Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019: America's Welcome Home by Henry Van Dyke


"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and
bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."
Douglas MacArthur

America At War: Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins,
illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008, 96 pages

Today is Veterans Day, a day to honor the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. This year, I would like to share a poem called "America's Welcome Home" by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), an American poet, educator, and Presbyterian minister. I found this poem in an anthology for young readers called America At War, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (1938-2019). I chose this poem because Veterans Day, as you may know, was originally called Armistice Day. The poem was written at the end of World War I, with the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918 and calling for a ceasefire beginning at 11 o'clock in the morning.



In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

It's not often enough that I get to read and report on books written about Mexicans and/or Mexican Americans in WWI and WWII, but it's not for a lack of heroes, rather it is for a lack of books written about them for kids and teens. So I was really happy to see that Duncan Tonatiuh, one of my favorite Mexican American writers, has written a wonderful new picture book for older readers that is a such an important contribution to the history of Mexican Americans in this country.

Despite being born in the United States, José de la Sáenz and other people of Mexican origin (Tejanos) living in Texas were often harassed and mistreated. They were people who did as much and sometimes more work than the white Texans, but were still treated like second-class citizens. They were prohibited from entering business with signs reading NO MEXICANS ALLOWED, and children were sent to schools that were segregated, small, cramped and ill-equipped. José was proud of his Latinx roots and worked hard, graduating college and becoming a teacher.
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When the United States entered WWI in 1917, José and other Mexican American men did not hesitate to enlist to defend their country, a country they loved. José was sent to boot camp in Oklahoma, where he and others were still mistreated by their white officers. These were the soldiers who formed the 360th Regiment of the 90the Division of the US Army.

Finally, in June 1918, José and the other soldier left for the war in Europe, arriving in France shortly after. There, José began to study French, relatively easy for him given the similarities it has with Spanish. Because of his quick language skills, José worked in communications in a protected command post instead of fighting in the trenches. In fact, the war ended just before he was finally sent to fight in a attack that José knew would mean the death of thousands of American soldiers.
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Back in the States, José began to organize the Mexican American soldiers of the 360th to socialize and talk about their experiences. That led to an idea to form organization that would fight for the rights of all Tejanos. But back home in Texas, José noticed nothing had changed. It was time for José and all Mexican American veterans together with other Tejano other civil rights leaders time to organize.  Finally, in 1929, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was formed. José remained a member of LULAC, fighting to end racism, prejudice and school segregation, and for equality and justice for all Latinx.

The life and work of José de la Sáenz is certainly inspiring and, might I add, timely. As usual, Tonatiuh has really done some careful research on his subject, using the diaries that José kept over his lifetime to the best advantage in this new work. To give it a feeling of authenticity, simple Spanish phrases like No es justo are included throughout the book, but require no previous knowledge of Spanish, since like French, there is enough Latin in English to understand them. But, because Tonatiuh is a thorough writer, there is a Glossary included in the back matter. Also included in the back matter are references to the quotes and paraphrases from José's diaries that are used in the text, an important Author's Note, a Timeline of WWI and José's involvement, as well as a Timeline of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and a Select Bibliography.

Tonatiuh's flat, geometic hand drawn illustrations are done in a palette of dark earth-tones, then digitally collaged, and are done in the same style as his other books. This style is based on the Pre-Columbian 15th century art of the Mixtecs, an indigenous group from Southern Mexico, and Tonatiuh has been using it ever since to foster a sense of pride in Mexican culture for his readers.

This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in WWI and/or Latinx history and I highly recommend it. It would be an especially nice book to share with students for Veterans Day which is coming up on November 11, 2019.

You might want to pair this with other Mexican wartime heroes found in The School the Aztec Eagles Built: A Tribute to Mexico's World War II Air Fighters by Dorinda Makanaõnalani

You can find out more about Duncan Tonatiuh and his art on his website HERE

You can read an article with more information on José de la Sáenz and the 360th Regiment in France HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Infinite Hope: A Black Artists' Journey from World War II to Peace, an Autobiography by Ashley Bryan

Infinite Hope: A Black Artists' Journey from World War II to Peace,
an Autobiography by Ashley Bryan
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019, 112 pages

I've always been such an admirer of Ashley Bryan's work for young readers, so I was really interested when I heard he had written a book about his World War II experiences. Born and raised in Bronx,  New York, Ashley was a 19-year-old art student at the prestigious art college Cooper Union in Manhattan when, in 1943, he received his draft notice. The United States had already been at war since December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii so he had been expecting to be drafted.


Though he had experienced prejudice growing up, the Army was the first time Ashley had ever experienced overt segregation and it began right at the start of his military career. He was quickly assigned to the 502nd Port Battalion, Company C and made up of only Black soldiers, where he became a winch operator. Stationed in Boston, his job was to load and unload supplies of all kinds on or off ships. In Boston, Ashley makes friends with some of the local kids, drawing with them and sharing cokes.

After a few months, the 502nd was sent to Glasgow, Scotland, where Ashley continued working as a stevedore loading and unloading supply ships. And the Scottish people, Ashley notes, welcomed the Black soldiers warmly and treated them like equals despite the Army's continued attempts to enforce their segregation policy by working the stevedores such long hours, making them too tired to venture out and socialize with the welcoming Scots. However, Ashley's battalion commander, Colonel James Pierce had a real appreciation for the arts, and gave Ashley permission able to attend the Glasgow School of Art. Not only that, but Colonel Pierce also created the 502nd Port Battalion band after noticing the many gifted musicians among the stevedores.

Ashley's time in Glasgow came to an end too quickly for him, and on June 2, 1944, the 502nd Port Battalion found themselves heading for the coast of Normandy and the invasion they had spent so much time preparing for.


Ashley's ship was anchored off the Normandy coast, at Omaha Beach where, beside loading and unloading ships, his battalion was to invade and clear the beach of land mines, a dangerous job give to the Black soldiers, many of whom lost their lives when mines exploded. Then they were ordered to dig foxholes where they would sleep and could take cover from enemy fire, and also to send up huge barrage balloons to make it difficult for the German Luftwaffe to attack for above.


