Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The American Agent (a Maisie Dobbs Mystery #15) by Jacqueline Winspear

It's September, 1940, and the German Luftwaffe is blitzing bombs down on London nightly. Maisie, who you may recall was a nurse on the battlefields in France during WWI, and her best friend Priscilla Partridge have volunteered to be ambulance drivers, doing what they can night after night to help the injured. One night, a young American journalist, Catherine Saxon, rides along with Maisie and Priscilla. Catherine is writing accounts of the Blitz for Americans and is hoping to become one of "Murrow's Boys" - American reporters based in London, working for Edward R. Murrow on BBC radio.

Unfortunately, the next day, Maisie learns that Catherine Saxon has been murdered and her old friend Robert MacFarlane of Scotland Yard wants Maisie to be part of the investigation to find out who killed her and why. Oh, and he wants Maisie to work with Mark Scott, an American agent attached to the Department of Justice. And yes, if you've been keeping up with Maisie, this is the same Mark Scott with whom she worked and had a bit of a flirtation in Journey to Munich (Maisie Dobbs #12).

The investigation of Catherine Saxon's murder is complicated by a number of things. For one, her father is a wealthy isolationist American senator with whom she never got along and who has cut her off completely for not doing what he wanted her to do - be a wife in an advantageous marriage. And Mark Scott, for all his flirtiness, doesn't really seem interested in solving Catherine Saxon's murder, disappearing and showing up at odd times so that Maisie is left to wonder what he's up to. And, of course, Maisie is still in the midst of trying to adopt her orphaned evacuee Anna, which she would much rather focus on. Anna is still living with Maisie's father and step mother at Chelstone, the family farm, and having meltdowns whenever Maisie needs to return to London. And as if these things aren't bad enough, one night while driving their ambulance, Priscilla is very seriously burned while rescuing some children in a bombed house.

Maisie has a lot of personal stuff to contend with in this novel, but luckily, for all his disappearing during the Catherine Saxon investigation, Mark always reappears just when Maisie needs him to. Could it be that these two are ready to take their previous flirtation to another level? But why can't she discover anything about him? Is he somehow up to no good? What's his connection to Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, also an isolationist and Nazi appeaser? And will her job as an investigator jeopardize her chances of adopting Anna? As Maisie interviews the women in Catherine's life, including her best friend Jennifer Barrington and her husband, is she beginning to look at her own life differently?

Looking at these questions, you can see that this is an intriguing book, and a more personal and introspective one than the last few Maisie Dobbs' novels I've reviewed. In addition, Jacqueline Winspear has really captured just what London was like during the Blitz, with fires all around, lives and homes lost, the smell of fires burning everywhere, buildings sandbagged and barb wired, barrage balloons in the air and "where tension was threaded into the fabric of life" but where "people prided themselves on their ability to carry on as normal." There's even a bit of humor. Whenever the V-formation of Luftwaffe bombers fly over Chelstone, next-door neighbor Mr. Avis "could be seen shaking his fist and shouting at the sky, before aiming his rifle towards the bombers," a gesture nicely summed up by Mark Scott "You know, you've gotta love you Brits."

Winspear includes a Prologue that consists of reports by journalists about London in the days just before and after the Blitz begins on the night of September 7, 1940. This nicely sets the stage for not only Catherine Saxon's murder, but also for what Maisie and all Londoners faced on a nightly basis while carrying on as normally as possible during the day. The inclusion of Edward Murrow and other journalists reporting to Americans about the Blitz, as well as different isolationist politicians, will certainly resonate with today's readers. But in the end, you will be very surprised at 'who done it' and why. I know I was.

The American Agent is definitely my favorite Maisie Dobbs so far and I can't wait for the next adventure.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an EARC gratefully received from EdelweissPlus

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Funnies #29: Carrier Pigeons

A pigeon played a much larger roll in I Survived the Battle of D-Day 1944 than I indicated in my review. In fact, carrier pigeons played an important roll in both World War I and World War II. I thought the cartoon below was a nice homage to carrier pigeons. It is a George Wolfe cartoon, but I have unfortunately the actual citation, though I believe it is also from the Saturday Evening Post, just like the one I posted for Women's History Month.  


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 (I Survived Series #18) by Lauren Tarshis

Lauren Tarshis's I Survived series has introduced young readers to a variety of significant, but scary events that have occurred in both recent and distant history through a young eyewitness protagonist. With the same themes of courage and resilience the protagonist didn't realize they possessed, they become active participants in these events, providing the reader with an exciting fast-paced story and lots of historical background information. In her latest book, Tarshis takes her readers to France's Normandy coast just before and after the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

Living there in the town of Le Roc, Paul Colbert, 11, has waited and waited for the Allied Forces to come and rescue France from the hands of the Nazis and end the war. After France had fallen to the Nazis in 1940, his father had been arrested and sent to a German prison camp; then his best friend Gerard and his family were arrested by the Nazis because they were Jewish and had disappeared. Later, Paul had seen his favorite teacher, Mr. Leon, being pursued and shot by Nazi soldiers for being in the resistance, and he watched in horror as his hero sank into a river.

But just as he is beginning to lose hope, it's Paul's turn to be a hero when he discovers an American paratrooper caught in a tree and injured. Paul knows that helping this man is dangerous if the Nazis catch him, especially with Nazis soldiers nearby looking for the paratrooper. But despite his fear, Paul climbs the tree and frees the American, whose name he learns is Sergeant Victor Lopez. But now, the wounded Victor needs a safe place to hide and Paul knows just where to take him. The old, crumbling Castle Le Roc isn't a place anyone wants to be in, what with the all the stories that told about it, and Paul knows how to get there so the Nazis don't discover them. So, imagine Paul's surprise when they are greeted at the castle by a man pointing a rifle at them.

Little does Paul realize that he has stumbled into a resistance hideout and that his life is about to change. Not only does he discover Mr. Leon is still alive and working for the resistance, but so is his mother. At the moment, resistance fighters all over France are waiting for the code that will let them know the D-Day invasion, what Mr. Leon called "the largest invasion by sea in the history of the world," is happening. And now even Paul has a part to play in it.

