carry a gun in her purse.
But can three young people solve a crime that is even baffling the police?  Well, never underestimate the cleverness of children.
Along the way to solving the crime, Watson has written not just a nice mystery for middle grade readers, but he also provides an excellent look at the experiences of war in both London and a small village in East Anglia as it impacts three friends with very different personalities, living under different circumstances.  It also has nice depictions of woman who have had to do their bit for the war by taking on the jobs formerly held by men - running a guesthouse, ferrying plane and working for the railroad.  This is nothing something included in kid’s books very often.  
The story involves a moral dilemma for Mollie, which some readers may find disturbing, but which certainly opens up all kinds of questions about right and wrong and how to handle a situation with requires not so much a lie as a withholding of information.  And to be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this being placed on the shoulders of a young girl.
Paradise Barn is a story about starting to come of age, as the characters experience loss, grief, betrayal, and learning the not everyone is who they seems to be.  Mollie, in particular, also must learn to accept the knowledge that each one of us is capable of both good and evil.  A hard lesson at a young age.  
Victor Watson, now retired from Homerton College, Cambridge, England has been an academic his whole career until publishing this first novel.  He has done an wonderful job of it, writing with a certain amount of lightness about some heavy themes, so that young readers will never feel overwhelmed.  And, most important, never sounding like an academic.  And, now, a sequel is also available, The Deeping Secret, which continues the story of the three friends and, I assume, their coming of age journey.
This book is recommended for readers age 10 and up
This book was purchased for my personal library

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Cooking #17: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Rainbow Girl Clover image

Today is the day everyone is Irish.  Here, in NYC, this is celebrated in a big way with a huge parade up Fifth Avenue.  This year marks the 251st St. Patrick’s Day Parade.   It began back on March 17, 1762, when a group of Irish immigrants decided to get together on lower Broadway and celebrate being Irish.  Being Irish in Ireland was forbidden at the time, but here they could speak Irish, dance Irish play the Irish pipes and just revel in their Irish pride and ‘the wearing of the green.’  
Unlike the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was cancelled during World War II, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held every year, with varying numbers of marchers and viewers, but always honoring the members of the armed forces.  
Now, I have always like a nice Corned Beef and Cabbage meal, with boiled potatoes and some home baked Irish Soda Bread on St. Patrick’s Day.  But I was curious about what people could eat given wartime rationing to celebrate this holiday, so I looked up some of the recommended recipes from the New York Times.
Nothing was very St. Patrick’s Dayish:

In 1942, Mock Goose 
In 1943, Ox Joints with Vegetables
In 1944, Scalloped Eggplant
In 1945, Bologna Stuffed with Cabbage
But I thought for sure there would be come kind of Irish treat once the war was over, so I looked up 1946 and found Vegetable Loaf.
I am learning to appreciate the hardships of wartime rationing more and more as I write Weekend Cooking posts, but since I am a traditionalist at heart, I am including a recipe for Irish Soda Bread that was given to me by a neighbor who had brought it with her from the Emerald Isle.  I have made it lots of times and it is delicious.
Irish Soda Bread
4 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 lb butter
1 egg 
2 cups of milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 tbsp caraway seeds
2 cups raisins
1- Beat the egg, milk and vanilla together
2- By hand, blend the butter and flour together
3- By hand, mix together with remaining ingredients except the raisins
4- Now mix in the raisins, also by hand
Put into a well greased dutch oven 
Bake at 400℉ for 20 minutes
After 20 minutes, add a pan of boiling water to the bottom of the oven
10 minutes later lower oven to 350℉
Continue baking for 40 minutes or until knife come out dry when inserted in the middle of the bread.
For something really grand, serve this hot with a lovely cup of tea.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Defiance (Resistance Book 2) by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