All the while, Ashley carried paper and drawing materials with him, recording all that he witnessed. And yet, all of those drawings were carefully put away for most of Ashley's live, because, like many soldiers, he simply did not want to speak about or be reminded of his wartime experiences: "In a sense, I hid those drawings away just as I hid my experiences from those three years." (pg. 97) And it has taken for Ashley almost a lifetime to be able to finally confront his wartime experiences.

Using spare prose, and told in the first person as though he is speaking directly to you, Ashley allows his words, his illustrations and his letters to tell his story, together with photographs of the time that he's overlaid with sketches. And he manages to give readers an intimate view of what WWII was like for him and other black soldiers, to capture all the horrors of war, and the racism and injustice he and his fellow blacks soldiers were subjected to, always given the lowest, the meanest, often the most dangerous jobs to do, but also he records acts of camaraderie, kindnesses and genuine friendship.

I've gone over this book again and again, captivated by all of the boldly painted illustrations made from his sketches. It is easy to see how art helped him through those terrible years: "What gave me faith and direction was my art. In my knapsack, in my gas mask, I kept paper, pens, and pencils." (pg. 60) These sketches and illustrations are now a treasure trove of information to add to the history of African Americans in this country, and the history of WWII in general.

You can also hear Ashley Bryan speak about his WWII exhibit and his experience as a stevedore during the Battle of Normandy HERE

Pair this book with Courage Has No Color: the True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone, where you will also find some of Ashley Bryan's wartime sketches.

Infinite Hope is an autobiography not to be missed.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Allies by Alan Gratz

Beginning just before dawn on June 6th, 1944 and ending close to midnight on the same day, Gratz weaves together six unrelated perspectives that bring the D-Day landings to life in all its chaotic, grim reality.

Private Dee Carpenter is a 16-year-old who lied about his age to get into the Army, but since they needed soldiers, the Army looked the other way. Dee and Sid Jacobstein became friends right from the start in boot camp. But Dee wonders what Sid, a Jewish American, would think if he found out Dee's truth.

Samira Zidane, 11, and  her mother Kenza are French Algerians working in the French Resistance. Six hours before the invasion begins, mother and daughter are on their way to deliver an important message about the invasion to the Resistance when Kenza is arrested and taken into custody by the Nazis. Samira delivers the message, and is determined to find and help her mother escape her captors.

James McKay, 19 and Sam Tremblay, a Cree Indian, are in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and about to jump into the midst of the invasion. James decided to join the army after his home town of Winnipeg staged a mock Nazi invasion. Now, though, he is wondering what he is doing parachuting into France on D-Day. His pal Sam, despite being promoted to Lance Corporal, still faces insults and microaggressions as a First Person from the other men, who are white.

Bill Richards, 19, from Liverpool, England is a Private in the Royal Dragoons, and a tank driver just like his dad was in WWI. Bill was named after and is obsessed with William the Conquerer and determined to get to get to Bayeux, France to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. But he was also obsessed with getting to Amiens, France where his father had carved "Jack Richards was here 1918" on a stone, and Bill was determined to add his name underneath.

Corporal Henry Allen, 20, is an African American medic in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. And even though the United States military is segregated, Henry is on Omaha Beach, risking his life, dodging bullets and racist comments to save the lives of the mostly white soldiers shot and injured as the D-Day landings happen.

Monique Marchand, a 13-year-old French girl with an interest in medicine, was swimming with friends on Normandy Beach the day before the D-Day and ended up in the swimming hut on the beach during the invasion because of a forgotten bathing suit. When she notices an injured soldier, she leaves the hut to help him and that's when she meets Dorothy Powell, an American journalist for Collier's Magazine, there to write about the invasion.

There's not much more to say about this incredible book without giving too much away. Some of the people will live to see the end of the day, others won't, but all contribute to giving a broad view of this important day and what it was like. And Gratz doesn't hold back, so just know this is not a book for the faint at heart.

One of the things I really liked was how Gratz divided the day into the names of different operations. He explains in the back matter that some of the operation names are real, and some he made up to fit the story. Either way, it gives the reader a real sense of time passing and what might have happened. But be sure to read the Back Matter where you will find so much more information.

Gratz also includes a map to give readers a sense of place, since some of the landing units ended up in the wrong beach in all the chaos.
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WOW! Allies is a great work of historical fiction by a great storyteller. I found myself spellbound from the first word of Allies to the last, but then again, I had the same experience with Gratz's other books, namely Prisoner 1065, Refugee, and Grenade.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
Thank you, Scholastic Press, for providing me with a copy of this book.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

White Eagles by Elizabeth Wein

Twins Kristina and Leopold Tomiak have always been fiercely competitive with each other and also share a love of flying. Naturally, when it looks like Germany is getting ready to go to war, they both sign up for the Polish Air Force Reserve. But when only Kristina is accepted into the White Eagles, Leo is totally perplexed.

Not long after becoming an Eagle, Kristina is assigned to fly an important visitor from the Vistula Aeroclub outside Warsaw to a meeting in Lvov, in southern Poland, to relay important information. But just as the plane carrying the visitor lands, it is clear that it has been attacked by machine gun fire. It turns out the Luftwaffe has been scouting over Poland and shot at their plane. The visitor is killed but the plane's pilot is still alive and knows what the information is.

Now, it's Kristina's job to get the information to Lvov, which she does, safely arriving at Birky airstrip just outside the city limits on August 31, 1939, and where her brother is already waiting for her. The next morning, Kristina wakes up to sirens and an announcement that the German Army has begun its invasion of Poland. The next day, the battle for the airstrip at Birky begins, and Kristian is taken prisoner by a German soldier.

In the sky, she sees two fighter planes caught in a dogfight, without firing at each other, but fighting with only their planes and Kristina realizes the pilot in the Polish plane is her brother. Leo finally comes out the victor, after causing the German plane to crash. But his victory is short lived. Held by the arms by two German soldiers, a German officer pulls his gun and shots Leo between the eyes, as Kristina watches stunned and horrified.