I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 was written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 2019. It is the 18th novel in the I Survived series and like the 17 that came before it, it is an exciting novel that will not let readers down. And while the main focus is on the anticipated Allied invasion, the novel also introduces young readers to the important work of the French resistance and the dangers involved in that kind of work.

Some of the descriptions of Nazi cruelty toward their enemies, and some of the scenes of the Normandy coast during the invasion are a little more graphic than most books written for this age group, though none of it is gratuitous. But, as with all of the novels I've read in the I Survived series, the writing is excellent and completely accessible and there is lots of kid appeal. Paul is a sympathetic character, and readers will no doubt relate to his fears, but also cheer his bravery.

This is a serious story told about a dangerous time, but Tarshis includes some lightheartedness in the form of Ellie, the carrier pigeon who accompanied Victor to France and whose job it was to fly back to England and let them know he had arrived safely. But Ellie isn't about to abandon Victor, even after he is at Castle Le Roc. Good thing, she turns out to be a lifesaver and a real hero, too. 

Tarshis has included a lot of back matter for curious kids, including a letter from the author to her readers about writing this book, answers to some questions about D-Day, and other points of interest to young readers, an overview of the vehicles used for the invasion (which I also found very informative), a Timeline, a list of books for Further Reading and a Selected Bibliography.

I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 is a solid edition to the I Survived series, and is sure to appeal to kids who like exciting stories, historical fiction and/or WWII novels.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Scholastic Press

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family's Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp written and illustrated by Katie Yamasaki

When people of Japanese descent were rounded up and sent to live in internment camps shortly after the United States entered World War II, they found themselves eating a very different diet than the fresh fish, vegetables, and fruit that had been available when they had lived near the Pacific Ocean. Jimmy and his older brother Taro are no exception to enjoying fresh food, after all their parents own a Farmer's Market.

But early in December, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, their father is taken away by three men in the FBI. The family can no longer live in their home and run their Farmer's Market, and Jimmy, Taro and their mother find themselves "forced to live in tiny barracks surrounded by guards." Confused about what is happening, Jimmy refuses to eat the unfamiliar food he is served.

And no matter how much they try to coax him, no one can get Jimmy to eat. Although everyone is worried about him, Jimmy just doesn't understand why his family isn't living in their home near the ocean. Or why they can't eat his mother's good rice and noodles, or the fresh vegetables and fish he loves so much? Soon, Jimmy even stops playing with the other kids.

One night, Taro, worried about Jimmy and feeling responsible for taking care of him in their father's absence, makes a big decision. Taking a borrowed pair of garden shears, he quietly leaves the barrack, find a place in the fence where the guards can't see him and clips a hole he can crawl through.

Finding a mountain stream, Taro waits until he feels a fish hitting against his leg, then quickly grabs fish after fish, wrapping them in his mother's scarf. And in the morning, there is fish for Jimmy, who finally eats to his mother and Taro's relief.

In her end note, author Katie Yamasaki writes that Fish for Jimmy is based on a true story from her family's history. Her great-grandfather was arrested by the FBI just as Taro and Jimmy's father had been, though it was her grandfather's cousin who snuck out of the camp to find fish for his young son. I think that by putting the stories together, Yamasaki is able to highlight the impact that interning innocent people, particularly children, based solely on their ethnicity through Jimmy's depression and his refusal to eat and works to make this a very accessible story for young readers. Sadly, it made me think about all the Jimmys who found themselves in these camps and who were too young to understand what was happening.

The illustrations, done with acrylic paint, vividly capture the emotions each person is feeling. The reader sees Jimmy going from a happy little boy to a depressed child and finally as a smiling kid after having a taste of home again. The danger Taro faced sneaking out to catch the fish is aptly shown in a spread with the barbed wire fence in the foreground and guards with big guns in the background, and behind that, readers can see Taro's searching for the right spot in the fence to cut through. It is a wonderful, dynamic, rather sophisticated image, and Yamasaki the muralist painter is really present in it.

Fish for Jimmy is an excellent choice for introducing the history of the internment of Japanese Americans to young readers and it will definitely resonate with things happening in today's world for them.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from the Bank Street School Library

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

It's 1941 and Augusta "Gusta" Hoopes Neubronner, 11, is on a bus traveling with her French horn from New York City to Springdale, Maine by herself. She wasn't always by herself, but she had to leave her parents for financial reasons and go to live with her grandmother in Maine. Gusta's mother had remained in NYC working. Her German-born father had traveled with her until he had to abruptly get off the bus in Portland, Maine when two men boarded looking for him. Gusta's father is a union organizer, an accused communist, and therefore a wanted man.

To Gusta's surprise, her grandmother, Clementine Hoopes, and her Aunt Marion Hoopes run a small orphanage in their house and were not expecting her. Nevertheless, after reading the letter Gusta's mother sent with her, they welcome her into the house and pretty soon she is assimilated into their daily routine. She quickly becomes friend's with Josie, an orphan already in high school, and her cousin Bess, who lives nearby. Gusta settles in at school as well, but when it is discovered how really nearsighted she is, she is sent to an oculist, Mr. Bertmann, a German immigrant, to have her eyes tested and get a pair of glasses. To pay for them, Gusta will work in his shop a few afternoons a week dusting, helping with his accounts, and taking care of his beloved carrier pigeons.

Gusta also loves playing her French horn, but her grandmother doesn't see the value of music and forbids her to practice at home. Gusta's Aunt Marion has always won a blue ribbon for her jam at the county fair, something her grandmother brags about often. Josie suggests the three friends form a band and enter the Blue-Ribbon Band competition at the county fair next summer, hoping to win and change Gusta's grandmother's mind about music, it is an idea met with enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, Josie introduces Gusta to the high school music teacher, Miss Kendall. Miss Kendall is impressed enough with her playing to let Gusta join the high school orchestra. Miss Kendall also takes a real interest in Gusta's French horn, recognizing its value immediately. She is also the sister of Fred Kendall, owner of Kendall Mills, a man who treats the Hoopes women with contempt.

Gusta, who knows something about union organizing, decides to help her Uncle Charlie. He had been injured in at work accident at Kendall Mills and is not longer able to work unless he has an operation the family can't afford. Gusta invites a labor organizer to Springdale to organize the Kendall family's factory and hopefully get some compensation for Uncle Charlie.