Defiance is the second book in the Resistance trilogy by writer Carla Jablonski and artist Leland Purvis.  It begins in 1943, a year after Book 1 ends.   Tensions are now higher and supplies are lower.  To make matter worse, the Germans have formed a paramilitary group of Frenchmen called the Milice to do their dirty work, as well as instituting a policy of sending young French men and women to labor camps in Germany to help in their war effort. Paul Tessier, his older sister Sylvie and younger sister Marie are still working underground with the French Resistance.
Paul is still posting his anti-Nazi pictures around the village, but now he is also directing his skills towards the Milice.  And he is getting impatient with the resistance movement using propaganda instead of weapons, on orders from Charles DeGaulle in London.  
One day, after making a propaganda delivery, Paul finds the house empty, and his mother in their winery cellar demanding more wine to convert into fuel.and pouring heating oil into the ancient casks used to age the wine, and ruining them, infuriating Paul even more.
Paul’s older sister Sylvie is asked by her boyfriend Jacques to cozy up to the Germans to try to get information for the resistance.  But Sylvie storms off because she feels she is being used.  Jacques tells Paul about the Marquis, resistance workers who are hiding out in the woods, and that he wanted Sylvie to find out how much the Germans know about Marquis.  
Jacques is sent to Germany for labor service, but when she finds out he escaped and is hiding out with the Marquis, Sylvie changes her mind about helping the resistance by gathering intelligence through flirting.  
Paul finally is seen hanging up one of his anti-Nazi posters and realizes he, too, must go into hiding.  But will he be able to find the Marquis and even if he does, will they allow his to become one of them?
Once again the combination of Jablonski, Leland and Sycamore have produced an excellent graphic novel about events effecting the French in World War II.  I have read some criticism of this second book in the Resistance trilogy that it does not stand alone.   Yet, if you read the brief description at the beginning of the story and the Author’s Note at the end, Defiance can easily be read as a stand alone novel, though, of course, it is better if read after reading Book 1, Resistance.
Another criticism is that the artwork depicting the female characters is confusing.  I also thought this when I read Resistance, however, after a few pages I realized there is an each way to tell everyone apart.  Each character wears the same color throughout.  So - Paul wears a blue shirt, little sister Marie wears pink and though Sylvie and Aunt Celia both wear green, they are easy to tell apart.
The only thing that mars this otherwise excellent graphic novel is a lack of explanation about who Marshall Petain and General DeGaulle are and the role they played for France in World War II.  On the other hand, if you are using this as a text in a class, it is definitely a teachable opportunity.  Otherwise, Defiance is a exciting, informative novel based on real events in France while it was under Nazi occupation.  
Book 3, Victory, will be available on July 17, 2012 and I am really looking forward to reading it.
This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL
Carla Jablonksi, author
Leland Purvis, illustrator
Hilary Sycamore, colorist

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Funnies #6: Comics for Defense

One of the ways that the government financed World War II was by selling war bonds.  Beginning in December 1942, a series of eight war bond drives began, the last one held in December 1945.  Advertising for the sale of war bonds was donated and, when it was all over, more than $156 billion was raised in the 8 bonds drives held, despite the fact that money was so tight for the average citizen.  
To encourage already strapped people to buy war bonds, the government employed all kinds of publicity.  Movie stars, radio stars, singing stars and sports stars were all enlisted to help, often appearing at massive rallies or sporting events during bond drives.

Left: a bond drive on Wall Street
Center: 1943 three day Cavalcade of Stars bond drive
(how many stars do you recognize?)
Right: 1943 Brooklyn Dogers war bond honor card

Kids were also encouraged to do their bit for the war and to buy bonds at school.  But how do you get kids to part with their hard won nickels and dimes?  One way was by having some of their favorite comic book/scomic strip characters sound the appeal.  And these characters all got into the swing of it, as you can see here:

Batman, Superman and a host of other superheroes, as well as
Willie and Joe by Bill Mauldin, a particular favorite comic strip
during the war

Jane Arden was a reporter like Lois Lane and Brenda Star
who was involved in the war from the very beginning
Even Santa was enlisted to sell war bonds to children:

Coming Attractions: Walt Disney and friends.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines

Veteran mystery writer Kathryn Miller Haines has penned her first YA mystery and like her adult mysteries, it is set in New York City during World War II.  And though it is war time, the war seems to play the part of another character.  The story isn’t war related, but the action couldn’t happen if there wasn’t a war happening. 

It is the first day at her new school for 15 year old Iris Anderson and she is understandably nervous.  A former student at the post Upper East Side private girls’ school, Chapin, she is about to begin public school on the Lower East Side. 
Just before her Pop came home from the war, having lost a leg at Pearl Harbor, her mother had inexplicably committed suicide.  Now, out of money, Iris and her dad have moved into a cheaper place downtown, where he has resumed the detective business. 
At school, the first person Iris meets is Suze, a tough girl smoking in the girls‘ room with her friends.  But Iris and Suze actually manage to bond - Suze has a boyfriend in the army and Iris lies about her dad being home.  She also meet Tom Barney, good looking guy who helps her find her class.  
At home, Iris overhears a client telling her father he is dissatisfied with proving his wife’s unfaithfulness.  Iris decides to help out, manages to get photos of the cheating wife, but her father gets angry instead of appreciating her efforts.  He wants her to stay out of his business because she doesn’t know or understand how to properly detect.
But when Tom Barney goes missing, and Iris has capitalizes of her bond with Suze to get in good with Tom’s friends, she find she can’t stay out of her father’s business, especially when she learns there is a connection between Tom and her best friend from Chapin, the very well to do Grace Dunwitty.
Kathryn Miller Haines has created a realistic historical fiction novel and a good mystery, though in this first book od a series the mystery falls a little flat.  But that is ok, because the real purpose of this novel is to introduce and familiarize the reader with Iris, her family, her friends, and her environment and Haines has done an excellent job at recreating 1942 New York.
And Iris is an interesting character.  Once a happy, carefree girl who had whatever she wanted, she is now forced to become more ‘street smart‘ with her change of circumstances and, yes, she has taken up lieing to her father.  Haines does a good job of making this change seem plausible.  It doesn’t just happen, Iris makes all kinds of mistakes right from the start because she is impulsive and doesn’t always think things through very well.  But she learns from her mistakes.  Originally, I didn't care much for Iris, but she grew on me and I ended up finding her a very likable character.  
Zoot Suit Dancer
I even liked the Rainbows, even though they were supposed to be the school badies - teens who cut classes, went dancing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, and even smoke a lot and drink not so much. The girls dress suggestively. the boys go dancing in Zoot Suits.  Haines includes a disturbing but realistic episode about the Zoot Suits, which were considered very unpatriotic because the large amount of material used to make them should have gone to the war effort.  And there are other realistic touches throughout the book, adding to its appeal.  When I was in high school in NYC, there were groups just like the Rainbows, even that many years later.