As the other prisoners around her go berserk over the shooting, Kristina, devastated over losing her twin, manages to take advantage of the chaos and to get to her plane. Without a helmet or goggles, she takes off, flying away from her brother's murder and not landing until she finally finds a narrow, clear field in an apple orchard. But no sooner has she landed, than she realizes she isn't alone. A gun is pointed at her head and she was told to put her hands up and get out of the plane. Thinking it is a Nazi soldier, imagine her surprise when it turns out to be an 11-year-old boy named Julian Srebro with a story to tell and a desperate need to get out of Poland. What follows is an exciting, perilous journey for both Kristina and Julian, marked by grief, biting cold, hunger, kindness, cruelty and a few pieces of life-saving chocolate Hanukkah Gelt

White Eagles is a short book written in three parts and inspired by real life aviation hero Anna Leska, liaison pilot for the Polish Air Force and flying missions for them when the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 (do read the Author's Note at the back of the book for more information). It is a well researched novel that contains a lot of information about what life for the Polish people was like right after Hitler's army invaded their country. Around that reality, Wein has woven a historical fiction novella that will hold readers captive until the end. But, let's face it, Wein is a master historical fiction storyteller and she knows just how to create characters and settings that make you question whether it is fact or fiction you are reading.

I bought White Eagles at the Book Depository in part because it is written by Elizabeth Wein and in part because it is published by Barrington Stoke, a children's book publisher in Edinburgh, Scotland. And what makes this book special, besides the great story, is that Barrington Stoke publishes books that are adapted for reluctant and dyslexic readers. And since I'm a dyslexic reader, I know first hand how really important the design of these book is. I first discovered them when I read D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer and now I'm sold on them. And no, I get nothing for talking about these books, and there are lots of them by great authors, not from Book Depository or from Barrington Stoke. It's just my experience.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell,
illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
Kokila, 2019, 32 pages
"At the mountain's base
grows a hickory tree.
Beneath this sits a cabin."

And in this cabin lives a Cherokee military family. Watched by her grandchild, a worried grandmother weaves together red, gold, green, and black threads while sitting by an old wood burning stove where there is something warm and nourishing cooking in a well-worn pot. The women in the family sit with her and together they sing and worry, too. Over their shoulder, is a picture of a woman in military dress.

The family sings a song of protection for the woman in the photo, a pilot flying in WWII. The perspective changes to show the woman pilot involved in that battle, protecting and defending her country, and offering up her own prayerful plea for peace. Hovering over her is the spirit of her families prayers for her safe return.

Again the perspective changes back to the cabin at the mountain 's base, under the hickory tree. There, too, the spirit of her families prayers and and the family awaiting the pilot's return.

Using soft, very spare, lyrical language, Sorell and Alvitre manage to convey so much to the reader about this family and the love they have for each other, and especially their family member in such a dangerous situation. Within the circularity of the story, the old and new are seamlessly woven together, and reflected in the different generations of women in the cabin. The threads of the grandmother's traditional Cherokee finger weaving are wonderfully juxtaposed with the newness of Native American women flying planes for the military. 

One of the things I loved about the artwork for At the Mountain's Base is the way the grandmother's threads wrap around the illustrations, binding the family together even when they are apart. The palette of earth tone red, greens, browns, yellows have a generous amount of white space that really helps call attention to the specific details on each page.

The Author's Note pays homage to the Native women who have served in battles and conflicts over time, and to those active service-members in today's military.  Her main focus is on Ola Mildred Rexroat, a Oglala Lakota pilot who was one of 1,074 Native women who served in the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) in WWII.

 At the Mountain's Base a celebration of Cherokee women and of the unsung women who make history. It isn't often enough that I get to write about Native Americans in WWII, let alone a woman, so I was very happy to discover this beautiful picture book and I think you will enjoy reading and exploring it, as well.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Sunday, September 29, 2019

True Brit: Beatrice - 1940 (Book 1 in the Far and Away trilogy) by Rosemary Zibart

It's September 1940, the Blitz is already in full swing, and the last thing 12-year-old Beatrice Sims wants is to be sent away to Santa Fe, New Mexico for safety while her family, parents and older brother, stay behind in London. An upper middle class girl, Beatrice travels in first-class comfort, first by train, then by ship across the Atlantic Ocean, and finally, by train across the United States from New York to New Mexico.

Before she leaves London, her father suggests Beatrice think of her trip as an adventure and herself as an explorer, giving her a red leather notebook to fill with all the different and interesting things she will see and do and experience while away. Her mother, however, is convinced that the war would be over by Christmas and Beatrice would come home.

Arriving in Lamy, New Mexico, Beatrice finds herself alone in a small train station, with only a sleeping cowboy on a bench. Eventually, Clem Pope arrives with two chickens and a beat up truck named Maude. Clem is the local practical nurse, the only one around now that the world was at war and everyone expected the US would be in it soon enough. Her house is comfortable but nothing like Beatrice is accustomed to.

The first day of school, Beatrice meets Esteban, son of Delores, who helps Clem in the house, and Arabella, who introduces her to her new surroundings as only a 12-year-old would know them. But soon enough, Beatrice discovers that Esteban and his friends think she is faceta, a spoiled little Princess. Beatrice is upset by this nickname, especially because she really likes Esteban. Hurt that the kids think about her that way, she also discovers and can't understand that many Americans don't want to get involved in the war in Europe or help England in its fight against the Nazis.

But when Beatrice decides the change her reputation, she discovers it isn't as easy as she would have liked. After a few unfortunate incidents, things aren't looking good. It will take one big life-or-death incident to really turn things around for Beatrice, not just how others see her, but, more importantly, how she begins to see herself.

True Brit is the first book in Rosemary Zibart's trilogy about the different experiences of young people from war-torn countries during WWII, now living on the American home front. It is an engaging story, one I found I couldn't put down. And I thought Zibart really did a great job in depicting Beatrice's culture shock as she begins to adjust to her new surroundings. I could understand how Beatrice felt since I was once a New York City girl who found myself living in a desert area for four years.