And then there is the war in Europe. Though the United States is still not in the war yet, patriotism is running high in Springdale. A new airfield is about to open and the Springdale Aviation Committee is sponsoring a contest for the best patriotic essay on the theme "A Vision of American on High." And snooty classmate Molly Gowen is starting a Real Americans Club with the help of the Women's Patriotic Society of Springdale and she's made it clear that Gusta is not qualified to join because of her German father. Nor does all this misplaced patriotism bode well for Mr. Bertmann and his carrier pigeons, as you can imagine.

Oh yes, there is also a magic wish that threads through this story, an belief that Gusta holds on to tightly in her new living situation.

I had a little trouble getting into The Orphan Band of Springdale at first, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. And I won't kid you, this is a big book - 448 pages long - and I know it looks like there's a lot is going on in it, and that's probably because a lot is going on. But eventually it all comes together and long hidden truths are exposed, including a family secret in the Hoopes household that will leave you gobsmacked.

Gusta is a very likable character, well developed and with an wonderful internal dialogue that really lets her personality shine through. She is also a girl with a well-developed moral compass, thanks to her parents, and alway just wants to do the right thing. And it is through her goodness that the hidden secrets and nativist patriotic agendas are ultimately exposed and truth is illuminated. Hence, Gusta's new glasses serve as a metaphor for events in the novel or as her father described it "the way the sun catches things out against the darkness of a coming storm: "the clear light of trouble." (pg 29)

The Orphan Band of Springdale is a thoroughly satisfying novel, with a kind of comforting heartwarming old fashioned sensibility as it explores themes of family, truth, misplaced patriotism, otherness, and, finally, forgiveness. The book I had trouble getting into turned out to be just that book I wanted to read.

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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell

I've just reread Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis, a novel about one woman who had enlisted in the Women's Army Corps during WWII and was part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. I've always thought that the author had really captured the difficulties of being an African American woman in the armed services at that time. And now, Mary Cronk Farrell has written a book that explores these difficulties in depth and introduces readers to some of the courageous African American women who served their country with determination, dignity and patriotism.

Farrell begins with the creation of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps in May 1942. Though women in the WAAC were not considered to be military personnel and so they had no rank, no entitlements for dependents, and received less pay than men in the military, women signed up anyway, wanting to do their patriotic duty for their country. Thanks to the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt and Civil Rights leader Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, black women were also allowed to join and train for positions of rank, and a number of women were recruited from different colleges around the country for officer training.

After training, African American women like Lieutenant Charity Adams were assigned a command of enlisted women of color ready to begin basic training. These were women who wanted to serve their country, but they also "saw the army as an opportunity to better their life, find adventure, or see the world." (pg. 49)
Major Charity Adams
What officers and enlisted black women hadn't really counted on was the army's policy of segregation. While discrimination wasn't tolerated, the army continued the practice of separating black and white soldiers under the idea of separate but equal. But, as Farrell shows, it was definitely separate, but it wasn't equal. For example, after basic training, black WAACs sent to southern bases were ordered to do menial tasks, such are cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, and stacking beds. If they objected, they were given even more grunt work to do, such as washing the walls in the laundry, and doing the laundry - all jobs that had not been approved for WAACs to do. Sometimes, there was even talk of a court-martial for such insubordination. What is interesting is that Farrell looks at the responses of the African American women when they were faced with Jim Crow laws, prejudice, segregation, and ordered to do menial tasks, interviewing several of the women who served and were still living while she was writing this book.

A good potion of the book is devoted the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (aka the Six Triple Eight), the only female African American battalion to serve overseas and under the leadership of Major Charity Adams. In February 1945, more than 800 members in the 6888th were sent to Birmingham, England to sort through "six airplane hangars, piled to the ceiling with bags of mail," letters and packages that had been piling up for months (pg. 4) These WACs* knew it was important work, soldiers needed their mail from home and the women worked under the slogan "no mail, low morale." After their mission in England was finished, the 6888th moved on to Paris, France.
The 6888th arriving in England
Standing Up Against Hate is a book about service and honor that will draw in young readers and keep them. It is informative and reader accessible, with personal accounts that bring the history of African American women serving in the army vividly to life. Complimenting and supporting these accounts are copious archival photographs, many of which include the women interviewed.

If you've ever read a book by Mary Cronk Farrell, you know that she is a careful researcher, and talented craftswoman at telling a true story. Though much in this book is a positive look at the women and their accomplishments, it is also concerned with institutionalized racism and discrimination that faced both black men and women in the armed services during WWII. Nor, does Farrell does not shy away from describing some of the degrading treatment personally directed by individual women - not just by southern white male officers, but by fellow white WACS, and civilians, male and female, while riding buses and trains, called names and at times, badly beaten. Yet, they continued to serve with dignity.

Did the WAC provide the hoped for opportunity to better their life, find adventure, or see the world? You be the judge!

Farrell supplements her text with an abundance of photos and newspaper articles, many of which I had seen before. Back matter includes an Author's Note, a Glossary, a Time Line, Notes, and a Select Bibliography.

There is a teaching guide available on the author's website for this outstanding book.

Standing Up Against Hate is a book I couldn't put down and I can't recommend it highly enough for both middle and high school age readers. There is just so much to learn from it. Enhance your readers experience by pairing this with Mare's War.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an ARC sent to me by the published, Abrams BFYR

*The Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) became the Women's Army Corps (WAC) on July 1, 1943 when it was changed to active duty status.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Searching for Lottie by Susan L. Ross

When seventh-grader Charlotte "Charlie" Roth is given a family tree project to do for school, she decides to try to find out what happened to her great aunt and namesake, Charlotte "Lottie" Kulka, older sister to Charlie's Nana Rose. The family has always assumed that Lottie had perished in the Holocaust, but now Charlie wants to learn more about her and maybe even discover what really happened to her. Lottie had been a talented violinist living with her family in Vienna, and had been sent to Budapest, Hungary to study music there just before the Nazis annexed Austria. Lottie's younger sister Rose and mother survived the incoming Nazis by fleeing Vienna after their father and husband was arrested. He to was never heard from again.