The story is fast paced, full of 1940s slang and so New Yorkish, I kept wanting an egg cream while I read it.  Haines brings up and deals with issues around race, class and touches on religion, all very much a part of the time.  
This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up.
This book was purchased for my personal library.

This trailer is great:

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve

For a short time between December 2,1938 and September 1, 1939, trainloads of Jewish children under the age of 17 were sent from Germany to Great Britain for safety.  Altogether, almost 10,000 children and teens made the trip.  My Family for the War is a novel about how the Kindertransport changed the life of one child.

Frnaziska Mangold,10, thought of herself as a Protestant girl living a comfortable life in Berlin. Her family, originally Jewish, had converted generations ago, and though she considered herself to be Christian, now the Nazis don’t.  Marked as a Jew, life has become precarious for her and her best friend Bekka Liebich.  They have even mapped out as many hiding places as they could find in their Berlin neighborhood, just in case they needed to escape from some Nazi bullies.  
When a sponsorship to come to America fell through for the Liebich family, Bekka is registered for the Kindertransport, and at the last minute, so is Ziska.  But only Ziska is chosen.  Just before she leaves for Britain, her mother gives her the cross she had received years ago at her confirmation to remember her by.  Ziska promises never to take it off until they are together again.
It takes a while in Britain before Ziska finally finds a place in a family.  The Shepards, Matthew, Amanda and the teenage son Gary are orthodox Jews, so when Amanda sees Ziska’s cross, she doesn’t really want her to stay with them.  But it is Gary who decides he wants her as a sister, and Anglicizes her name to Frances.  
Life eventually settles down for Frances, and becomes even better as she begins to learn English.  But it is not without its troubles, too.  First, Frances has to contend with the guilt she feels about being chosen to go to Britain and leaving Bekka behind.  
Later, remembering her promise to try to find a way to get her family sponsored to come to England, Frances starts sneaking off to the Cafe Vienna, a expat hangout for Germans and Austrians.  She never finds help there, but she does meet Professor Schueler, who becomes a good friend to her.  Frances had been told about the Cafe Vienna while crossing the English Channel to Britain by a boy named Walter Glücklich, who, with his father, also becomes good friends.  
As the war begins in earnest, and things go from bad to worse, Ziska must struggle to grow up and survive the war at the same time. An the surrogate family she has surrounded herself with as the war intensifies help her do this?   
For the most part, I found My Family for the War to be a very interesting novel, though I had a few problems with it.  There is a long bit about Ziska mistaking the Mezuzah hanging on the door frames in the Shepard house for the mailbox, which seemed somewhat forced to me, given that a Mezuzah is only about 2 inches long as a rule.  I was also disturbed by a feeling that Ziska’s real family receded into the background too quickly, and too easily replaced by the Shepards.
On the other hand, this novel is a real coming of age story, showing Ziska/Frances‘ transition from childhood to young adulthood, but it is more than that.  Condemned for being a Jew in Germany, she discovers this part of herself living with the Shepards, proudly learning what being a Jew really is about.
To her credit, however, Voorhoeve has provided the reader with a perspective of the Kindertransport program that is rarely written about for young readers.  Though not everything is easy for Ziska/Frances from the beginning, the point is made that she has a better life with her foster family than many of the other Kindertransport children have, case in point is her friend Walter Glücklich.
This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up.
This book is an ARC received from the publisher
Read an excerpt of My Family for the War here.

More information on the Kindertransport program can be found at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

and at The Kindertransport Association
My Family for the War (originally Liverpool Street)
Anne C. Voorhoeve
Trans. Tammi Reichel
Dial Books for Young Readers
412 Pages