Zibart also looks at the class differences between Beatrice and Arabella and most of the kids they are in school with, kids who are native, biracial, and poor by comparison. Yet, neither one is presented as better than the other, but accepted for who they are as people. In that regard, readers see how the stereotype ideas Beatrice arrives in New Mexico with about the land, culture and people are dispelled as she gets to know and understand her new surroundings better. Beatrice does records her adventures in the red notebook her father gave and these entries give the reader more insight and information than even Beatrice's first-person narration does.

Of course, True Brit are some humorous moments - her first hot dog with mustard and relish, her first milkshake, and American slang - is all A-okay. But it is the eye-opening experiences that she has that really make a difference. Beatrice arrived in New Mexico, very much a fish out of water, a self-involved, pampered and privileged girl who expected to be taken care of by servants much the way her mother is. And yet, despite her flaws, I found Beatrice to be a likable character who really grows and comes appreciate her new, temporary (?) home.

Astute readers who are also fans of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis will like the scene on the train station where Beatrice sees and envies a girl named Lucy and her siblings getting on another train to stay with great-uncle in the country. Interestingly, Beatrice recalls that scene later in the book as she wishes she could be a comfortable as Clem is in her new setting, and envying those four children again.

True Brit is an interesting, informative book that gives readers another detailed look at the life of a young girl in WWII who finds herself in a totally different land and culture than what she is accustomed to.

You can download an Activity and Discussion Guide courtesy of the publisher, Kinkajou Press, HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Kinkajou Press

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Sunday Funnies #31: Batman with Robin in Swastika Over the White House


Have a Happy Batman Day!

I know it's Saturday, but I thought I'd do a Sunday Funnies post anyway since today is Batman Day, celebrating 80 years of the Caped Crusader and my Kiddo's favorite Superhero. This Batman story is called "Swastika Over the White House." It's from Batman Vol. 1, No. 14 and was published in January 1943. It's one of the few stories that actually relate to the war, although Batman and Robin lots of other things to help the war effort.






Fred Hopper a/k/a Fritz Hoffner may have fooled the other cameramen, but now he has orders to get rid of Batman. As luck would have it, Batman and Robin were coming by the Gotham City Newsreel offices that very day to help with the nation's war effort. Suddenly, a car appears and shots are fired at the dynamic duo.



The young Nazi spy may not have gotten rid of Carson, but he does manage to swap out their camera footage of the shipyard to give to his superiors, along with footage of bomber plants, including gasoline storage tanks. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, in reality Batman and Robin, have suspicions about the cameramen, so that night, out comes pair in the Batmobile, to check on the industrial suburbs of Gotham City.





Friday, September 20, 2019

A Boy Is Not a Bird by Edeet Ravel


Living in Zastavna, Romania, 11-year-old Natt Silver, a Jewish boy with asthma, has had a pretty comfortable life. He has a loving family, a best friend named Max Zwecker, and he can already speak five languages: German, Ukrainian, Romanian, Hebrew, and Yiddish. The only thing that makes life difficult is the presence of Iron Guard, a nationalist, anti-semitic Romanian movement whose members resemble those of the Hitler’s Brownshirts. When the Iron Guard comes to town, everyone hides.**

Then in the summer of 1940, just like that the Iron Guard is gone, replaced by Soviet soldiers. Even the teachers at Natt’s school are replaced with Communist teachers. Life without the Iron Guard is better until the Communists arrest Natt’s father, along with 15 other men. While he’s in jail, Natt and his classmates are taught how to be Pioneers, causing him to be torn between love for his father, now considered an enemy of the Soviets, and being a good Pioneer. 

While his father is in jail, Natt is sent to stay on a farm with friends of the family for his safety. But in the summer of 1941, when Natt is taken into custody and questioned about his mothers whereabouts, he honestly can’t tell them what they want to know. After a few days, his mother shows up, gets Natt released and they go home - to pack. Natt’s father has already been sent to a gulag in Siberia, and now Natt and his mother are being exiled to Siberia, along with thousands of others, all labeled as an “enemy of the people.” 

A Boy Is Not a Bird is an eminently readable novel, in part because the author starts Natt off as a kid who just wants to belong, and who wants to be the best Pioneer he can be. He often misreads people and their motives, leading him to believe that everything will eventually be OK. Part of the reason Natt can hold on to his innocence for so long is that there are enough kind people in his life that really like this winsome 11-year-old. Interestingly, his best friend Max is just the opposite of Natt. Max's cynicism is the window of reality that Natt lacks, but that the reader needs. 
Natt, it turns out, is a wonderful observer but also an unreliable narrator.

It is, however, sad to see that little by little, Natt's innocence is striped away by the actions and behavior of others. As I read Natt's first person narration of what is happening around him, his naiveté reminded me so much of Felix from Morris Gleitzman’s Once series. 

A Boy Is Not a Bird is a fictionalized story based on the ones the author's fifth grade teacher, Mr. Halpern, used to tell her class, about his childhood in Soviet occupied Zastavna. The novel ends with Natt's still on the train to Siberia, his future unresolved,  But take heart, this is only the first part of a planned trilogy. And I can't wait to read the rest. 

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss Plus

**FYI: In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty generally referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. One of the things the pact did was define boundaries where each country had influence. But not long after Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and effectively disregarding the Pact, Joseph Stalin launched also invaded Poland. As a result, new borders were drawn and in the summer of 1940, the formerly Romanian territory of Bukovina was divided between the USSR in the north, and Romania in the south. The Soviets demanded Bukovina in the north because it was mostly Ukrainian, whereas the southern part of Bukovina was mostly Romanian. And that is where this story begins.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War by Mireille Messier, illustrated by Kass Reich

We are pretty familiar with the story about the bear cub named Winnie who was adopted by a lieutenant in WWI and whose story became Winnie-the-Pooh. And then there's Stubby, a stray dog who became the mascot of the 26th Infantry Division, went to war and became a decorated hero, as did Rags, a Parisian mongrel adopted by radio operator James Donovan. But did you know there was also a goat who was borrowed by some Canadian soldiers from a little girl named Daisy in Saskatchewan when their train made a stop there.