Nana Rose is more than happy to help Charlie, and sends her an old diary of Lottie's that she had managed to save. The only problem is that it is looks like it is written in German, but when a friend's grandmother tries to read it for Charlie, she tells her it is a music journal that includes all the people she went to concerts with and that it is not only written in German, but in Hungarian, too. Two names stand out - one is Nathan Kulka and the other is Johann Schmidt.

Using mementos, old photos, letters, Lottie's journal, and Nana Rose's scrapbooks and memories, Lottie slowly begins to form a picture of who Lottie was, but she is not closer to finding out what happened to her. Nana Rose knows who Nathan Kulka was, but never found him, either. The son of a dentist, she thought maybe he might also be a dentist and living in Connecticut after the war, but she had never followed up on it. Could it be that he was indeed a long lost relative who might be able to shed some light on Lottie's fate?

Like her namesake, Charlie is also a talented violinist and is hoping to be named the school's orchestra concertmaster, an honor usually reserved for 8th graders. In between research, school, family life, and thinking about her crush, Charlie spends as much time as possible practicing for her audition. When the results come in, Charlie is surprised to learn that there is a boy who is crushing on her.

Searching for Lottie is a novel based on Susan Ross's family history, which you can read more about on her website Here and in her Author's Note at the end of the book. I thought that Charlie's quest to discover what happened to Lottie, her life as a middle schooler, and her aspiration to become concertmaster were nicely intertwined in this short novel. I loved seeing Charlie's determination even in the face of disappointment, her courage in approaching strangers, not all of them friendly, to find out more about Lottie, and her patience with her grandmother, who is clearly the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. Nana Rose's fading memory highlights how imperative it has become to record stories regarding the Holocaust that might otherwise be lost forever, especially as more and more witnesses to it pass away. 

One thing I was surprised by is that Nana Rose never tried to get in touch with the person in Connecticut she thought could be Nathan Kulka, despite her great love for her missing sister. I know she said it was too painful, but still, Kulka isn't a common name and she could have returned to this later when she had some distance from the past.

Still, I thought this was an interesting novel, and despite one or two terribly convenient coincidences, one I would recommend. Ross does manage to let her readers know that the trauma of the Holocaust is real and deep, but without being overly graphic, making this a good book for kids in the 4th, 5th, 6th grades who may just be learning about WWII.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Golden Tresses of the Dead (a Flavia de Luce Mystery #10) by Alan Bradley

It's autumn 1952, and although Flavia de Luce and her sisters, Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne) are still distraught over the loss of their father less than a year ago, the Buckshaw household is getting ready for Feely's marriage to Dieter. Dieter, you may remember, was a former prisoner of war, a German pilot shot down over England by RAF pilot Reggie Mould. Now, Reggie is Dieter's best man at his nuptials.

All goes well at the wedding until Feely makes the first cut of her wedding cake, and discovers a severed human finger where the slice used to be. Feely's subsequent hysterics naturally gives Flavia a chance to wrap the finger in a napkin and whisk it away to her laboratory upstairs, where she is soon joined by Dogger, who had previously been her father's valet and loyal family's servant. You may recall that at the end of Book #9, The Grave's a Fine and Private PlaceFlavia and Dogger had gone professional, establishing Arthur W. Dogger & Associates, Discreet Investigations. Needless to say, they immediately begin investigating the finger and lose no time in identifying it as belonging to a famous guitarist, Mme. Adriana Castelnuovo.

Before they get too far with the mystery of how Mme. Castelnuovo's severed finger ended up in Feely's wedding cake, they are hired by a Mrs. Anastasia Prill. Mrs. Prill believes that several letters of a delicate nature have been stolen from her home. Her father, Dr. Augustus Brocken had been a homeopathic practitioner and the developer of Brocken's Balsamic Electuary, a miracle cure all balm, which made him oodles of money. Now, though, the elderly Dr. Brocken has been living in an unresponsive state in Gollingford Abbey, a very expensive private hospital. But no sooner do they begin piecing together the clues to the missing letters then Mrs. Prill is found dead in her home, a suspicious cup of coffee nearby.

In the middle of all this, Flavia's friend and wife of the vicar, Cynthia Richardson, asks if two missionaries from Africa, Miss Doris Pursemaker and Miss Ardella Stonebrook, can stay at Buckshaw for a while, a request to which Flavia grudging agrees. It doesn't take long for Flavia and Dogger to wonder if the severed finger, the Brocken family's intrigues and the two missionaries are somehow connected to each other.

Flavia, who has been acutely feeling Feely's departure from Buckshaw, "Feely, with whom I had been engaged in an eternal joust since the day of my birth; Feely whom I always loved; Feely whom I sometimes hated" (pg 32), stoically throws herself into investigating these new mysteries as a way of avoiding this new loss in her life.

And Bradley writes this novel with the same zeal with which he has always approached his Flavia novels. And now he has given Flavia a foil in the form of Undine, her younger orphaned cousin now living in Buckshaw. Undine has always felt like an intruder there, treated more like an annoyance than someone who might have some good detection ideas, and she has been trying to prove herself to Flavia the whole time she has been living in Buckshaw. Will she ever get Flavia's respect?

Bradley has a way of incorporating interesting bits of trivia into his novels and this one is no different. I found the idea of the London Necropolis Company fascinating and I suspect fans of Flavia will too. And riding the same rails from Waterloo Station to Brookwood that this one famous funeral train traveled on is the first official act of Arthur W. Dogger & Associates and seems just so absolutely appropriate.

The Golden Tresses of the Dead is as delightful to read as all the previous books. It is supposed to be the last Flavia de Luce novel, but boy, it sure doesn't feel that way and let's hope it isn't.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book is an EARC received from NetGalley

Sunday, February 17, 2019

MMGM: The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

It's the summer of 1946 and in Birdsong, South Carolina, Gabriel Haberlin has just tuned 12 and received a brand new Schwinn Autocycle Deluxe for his birthday. Excited to test it out and show his friend Patrick, Gabe sets off not paying too much attention to a stoplight ahead of him that has just turned red, and it's too late for him to swerve out of the way of an oncoming car. Lucky for Gabe, someone pushes him out of way just in time.

That someone is Meriwether Hunter, a black man looking for work. Gabe, so grateful to him not just for saving his life, but for fixing his mangled bike on the spot, convinces his father, owner of a garage that is listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, to give Meriwether a job fixing cars. It seems Meriwether is a genius at fixing things. The only problem is that the other mechanic, Lucas Shaw, really doesn't like black people and rumor has it that he either belongs to the Ku Klux Klan or at least has friends who belong.