Daisy wasn't really happy to lend her goat to the soldiers of the Fifth Battalion who were going off to war, but they promised to bring him back, and so she agreed, and "that's how Billy's extraordinary story began."

And what a story it is. Private Billy proved to be an able soldier, training, marching, crawling and running like any other soldier, and even getting laggers back on track, not to mention being a great comfort and morale booster. But when it came time to ship out, the colonel said it was a no go for Private Billy. His fellow soldiers had other plans, though, buying an crate of oranges (which they quickly ate) and packing Private Billy into the empty crate to sneak him on to their ship. The plan worked and luckily, Private Billy was a good sailor.

Once at the front lines, Billy also adjusted well to trench life. Nothing bothered him - not the cold, not the mud, not the noise, not the bad food, not even the rats. He continued to be a great comfort and morale booster, especially to nervous new recruits and to homesick soldiers. Of course, Billy was a goat, after all, and he was known to occasionally chow down on some important secret documents, and sentenced to jail for spying. But when morale fell, he was quickly released. Billy also saved lives on the battlefield, butting soldiers back into the trench to avoid an exploding shell.

By the end of the war, Private Billy was promoted to Sergeant Billy, and awarded the Mons Star for bravery in the face of danger. And "that's how Sergeant Billy became a decorated war hero." Happily, Billy survived the war and was returned to a somewhat older Daisy in Saskatchewan.

War is an ugly business and it's a difficult topic to introduce kids to. Luckily, there are some excellent books that can help parents and teachers broach this subject with young readers. And Sergeant Billy would be a great choice with which to do that. I say this because the first thing that struck me about Sergeant Billy is how focused it is on the goat and not on the soldiers or some of the real horrors of war. In this way, the story offers a gentle introduction to war while at the same time it makes it very clear that war is not fun despite having a goat mascot.

Messier's writing is simple, direct, and age appropriate, though none of the technical terms are explained (for example, Billy got trench foot, but what is that? my young readers asked). And Reich's uncomplicated gouache illustrations in a palette of army browns and greens work in absolute harmony with the text.

Sergeant Billy and his life on the front lines while in the Canadian army is based on a true story, and readers will find plenty of informative back matter that includes photographs of the real Billy and information about animals in war.


And for kids who really like heroic animal stories, pair Sergeant Billy with these other true stories from WWI: Fly, Cher Ami, Fly! The Pigeon Who Save the Lost Battalion by Robert Burleigh, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, Stubby the Dog Soldier, World War I Hero by Blake Hoena, Rags: Hero Dog of WWI, a true story by Margot Theis Raven, and Stubby: A True Story of Friendship by Michael Foreman

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book is an EARC received from NetGalley

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Alexis Deacon

It's December 1944 and since September, the Nazis have once again been bombing London with their newest weapon, the V2 rocket. Harry Black, a conscientious objector, has been working on the fire brigade with fellow objectors. His moral position has caused a rift in the Black household. His father refuses to have anything to do him, claiming Harry has blackened the family name. Older brother Ellis is a soldier, back in London to recuperate from wounds suffered on the battlefield, and waiting to be sent back into combat. He also feels that Harry is a coward, but agrees to meet him at a pub called the White Horse. The two talk about a few things, including about a possible book of poems that Ellis could write and Harry could illustrate.

After talking for a while, Ellis decides to remain at the pub and Harry boards a bus home. The pub then takes a direct hit from a V2 rocket and is completely demolished. The bus was also destroyed in the hit and Harry wakes up in a hospital, seriously injured. But a nagging feeling tells him that Ellis is still alive, buried in the debris of the destroyed pub and Harry decides he must venture underneath the rubble to find and save his brother. While still in hospital, Harry meets a 14-year-old girl named Agatha, who had been a Kindertransport child in 1939 and now wants to find her parents, whom she believes are now in London.

Together, a semi-delirious Harry and a determined Agatha venture forth through the bombed and burning streets of London to find the remains of the White Horse in order to rescue Ellis and reunite Agatha with her parents. Throughout their journey, Harry stops to take the time to document everything in his notebook, which already includes copious, detailed illustrations for a planned science-fiction book called Machines of War.

Harry's journey into London's underworld to reach his brother has parallels to the myth of Orpheus and his journey to the Underworld to bring his wife back from the dead. Not surprisingly, Harry's notebook entries are explained and made clear through free verse poems by a poet named Orpheus. But who Orpheus is here is a mystery (until the end, but even then, I questioned Orpheus' identity here).

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black is not an easy book to read. It can feel confusing and muddled at times, but it is so worthwhile to stick with it to the end. This is clearly an anti-war story, catching all the particular horrors of World War II, and in fact, all wars. The Sedgwick brothers have created a hero in Harry Black, which is not surprising. Apparently, their father, a Quaker, was a conscientious objector during WWII and it is clear they consider him to be a hero for taking a stand against war that was seen as almost treasonous during WWII.

This is a carefully crafted story, part graphic novel, part verse novel, part prose novel, seemingly told from three different points of view - Harry, Orpheus, and, to a lesser degree, Ellis. Each part, each person ties into the other, adding to the story, and creating plenty of intrigue.

I found myself really caught up in Harry's first person narration, even at his most muddled, but I could have done with less of Orpheus and his songs. At times, I felt they interrupted the flow of the story too much. Also, it didn't take me long to figure out the mystery of Agatha, but maybe that was supposed to happen. After all, she pushed Harry along to act before it was too late to rescue Ellis.

Students will one day have a field day analyzing the meaning of this novel, the themes, the metaphors, the veiled references to reality contained in Harry's Machines of War work-in-progress, and the illustrations, which are so much a part of the story, don't gloss over them. The ones done in blues and whites are Harry's illustrations for his book, the black and white illustrations represent reality and belong to the story being told.   

All told, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a harrowing journey to the end but it had the kind of very satisfying, emotional ending I find appealing in books like this. And since I don't find too many really good alternative histories that take place in WWII, this was a very welcome addition to that particular genre.

This book is recommended for readers age 13
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

Sunday, September 1, 2019

America at War edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn: A poem for September 1, 1939

Today is the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII. I couldn't decide what to do to commemorate it so I turned to Lee Bennett Hopkins' book America at War to share some poems with my young readers. This book covers America's participation in war from the American Revolution to the war in Iraq. There are eight poems dedicated to WWII and I wish I could share all of them with you, but since my focus is on children and teens, and because children also wanted to do their bit for the war effort back then, I picked this poem by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater:


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Cape (The League of Secret Heroes) Book 1 by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Patrick Spaziante

The most frustrating part of WWII for schoolgirl Josie O'Mally is that she can't fight like her dad has been doing ever since Pearl Harbor was attacked. On top of that, all her favorite the comic book superheroes have mysteriously disappeared from Philadelphia and no one knows why. Gone are Zenobia, her sister the Palomino, Hauntima, Hopschtch, Nove the Sunchaser and just when they are needed most. Now, however, Josie, a Irish immigrant, has a chance to do something for the war effort, thanks to an ad in the newspaper calling for puzzle experts to help fight the Nazis and it just so happens that she is a whiz at solving puzzlers and ciphers. All applicants have to do is take a qualifying exam in the Carson Building downtown.

But just as the exam is ending, Josie begins to wonder why the proctor, Hank Hissler, is separating the exams by gender - girls to the left, boys to the right. Her thoughts are interrupted when a tall woman with a dog burst into the room demanding to know what Hissler is doing and if it is approved by Room Twelve. And it looks like the very same woman and dog Josie had seen earlier at the diner where she works part-time. Needless to say, the exam abruptly ended, but Josie surprised and dismayed to see he Hissler dump the test papers of the females, and just take those of the males. Josie isn't surprised to discover that her best friend Emmet Shea has also taken the test - after all, they are partners in puzzling.

As it happens, the woman, Mrs. Constance Boudica, or Mrs. B., and her dog Astra have been observing each girl, recognizing their innate courage, intelligence, strength, desire to fight injustice in the hope they can become part of the League of Secret Heroes.

In the elevator, Josie meets two of the other girls who took the exam. Akiko Nakano is a Japanese American from San Francisco. Her family is living in an internment camp, her brother is serving in the army's all Japanese 442nd regiment, and she is living with cousins in Philadelphia. Also there is Mae Crumpler, an African American from Chicago, Illinois who is living with her grandmother, a librarian, for the summer. The three of them get to talking and discover they have two things in common - they love superhero comics and solving puzzles and ciphers. But when they come into physical contact with each other, they really set of sparks - sparks that give them temporary super powers.

Now, they can not only fight neighborhood bully Tobe Hunter and his gang who took Josie's younger brother's new bikes, but they can also search for Emmett, who has gone missing, and most importantly, they can fight the Nazis who are plotting dastardly deed in Philadelphia - if only they could think up a good name for themselves. Their first order of business - rescue the six women, including Josie's cousin Kay, involved in developing a computer that will help win the war - and one that the Nazis would love to get their hands on.

Cape is a fun book to read. First of all, some of the chapters begin using comic book panels before slipping back into prose, much that way superheroes slip in and out of their secret identities. Secondly, it is part historical fiction and part fantasy, and yes, it slips in and out of those two genres, as well. Thirdly, there plenty of action, and even the ghost of one of the missing superheroes, Hauntima, who helps the girls with words of encouragement as they fight the arch rival of the women of Room Twelve. I also liked that fact that as the girls don't start of as perfect superheroes, but learn little by little what their individual powers and abilities are and how to effectively use them. The only power they have in common is flying, but working together they become greater than the sum of their powers. There isn't a dull moment in this novel, not even when they are on the ground just being their usual selves.

The language in Cape is straightforward but has a snappiness to it that has always been so characteristic of comic books. And Hannigan has really captured the everyday details of the period (I remember my mother saying how much she also hated spam and spam hash during the war). Hannigan also touched on the prejudice of the period regarding people who are African American, Japanese American, and German American. And yet, Josie, Mae, and Akiko all have loved ones fighting in the war for the Allies. Other themes in the book are loss, betrayal, and disappointment.

And there really were six women working on a programable computer called ENIAC in Philadelphia during the war (read the Author's Note for more on that and more about Hannigan's inspiration for The League of Secret Heroes series).

All in all, this is a great novel and I can't wait to read the next two - Mask and Boots.

You can download an extensive Curriculum Guide to use in the classroom for Cape HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

And you just might want to enjoy this wonderful book trailer:


Be Sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle.  Thank you, Greg.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

We always like to think that this country fought heroically in WWII but the truth is that this country didn't always act very admirably, and in fact, it sometimes acted down right unconstitutionally. Which is why, on Saturday, January 12, 1946, 12-year-old Hanako Tachibana, her brother Akira, age 5, and their parents have just arrived in Japan after a long journey from Tule Lake Concentration Camp in northern California.

Having lost their home, their restaurant, their possessions, even Hanako's cat, the Tachibana family were living in internment camps since 1942, after President Roosevelt had signed Executive Order 9066. They had ended up in Tule Lake in 1943 because Mr. Tachibana had refused to answer yes to one of two loyalty questions on a government questionnaire designed to separate loyal from disloyal Japanese American men. Ultimately, Hanako's parents decided renounced their American citizenship when pressed to do so by the government and the family was repatriated to Japan at the end of the war, a country neither Hanako nor Akira had ever been to before. 

Hanako expects Japan to look as beautiful as it had in pictures she had seen, but the reality is a Japan that is as broken and poverty-stricken as she feels. Traveling to her paternal grandparents, tenant farmers living just outside of Hiroshima and struggling to survive, Hanako witnesses soldiers and civilians, dirty, disheveled, often crippled, begging for something to eat, as well as the destruction all around her, blackened trees, buildings and homes turned to rubble, all as a result of the atom bomb that had been dropped there by the Americans.