Gabe's mother has always thought of Birdsong as a "peaceful, pretty place" but that's because the Haberlins are white. For the black people living on "The Other Side," Birdsong is a segregated, potentially dangerous place, as Gabe discovers when he befriends Meriwether. And as they spend more time together, Gabe begins to look around him and see just how life really is for those living on The Other Side: his school so much better than the school the black children go to, he has access to the public library, while Meriwether's daughter Abigail, an avid reader at 10, can only use the makeshift library in her church, and Gabe begins to notice the large number of signs everywhere saying Whites Only, and the way white people refer to African American adult men as "boy" or "uncle" and women as "auntie," including his friend Patrick.

But a mystery surrounds just how Meriwether learned his excellent mechanical skills fixing cars, and why he refuses to answer when asked about it. When Gabe returns from Charleston after attending a July 4th parade honoring local servicemen who fought in WWII, including Gabe's Uncle Earl who was at the Battle of the Bulge, Meriwether's truth comes out. He, too, had fought in WWII as part of the all-black 761st Tank Battalion a/k/a the Black Panthers, had also been at the Battle of the Bulge, and had proven himself as a great mechanic throughout his service. Gabe learns not only are there no parades for African American veterans who served honorably in the war, in the south, they are also being advised not to let people know about their service so as not to bring harm to themselves or their family.

Everything comes to a head when a mysterious package shows up on Meriwether's doorstep putting the family in grave danger.

As I started reading, I thought it was interesting that Brenda Woods wrote this from a white boy's point of view. But as I kept reading, I realized that this story couldn't be told any other way. By looking at the injustice and inequality that African American were subjected to in the Jim Crow south through Gabe's awakening eyes, Woods was able to create a richly layered story.

Despite growing up in a home where he was taught to "treat all folks, regardless of color, with courtesy and respect. And be as good a person as you can be" (pg 50), Gabe's friendship with Meriwether that summer of 1946 is a real coming of age summer where the truth of injustice and inequality becomes an undeniable reality to him.

And through Gabe, Meriwether's story becomes all the more poignant and, for the reader, all the more informative. For example, the fact that Uncle Earl participates in a big parade celebrating the white veterans makes the lack of a parade for black veterans that much more painful for Meriwether. It really highlights how during the war American lives were in the same danger as the white soldiers, that they were fighting every bit as hard as them and that many fell in action as well, and yet they received not honors when they returned home accorded white soldiers, only threats to their lives.

Meriwether Hunter's story really shows how the war may have ended for the world, but another fight, the fight for justice and equality, continued for African American veterans.

Woods has written a novel that is both serious and often amusing, especially when Gabe gets together with his camera toting, slang using cousin Tink. And to underscore his coming of age, his crushes on a local girl and on Tink's liberal neighbor from NYC. I loved Meriwether's daughter Abigail, who was not afraid to speak her mind and I know in my heart of hearts that if these were real people, the future Gabe and Abigail would be out there in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement fighting for change.

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

You can read an interesting article by Brenda Woods about The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA HERE

And if you would like more information about the treatment of African American veterans after WWII, the following may be helpful:

"More Likely to be Attacked Than Honored": Changing the Way We Remember Black Soldiers by Douglas Walter Bristol, Jr.,

The Tragic, Forgotten History of Black Veterans by Peter C. Baker,

Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans from the Equal Justice Initiative

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


Sunday, February 10, 2019

#MMGM: How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London by Deborah Hopkinson

It's 1944, American servicemen have arrived in London and everyone is talking about the pending invasion of France to break the Nazi stronghold in Europe and end Hitler's reign. London is being bombed once again by the Germans, and for Bertie Bradshaw, 13, and his rescue dog Little Roo, it means finally being old enough to become a messenger for the Civil Defense post in his neighborhood.

One night, as the air raid sirens begin, Bertie bumps into an American girl in a blue coat about his age, who drops a little red notebook. Bertie picks it up to return, but the girl has already run off and so has Little Roo, down a different street and straight to a unconscious woman laying on the sidewalk. Determining that she isn't a bomb victim, Bertie reports the incident to his Civil Defense post, but when they return to the spot where the women was laying, she is nowhere in sight. What could have happened to this mysterious lady?

Back home, Bertie pulls out the red notebook to see if he could find the owner's name. Instead, he finds notes made by someone in training with the SOE (Special Operations Executive) to become a spy. Fascinated by what has been written, Bertie keeps reading until suddenly the writer begins using random letters that just look like gibberish. Thinking it might be a cipher, Bertie decides to talk to his best friend David, a German Jewish boy who had come to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport, and is a Sherlock Holmes fan who also happens knows all about ciphers.

The next day, a Saturday, Bertie and Little Roo head over to where most of the Americans are staying hoping to find the girl in the blue coat. Realizing it was a long shot, the two begin walking when Bertie notices that he is being following by a man. Dodging the man, Bertie decides to follow him instead and is led right to Baker Street, to a place called the Inter-Services Research Bureau. Thinking this might just be the SOE offices he read about in the notebook, there's no time to investigate what it's all about because suddenly his arm was grabbed by none other than the American girl in the blue coat, demanding he return the red notebook immediately. But why? A 13-year-old girl can't be training to become a spy, can she? But how is the notebook connected to this American girl named Eleanor Shea?

Right from the start there's a lot going on in this exciting mystery/adventure novel. It turns out that Eleanor knows that the notebook belongs to Violette Romy, a former French tutor of hers. David is able to help with some of the cipher in the notebook, but not all of it. As secrets about the impending top secret invasion and the French Resistance are revealed to the three friends, they also discover a series of double crosses and traitors putting both Violette's life and the liberation of Europe from the Nazis in jeopardy.

But that still leaves a question about the identity of the unconscious lady and the man following Bertie. Mystery abounds.