At her grandparents home, Jiichan (grandfather) and Baachan (grandmother) welcome the family with open arms and unconditional love, despite not even having enough to eat for themselves. Hanako helps out as much as she can working in the fields, but soon finds herself in school, where she is treated like an outsider. Although she can get by speaking Japanese, her reading and writing are almost non-existence, as is her skill using an abacus. Even her long braid is cause for criticism among the other girls. 

Hanako is a sensitive, observant, questioning girl, who is growing up too quickly, but is stuck in the past and afraid of the future. One of the first things Jiichan teaches her is that the way to move forward is through kintsukuroi, which is a way of repairing broken pottery using lacquer dusted with gold, so the repaired pottery is even more beautiful than it had originally been. The trauma of having lost everything has caused Hanako to question who she is, where she belongs, and what she now believes in. She may feel like a broken piece of pottery, but Hanako figures life is more complicated than a repaired bowl.

Eventually, however, Hanako's parents decide that they would like to return to America and begin working with an American civil rights lawyer, Wayne Collins, to make that happen. Mr. Collins is putting together a class action suit to help those who were repatriated to Japan after the war to regain their citizenship and return to America. But when her parents petition is refused, the family is forced to make some hard decisions. Yet, through everything that has happened to her family, Hanako finally begins to understand her grandfather's lesson on kinsukuroi, and learns that in life gold can take many forms, and that understanding is just what she needs to be able to move forward with her life.

I won't lie, A Place to Belong is a difficult book to read. Not because of the writing, which is beautifully straightforward. Or the characters, which are drawn so well you feel like you really know them. What makes it difficult is the reality of what happens, and knowing that Hanako's life is broken because of war, because of who she is and what is done to her by her own country - the United States. In addition, descriptions of children and adults begging in the streets, of people starving and disfigured in the aftermath of the atomic bomb, of black markets taking advantage of desperate people offer a disturbing, yet realistic look at post-war Japan even as Hanako tries to piece together just who she is amid the wreckage within and around her.

A Place to Belong is historical fiction based on real events. All men of Japanese ancestry really were required to complete the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" in 1943 and they, along with their families, were sent to Tule Lake Concentration Camp if they were deemed disloyal based on their answers. Tule Lake was a harsh, cruel place where inmates were treated like prisoners and many, like Hanako's family, were deported to Japan after the war.

A Place to Belong should be read by anyone interested in WWII history, however, I think readers will definitely see parallels to much of what is happening in our world today. Be sure to read Kadahata's Afterword for more information about Wayne Collins and the work he did on behalf of wronged Japanese Americans.

You can download a reading guide for A Place to Belong from the publisher, Simon & Schuster, HERE

You might want to pair A Place to Belong with No-No Boy by John Okada. No-No Boy looks at the post-war life of a Japanese American boy who answered no to both of the loyalty questions, but did not give up his citizenship.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Simon & Schuster, with gratitude

View of barracks with Castle Rock in the background, Mar. 20, 1946, Tule Lake concentration camp, California.. (2015, July 17). Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:05, August 17, 2019 from https://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i37-00239-1/.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero by Amalia Hoffman, illustrated by Chiara Fedele

Sometimes the most unlikely people find themselves in a situation that calls for action and bravery and they rise to the occasion. This is certainly the case of Tour de France champion Gino Bartali.

Born in Florence, Italy, Gino was a small, sickly boy who found release riding a bike, even if it was a rusty second hand bike. Before long, he could outrace his friends, even those with better bikes. In sixth grade, Gino decided to learn more about cycling, and got a part-time job with Oscar Casamanti, a man who repaired racing bikes. When he was invited to ride along with some racers through the Tuscan hills, Gino persevered even as some riders dropped out. Casamanti was so impressed, he recommended Gino take part in professional races.

At 17, he began training and racing more, and by age 21, Gino had become a powerful, winning racer. In 1938, he participated in the Tour de France and despite having an accident during the race, he still managed to win. By now, Benito Mussolini had declared himself Il Duce, the leader of Italy and a ally of Adolf Hitler. Mussolini declared Jewish citizens to be enemies of the state. Kids could no longer go to public school, or play in public parks, and their parents lost their jobs. Many Jews were arrested.

Then, in 1943, Gino received a mysterious telephone call from the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. Could Gino help them? Riding his bike, Gino became a secret courier for the cardinal - making a 110-mile trip to deliver papers, photographs, and identification papers to a printer in Assisi, Italy, who then created forged identification papers that would be give to Jews in the hope that the papers would save their lives.

Gino carried on this important work until he was arrested in 1944, accused of selling guns to Mussolini's enemies. Released after 3 days, Gino went into hiding for a few months, until August 1, 1944 when the war ended in Italy and Italians were freed from Mussolini's grip.

And Gino? He went back to training for bike races, even winning the 1948 Tour de France again.

The Brave Cyclist is such an important story, and yet, one very few people knew about until now. Gino's story is a particularly important one when you realize that the punishment for helping Jews in any capacity was death, and not just for the helper, but often for their family as well. But Gino's story is also an inspiring one that proves the even one person can make a difference, that resistance can change people's fate. And the whole time Gino rode his bike great distances, often being stopped and searched by soldiers, delivering documents to be converted into forged identification papers, he had to keep his activities to himself. He could not even tell his wife so that if they were arrested, she wouldn't know anything.

In addition to an accessible written biography, Chiara Fedele's affecting illustrations are done in bright hues reflecting the happy days of cycling and racing, then switch to mostly dark hues reflecting the dark times of Mussolini's reign, complimenting and enhancing the text.

This is one of my favor illustrations. Gino has just been stopped and searched by soldiers,
now he's riding into the open field of the countryside, bringing freedom to some of Italy's Jewish citizens.
The Brave Cyclist is a picture book for older readers that is sure to generate some wonderful discussions among young readers about what they might do if they found themselves in the same circumstances as Gino.     