I loved reading How I Became a Spy. Not only is it full of historical references, but for added interest and authenticity, Hopkinson has also peopled it with some real, if not necessarily, familiar people, such as General Dwight Eisenhower, Leo Marks, a SOE code maker, and she modeled the character of Warden Ita, of the Civil Defense after the real air-raid warden E. Ita Ekpenyon, who was born in Nigeria. The story is narrated by Bertie, who is a lively character despite living with the memory of his paralyzing fear during the Blitz that caused injury to his older brother, Will and who alway feels like he has disappointed his father.

The novel takes place over the course of one week, beginning on Friday, February 18, 1944 and ending on Thursday, February 24, 1944, plus an Epilogue dated Sunday, July 2, 1944. The one week perimeter adds to the excitement and tension of needing to decode the pages written in cipher and then getting the information into the hands of the right people.

The bombing of London by the Luftwaffe in 1944, often referred to as the "Baby Blitz" isn't generally the setting for historical fiction, let alone that written for middle graders, making this a great addition to the body of home front literature.

One of my favorite things about How I Became a Spy is that Hopkinson has included four different ciphers scattered throughout the book, allowing readers to learn about some of the different kinds of ciphers they work alone with Bertie, David, and Eleanor. There is a Simple Substitution Cipher, a Caesar Cipher, a Atbash Cipher, and a Mixed-Alphabet Cipher. And at one point, they make and use a Cipher Wheel. I really liked this hands on activity for kids to try.

How I Became a Spy is an engaging historical fiction novel with engaging characters that will surely have wide-spread appeal. I can't recommend it highly enough.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was provided to me by the author

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on at Always in the Middle

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

World War II: From the Rise of the Nazi Party to the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb (an Inquire & Investigate Book) by Diane C. Taylor, illustrated by Sam Carbaugh

The history of WWII is so big and so complicated, with roots going back to WWI, that it can sometimes (understandably) overwhelm students. Sure, they may like to read novels set in WWII, but they are usually about how main characters faced and met different kinds of challenges, which is great but they don't really give kids the whole picture of what this war was about.

So, how does a teacher, whether in the classroom or home schooling, help their young students understand how and why the world found itself at war again just 20 years after the "war to end all wars" had ended?

To answer that question, Diane Taylor goes back to World War I. In Chapter One, The First World War, Taylor gives a brief but detailed history of the causes for that the war, looking at the early alliances European countries formed as a way of avoiding conflicts and their lingering distrust of one another, especially Germany, so that by 1914, they were all primed for a war that just needed a spark. That spark came when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie of Austria were assassinated 1914. Taylor then brings the reader through the war, why the United States was pulled into it into the conflict, and the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the war.

Chapter Two, Hitler's Rise to Power, traces the rise of Adolf Hitler beginning with the economic factors that made it possible. The end of WWI and the reparations Germany was required to pay to the Allies helped bring about severe inflation, and that together with Hitler's National Socialist party, his anti-Semitic agenda and his desire to make Germany great again appealed to many Germans. It was just a matter of time until Hitler found a way to seize power and become Chancellor of Germany,

Chapter 3, The War in Europe, looks at the war in Europe, beginning with Germany's invasion of Poland, followed by the invasion of other European countries in Hitler's quest for more and more Lebensraum (living space) for German colonization. It also covers the Battle of Britain a/k/a the Blitz, Hitler's attempt to invade Russia and the beginning of the Holocaust.

Chapter 4, The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, details the U.S. entry into WWII, after a sneak attack of the American navy fleet in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, the U.S. response declaring war on Japan, and its ally Germany, home front fears of Japanese loyalty, and America's decision to open up concentration camps for Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, and the role of minorities in the still segregated armed services.

Chapter 5, War in the Pacific and Asia, covers the beginning of the war in the Pacific, America's unpreparedness against the strongly militarized Japanese, the capture of Americans and the Bataan Death March, the Japanese practice of death before dishonor, and the use of incendiary bombs against Japan, as well as the building of the Burma Road, needed to help supply China with essentials. The war in the Pacific was a very bloody war, yet most people on the home front were more focused on the war in Europe, and the reasons why are also looked at.

Chapter 6, War's End, looked at the factors that finally brought WWII to an end, beginning with the African and Italian Campaigns, and the invasion of Normandy or D-Day, the liberation of Europe and finally the liberation of Hitler's concentration and death camps, followed by the use of the atom bomb and the end of war in the Pacific.

Chapter 7, Legacies of World War II, focuses on the many stateless people who wandered Europe after the fighting stopped, having no place to call home, the birth of Israel, the Nuremberg trials of Nazis for crimes against humanity, and the new role of the United Nations and eventually the establishment of the European Union.

Why is World War II: From the Rise of the Nazi Party to the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb such a stand out book for teaching upper middle grade and high school students about WWII? Like all the books in the Inquire & Investigate series, this is an interactive text that gives enough information about each topic, designed to get kids to explore more in depth and to help them understand the causes, the aftermath, and consequences of a war of global magnitude. Along with photographs and maps, each chapter has sidebars with additional information and vocabulary labs, key questions, and prompts for more exploration. There are also pages with projects about different aspects of the war to inquire and investigate:

Teachers can also download a useful Classroom Guide to use with this book, courtesy of the publisher, Nomad Press.

Pair this this with The Holocaust: Racism and Genocide in World War II by Carla Mooney and Great World War II Projects You Can Build Yourself Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt for an in-depth study of WWII.

If you are a teacher or just interested in WWII history, I can't recommend these books highly enough.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was provided by the publisher, Nomad Press

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Recently Added to My TBR List


I haven't done a top ten list in a long long time. So long, in fact, that it is no longer hosted by The Broke and the Book, but is now run by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. But it still works pretty much the same: each Tuesday a topic is given and participants post their Top Ten list accordingly.

This week's topic is the top ten most recent additions to my to-be-read list, and here is mine:

How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson
Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, 272 pages

It's 1944, everyone knows the invasion of France is coming but plans must be kept top secret. One night during a bombing raid on London by the Germans, Bertie, 13, finds a small red notebook dropped by a young American girl about the same age. In it are notes about spying and some are written in code.  Who is the American girl? And why does she have this notebook? Can Bertie figure out the code? I can tell that this is going to be a fun mystery to read.

The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay
Macmillan Children's Books, 2018, 320 pages

This is a World War I story. I read the American edition of this and decided to read the original British edition. It is the story of Clarry and her older brother Peter and their family in WWI and Clarry's efforts to carry on normally after their beloved older cousin Rupert goes off to fight in the war. 

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange
Chicken House, 2019, 336 pages

I heard nothing but good buzz about this book, and I knew I had to read it. It sounds like an exciting story set a lighthouse on the southern coast of England beginning in 1939, just as WWII breaks out. Petra and her sister have grown up in the lighthouse, hearing stories about sea monsters and Daughter of Stone legends, along with whispers about secret tunnels. It should be an exciting book and I can't wait to read it. 

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, 2018, 400 pages

I've had this book sitting on my TBR shelf for a while and I'm looking forward to a calmer year and more reading time to really get into this book. Teenage Chaya is Jewish and living in Nazi-occupied Poland. After her younger brother disappears, and her younger sister is taken away, Chaya decides to do something. Joining the resistance is perfect for her. With her fair looks, she can really get away with a lot right under the eyes of the Nazis. Eventually, she finds herself fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I've read a lot of resistance stories and this one sounds just riveting. 

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army 
Helped Change the Course of WWII
Mary Cronk Farrell, 2019, 208 pages

Anyone who has read Farrell's earlier book, Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp, knows they are going to find the same well-written, well-researched honest approach to this book. Although black women could enlist in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they faced a much more difficult life than their white counterparts. These brace women faced segregation, discrimination, prejudice, second-class conditions, and yet they served with honor, valor, and dignity. This should prove to be an informative look at the all-black 6888th Central Postal Delivery Battalion, the only female battalion to serve overseas under the leadership of Charity Adams.

Air Raid Search and Rescue (Soldier Dogs #1)
written by Marcus Sutter, illustrated by Pat Kinsella
Turtleback Books, 2018, 224 pages

On of my kids brought this book to me because he knows I like dog stories and there aren't too many WWII books about them. Matt, 12, and his American family are already living Canterbury in the UK when war breaks out. When the United States enters the war, Matt's older brother Eric enlists in the Marines, and gives Matt his pet German Shepard, Chief. Meanwhile the family are fostering a German Jewish girl named Rachel, who had been part of the Kindertransport. My student says I'll love this book, and I can believe it. 

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Holiday House, 2018, 112 pages

This sounds like it will be a small but powerful book. The student I lent my copy to loved it. After his mother dies in 1946, Langston, 11, and his father move to Chicago from Alabama. There, in a library open to everyone and not just whites, Langston discovers the poet his mother named him after. Though this is technically not a war story, it does introduced young readers to the segregation and the dangers that African Americans faced resulting in the Port Chicago Disaster of 1944.

Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Scholastic Press, 2019, 208 pages

This is actually a reissue of Stolen Child, and a part of a trilogy of connected stories beginning with Making Bombs for Hitler and The War Below. After the Nazis shoot their mother and the Jews she had been hiding, Lida, 8, and her younger sister Larissa, 5, are kidnapped from their grandmother's home in the Ukraine and sent by cattle car to Germany, along with all the other Ukrainian children the Nazis took. Making Bombs for Hitler is Lida's story and Stolen Girl is Larissa's story, whose name has been changed to Nadia and I suspect it will bring these stories full circle.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Harper, 2018, 262 pages

I've read the reviews and articles about this book, and while I understand it is flawed, I would still like to read it. 

Lovely War by Julie Berry
Viking BFYR, 2019, 480 pages

This is also a WWI story, and while it is a love story, it is also a fantasy. It's just difficult to talk about without have read it, but I do know seeks to answer the ago-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? I'm looking forward to discovering whether Berry has come up with the answer.



Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Eleventh Hour written and illustrated Jacques Goldstyn

Contains Spoilers

Since the last book I reviewed here was a WWI story, I thought it would be a good time to look at The Eleventh Hour, a WWI picture book for older readers (7+). It is the story of two friends who ultimately find themselves on the battlefield, and give the poppy on the cover, I assume they fought on Flanders Field.

Jules and Jim are born in the same town on the same day in a small Canadian town. Jim is born first, followed by Jules two minutes later, setting a life long pattern of Jim being on time, Jules being late. Because they are next door neighbors, the boys play with each other as babies, and become childhood best friends. They like to do the same things, but it is always clear that Jim is the leader: '...Jim always took the lead. He was faster and stronger than Jules, but since they were friends, Jim always looked out for Jules. Everyone agreed: Jules and Jim were an odd pair."

The two remain best friends as they grow up and when Britain and Germany go to war in 1914, Canada also goes to war (at the time, Canada was a British dominion). Both Jim and Jules enlist in the army. And just like always, Jules is a little behind Jim, who gets the best fitting uniform, does better in basic training and sails to Europe in a big new convoy ship. Showing up two minutes late, Jules ends up in an ill fitting uniform, spends basic training peeling potatoes, and misses sailing to Europe in the same ship as his best friend.

War isn't exactly what they expected, but they do their duty in the trenches, fighting the Germans, the wet cold, the lice, and the rats in the trenches and obeying orders. Jules and Jim never really understood the war and even envy prisoners, for whom the war is over. The war gets much worse before it gets better, but finally, on November 11, 1918, an armistice is signed and the cease fire is scheduled to happen at 11 o'clock that morning. At 10:58 AM, following an order to attack, Jim is killed on the battlefield and Jules is devastated.

Jules returns home without his best friend, and tries to live a normal life, but can't stop thinking about Jim. After trying all kinds of jobs, Jules becomes a watchmaker, and although his watches work well, they nevertheless always run two minutes behind.

Originally written in French (Jules et Jim: frères d'armes) and skillfully translated by Anne Louise Mahoney, who never loses the wry humor or the poignancy of the story, The Eleventh Hours is an incredibly sad book. Each time I've read it, it brings tears to my eyes, but it is also an incredibly powerful anti-war story. It is based on a true story and dedicated to the memory of George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian to die in WWI, when he was killed at 10:58 AM, just two minutes before WWI ended.

Goldstyn is a political cartoonist and is quite adapt at creating a strong story with one illustration. And The Eleventh Hour is not different. Despite the economy of words and spare line and watercolor illustrations, Goldstyn nevertheless paints a full picture of more than a life long friendship, and life in the trenches, he also manages to include what life was life on the home front, giving a well rounded picture of how war impacted life during WWI, and from which one can easily extrapolate that these tragedies and hardships are same realities of war in general.

The Eleventh Hour is a book that will appeal to historical fiction fans, those interested in WWI history, and definitely to pacifists like myself.

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

From the Archives: A Patriotic Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil

I've had another bookcase collapse, and so I'm done with Ikea bookcases and am now using industrial shelving, which I don't like one bit, but luckily it's just a temporary solution. My Kiddo has been home since Thanksgiving and helped me put things back in order, and in the process, we found a bunch of books that had been shelved behind other books. These were old copies of books published for girls just before and during WWII that I had used for research years ago. There were also a few older books from WWI. And sure enough, I got pulled into rereading Angela Brazil's WWI book A Patriotic Schoolgirl. Published in London in 1918 by Blackie & Son, it is just one of many of Brazil's boarding school books.

A Patriotic Schoolgirl begins just as Marjorie Anderson, 15, and her sister Dona, 13, are about to be sent off to boarding school. Marjorie is an energetic, outgoing girl but one who is prone to acting impulsively. She's already been to boarding school before, so she's looking forward to being at Brackenfield College, playing hockey and making friends. Dona is much shyer and reserved, content to live in Marjorie's shadow, has no interest in sports, doesn't make friends easily, and would much rather continue to be home schooled. As for the rest of the family, they are described as "a large and rambling family." Father is a soldier serving in France; older sister Nora is already married; Bevis is in the Navy on board the HMS Relentless; Leonard is serving in the trenches somewhere in France; Larry has just been conscripted and is going into training; Peter, 11, has been away at boarding school for three years and is returning there again; Cyril is also off to boarding school, and only youngest Joan will stay at home.

Due to her own work, Mrs. Anderson must send the girls to Brackenfield alone on the train. After missing their connecting train to London, making them 2 hours late, they meet a kind soldier who helps them with their unwieldily belongings. Unluckily, when they part at Euston Station and the teacher meeting them sees them speaking with a soldier, Miss Norton takes an immediate dislike to both girls.

Put into separate houses at school, at first "life seemed a breathless and confusing whirl of classes, meals, and calisthenic exercises, with a continual ringing of bells and marching from one room to another." Eventually, however, Marjorie and Dona find their way. Marjorie makes friends with the other girls in her dormitory, even convincing them to pull a few pranks, while Dona finds herself attracted to the more solitary study of Natural History and Photography.

A Patriotic Schoolgirl is basically the story of Marjorie's overcoming her impulsive nature and assimilating into boarding school life. She really loves a good prank, which usually gets her into trouble. But one episode involving a letter she impulsively writes to a soldier has some serious consequences, including a near expulsion. She is told that she has broken school rules and "transgressed against the spirit of the school" with her 'vulgar correspondence." Marjorie has always been extremely patriotic, she "followed every event of the war keenly, and was thrilled by the experiences of her soldier father and brothers. She was burning to do something to help - to nurse the wounded [as her older cousin Elaine does], drive a transport wagon, act as secretary to a staff-officer, or even be telephone operator over in France." Marjorie just wants more than anything to do her bit for her country, which is why she wrote the letter to a soldier in the first place, never dreaming he would write back.

When a new girl, Chrissie Lang, arrives after the Christmas break, Marjorie finds a new best friend in her. Chrissie is overly interested in hearing about the soldiers in Marjorie's family, as well as learning about the nearby P.O.W. camp. When suspicious happenings in school are noticed, it appears there might a spy in the school. But is it Miss Norton, aka the Acid Drop, who has her own secret, or could it be someone else. And Marjorie is determined to find out just who it is.

I really love a good boarding school story and, for the most part, this one really suited me. A Patriotic Schoolgirl is a marvelous window into the requirements, customs, and rituals that surround boarding schools at that time. Brazil goes into great detail about these things and, I have to be honest, just reading the requirements of what each girl was expected to bring with her boggled my mind.

And Brackenfield College is a strict school with a hard-nosed headmistress, one that for most of the book feels like a good fit for Dona, but definitely not for Marjorie. In the end, though, Marjorie learns to adhere to school values and principles, to comport herself accordingly, and to find a more gentlewomanly outlet for her patriotism. I do wonder at this message, however.

It was fun to revisit A Patriotic Schoolgirl and if you would like to read it, too, you can download a copy at Project Gutenberg, along with 27 other books by Angela Brazil.


Going through all those books, I also found a copy of Five Jolly Schoolgirls, a 1941 WWII book by Angela Brazil that I also haven't read in years, so maybe it's time to revisit that one, too.

You can read more about Angela Brazil, her life and her books HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Look Back at 2018

WOW! 2019 will be my 9th year blogging at The Children's War and I have to be honest, I didn't think it would last so long. I've had lots of fun over the last 9 years, reading and participating in different bookish events. And each year, I am surprised at the number of new books published for young readers about WWI and WWII. This year, for the first time, I've picked 10 of my 2018 favorites, chosen because each offers a unique window into little known events and/or a great story:


Here are the links to my reviews of each book:
The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle
Jazz Owls: A Novel about the Zoot Suit Riots by Margarita Engle
The Prisoner in the Castle (Maggie Hope Mystery #8) by Susan Elia MacNeal
Skylark and Wallcreeper by Anne O'Brien Carelli
Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
Island War by Patricia Reilly Giff
A Kingdom Falls (Book Three of the Ravenmaster Trilogy) by John Owen Theobald
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix
Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in World War II by Sally Deng

My Kiddo has been home since Thanksgiving Day for an extended visit and it has been so much fun having her here. She's just waiting for her visa now and then she's going back to China to teach sometime this month. Meanwhile, we've been doing lots of things together, which is one of the reasons I haven't been around so much lately (but I have been reading):

At Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas Tree
I've also been the Cybils category chair for Middle Grade Fiction this year, and, as you can see, our wonderful, hard-reading Round 1 panelists have come up with seven award contenders for Round 2 judges to read and deciding a winner will not be an easy task:

I also completed by Goodreads challenge 9 books over my goal, so that was satisfying. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi was my largest book and it was also by far my favorite Speculation Fiction book of 2018.
This year, my goal is still 250 books, but subject to change.

Now, I am really looking forward to what 2019 will bring.