Author Amalia Hoffman has included an Afterword that goes into detail about Gino Bartali's life, and his heroic actions. In fact, she writes, that Gino was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel, and what greater honor can there be but to be so acknowledged. You will also find an important Select Bibliography in the back matter for further investigation.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Capstone Editions

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sunday Funnies goes on a Blog Tour: Dear Justice League by Michael Northrop, illustrated by Gustavo Duarte

So, you all know how so many favorite Superheroes were a mainstay for American youth during WWII, right? Back then, the Justice League was formed and called the Justice Society of America (JSA), but eventually, morphed into the Justice League of America (JLA). In 2011, the JLA was reintroduced as the Justice League (JL), and that's pretty much where it stands today.*  The name may have been changed over time, but the members not so much - there's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg.

All of this brings us to Dear Justice League. Here are America's great superheroes, seemingly perfect in every way, but haven't you ever wondered if their lives are really as perfect as they seem. Don't they have any faults, or screw up once in a while, maybe make a wrong decision, or perhaps even have some good advice for the rest of us?

Yes, they do and you can find it all between the covers of this delightfully silly, sometimes serious look at some of the Justice League's not so spectacular adventures as they answer emails from some of their fans.

One boy wants to know if Superman is super all the time, so Superman recounts a time he flew into a building because he was texting while flying (twf). This set off a series of hilarious events that he tries to handle all over Metropolis, ending in Superman getting a ticket for, what else, twf.


Does Wonder Woman have any advice for an 10-almost-11-year old? You bet she does, and it involves her 11th birthday and some cake.

Or how about Batman, always so brave, so fearless, has he ever been scared? asks a boy about to go to a new school and afraid he's going to be picked on the way he was at his old school.

Dear Justice League is divided into nine chapters, one for each Superheroes' story and a final chapter that ties it all together. There is a storyline running through each chapter that connects each story to the others involving a insectoid that escaped Hawkgirl's mighty mace. Insectoids are giant mantis-like alien bugs from the planet Molt-On and can replicate very quickly and easily so it's important for the Justice League to deal with them. But as insectoid's keep replicating exponentially, can they be stopped, even by Superheroes?

This is such a fun book to read, and I know young fans of the Justice League will love it. It has a very energetic, tongue-in-cheek text, but nothing really over the heads of young readers. And Duarte's colorful cartoon-like illustrations will no doubt appeal to kids. I liked that the Superheroes take the time to answer kid's email questions, and the way some of the stories circled back to the email writer to show how the advice they got helped them.

It seems that most kids go through a phase of being totally into Superheroes and this is geared perfectly for the age when that usually happens, a time when kids are out in the world because of school and activities and life is beginning to get more complicated and a little Superhero fantasy helps. I know my Kiddo went through a Superhero phase (and probably hasn't outgrown it yet, if truth be told).

Dear Justice League is a fun definite-must-read book for fans, and ideal for introducing kids to the Superhero realm, and might even hold appeal for reluctant readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from the publisher

Be sure to visit the other stops on the Dear Justice League Blog Tour:



*If you really want to read the complicated history of the Justice League, you can find it HERE

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

War is Over by David Almond, illustrated by David Litchfield

David Almond has always been one of my favorite authors, so when I saw that he had written a book commemorating the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I, I knew I had to read it. If you are already familiar with Almond's books, you know they are always tinged with a bit of magic mixed into his spot on depictions of time and place, and characters who are just trying to make sense of the world around them. And so it is with this novella.

How, young John and his classmates want to know, can they be at war with the Germans, they're only children. It's 1918 and all John has ever known is the world at war. His father has been fighting in the trenches in France for so long, John barely remembers him. And his mam has been working 12 to 24 hours a day in the world's largest munitions factory near their home, making ships, and bombs, guns and shells. John worries about both his parents - his dad getting killed at the front, his mam in a accident at the munitions factory, and he just wants to know when the war will be over. First, he asked the king in a letter, but never heard back from him; next he wrote the Archbishop of Canterbury, who likewise didn't respond. There were not answers at school, either.

Then, on a class trip to the munitions factory, John sees a man speaking out against the war, telling them that children are not at war, and them showing pictures of German children, children who look  just like they do. The man, Gordon, is a conscientious objector, or conchie, and is beaten by three men, but not before John rescues a picture of a German boy named Jan.

John tries to write to Jan, but oddly enough, he runs into Jan in the woods near his home after having spent some time with Gordon, who gives him his white feather, considered to be a symbol of cowardice. John and Jan are just alike, and both agree that they are not at war with each other. But, just as suddenly as he appeared, Jan is gone.

Desperate for peace after his meeting Jan, John begins to dream of a time when there would be peace, when everyone could be friends again. And when peace finally does come, John determines that he will go to Germany and become friends with Jan someday.

War is Over is a powerful anti-war novella about a child confronting the horrors of war on the home front and expressing the kind of confusion about what he sees and hears that you would expect from a child. John's teacher's extreme jingoism is really evident in the militarist way he treats people, including his class, and his nationalist ideas, especially his contempt for Gordon, the conscientious objector. You can really the sense the contempt he feels for John, treating him as though he is a conchie-in-training. In fact, everyone, including John's mother, is afraid to be seen as unpatriotic. When John's letter to Jan is confiscated by the authorities, she almost turns her back on her own son.

Almond doesn't glorify or celebrate war and David Litchfield's black and white illustrations support that throughout the book. Though they are done in a cartoon-like style, they are no less poignant as they still capture all the horror of war in the trenches and on the home front in a town that supports war. I think one of the most effective illustrations shows the transition for children playing war into soldiers fighting at the front. This image is from Litchfield's website but I decided to use it instead of the black and white image in the book so you can see the transition more clearly, not just of the children, but of the falling leaves becoming dropped bombs:













War is Over is a powerful book that tackles some difficult themes that are as relevant today as they were in 1918. Jingoism, nationalism, patriotism, cowardice, bravery, the impact of war on children and families are all addressed as John observes the world around him. This is a heartbreaking, yet hopeful story, one you won't soon forget. Pair this with Captain Rosalie by Timothée de Fombelle for another view of how war impacts children.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Listen to David Almond talk about and read from War is Over: