Tag Archives: World War II

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk. May 1, 2018. Loqueleo, 280 p. ISBN: 9786070134272.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Spanish translation of: Wolf Hollow

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying with the intent to do physical harm, Cruelty to animals, Anti-German sentiments during World War II, Frank descriptions of the harsh realities of war, Frank description of an injury, Death

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Eleven-year-old Annabelle is living a relatively idyllic life on her family’s Pennsylvania farm, until its normalcy is interrupted by Betty Glengarry, who has been sent to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible.” Betty’s sullen presence quickly upsets the one-room school’s traditional pecking order, and Annabelle and her younger brothers are Betty’s favorite targets—until Annabelle stands up to her. Not to be outdone, Betty shifts her attention to Toby, a strange WWI veteran already saddled with a dubious reputation within the community. Wolk conjures an aura of unease and dread from the first chapter, even as her pastoral setting and Annabelle’s sunny family life seem to suggest that a happy ending is possible. The spare but hauntingly beautiful language paints every early morning walk to school, household chore, emotion, and rational and irrational thought in exquisite detail, while remaining true to Annabelle’s early-adolescent voice. Her craft notwithstanding, Wolk is relentless in her message: lies and secrets, even for the most noble of reasons, have unintended consequences, as Annabelle’s poignant dilemma reminds us long after the last page is turned. Perfectly pitched to be used in classrooms in conjunction with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2016)
Evil comes to rural Pennsylvania in an unlikely guise in this novel of the American homefront during World War II. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s coming-of-age begins when newcomer Betty Glengarry, newly arrived from the city to stay with her grandparents “because she was incorrigible,” shakes her down for spare change in Wolf Hollow on the way to school. Betty’s crimes quickly escalate into shocking violence, but the adults won’t believe the sweet-looking blonde girl could be responsible and settle their suspicions on Toby, an unkempt World War I veteran who stalks the hills carrying not one, but three guns. Annabelle’s strategies for managing a situation she can’t fully understand are thoroughly, believably childlike, as is her single-minded faith in Betty’s guilt and Toby’s innocence. But her childlike faith implicates her in a dark and dangerous mystery that propels her into the adult world of moral gray spaces. Wolk builds her story deliberately through Annabelle’s past-tense narration in language that makes no compromises but is yet perfectly simple: “Back then, I didn’t know a word to describe Betty properly or what to call the thing that set her apart from the other children in that school.” She realizes her setting with gorgeous immediacy, introducing the culture of this all-white world of hollows, hills, and neighbors with confidence and cleareyed affection. Trusting its readers implicitly with its moral complexity, Wolk’s novel stuns. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

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Voices from the Second World War by Various

Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today by Various. March 20, 2018. Candlewick Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9780763694920.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

In an intergenerational keepsake volume, witnesses to World War II share their memories with young interviewers so that their experiences will never be forgotten.

The Second World War was the most devastating war in history. Up to eighty million people died, and the map of the world was redrawn. More than seventy years after peace was declared, children interviewed family and community members to learn about the war from people who were there, to record their memories before they were lost forever. Now, in a unique collection, RAF pilots, evacuees, resistance fighters, Land Girls, U.S. Navy sailors, and survivors of the Holocaust and the Hiroshima bombing all tell their stories, passing on the lessons learned to a new generation. Featuring many vintage photographs, this moving volume also offers an index of contributors and a glossary.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. WWII ended more than 70 years ago, yet interest in it remains evergreen, as this fascinating work of living history evidences. The voices the title references belong to those who participated in and lived through the war. In many cases, their audience is the young people who are interviewing them, though some of the reminiscences come from sources other than interviews. The stories are arranged topically: “Evacuees,” “Women at War,” “The Resistance,” “The Holocaust,” and more. Originally published in England in cooperation with the children’s newspaper First News and the Silver Line, a confidential help line for older people, the voices belong primarily to British participants, though the contents are international in scope, featuring, for example, a handful of Americans, a small group of Germans, and one Japanese survivor, who recalls his experience of the bombing of Hiroshima. Though many of those featured are elderly—one is more than 100 years old—their memories are vivid and bring to light the realities of war in this valuable collection.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
Firsthand accounts of World War II, many collected by modern children. Though the second world war has been over for more than 70 years, its wide scope still comes most to life in the stories of those who lived through it. The British children’s newspaper First News began collecting these accounts; published here along with others, they offer a comprehensive picture of the war, from soldiers, civilians, and children on all sides, both Allied and Axis. Perhaps due to its British origins, the preponderance of contributions are British, and the war in the European theater dominates, but the African campaign and the war in the Pacific are covered. Resistance efforts and the experiences of women during the war are each covered in separate chapters. The white American navigator of the Enola Gay recounts what it was like to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, while a Japanese man tells what it was like to be an 8-year-old boy in the city that morning. Because children conduct the interviews, most of the short accounts are honest but not brutally graphic. Vintage photographs illustrate every page, and indexes and a glossary allow the book to be used as a true reference resource. A fine tool for any child interested in history as well as for classroom, school, and public libraries. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

 

Teacher Resources

Teaching with Documents from the National Archives

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Raid of No Return by Nathan Hale

Raid of No Return by Nathan Hale. November 7, 2017. Amulet Books, 128 p. ISBN: 9781419725562.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

Nathan Hale tackles a topic fans have been asking about for years: World War II.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, officially bringing the United States into World War II. A new generation of pilots were recruited to fly bombing missions for the United States, and from that group, volunteers were requested for a dangerous secret assignment. For the first time in American history, Army bombers would be launched from an aircraft carrier. Once at sea, they were told their mission was a retaliation strike against targets in Tokyo. But on the day of the raid, a Japanese patrol boat spotted them and they had to launch early, with barely enough fuel to get them past their target.

After the bombing, some pilots crashed, some were captured, and many ended up in mainland China and were carried to safety by Chinese villagers, being hunted by Japanese forces all the while. With tales of high-flying action and bravery, Raid of No Return is a story of heartbreak and survival during wartime.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Alcohol, Harsh realities of war

 

 

About the Author

Nathan Hale is the New York Times best-selling author/illustrator of the Hazardous Tales series, as well as many picture books including Yellowbelly and Plum go to School, the Twelve Bots of Christmas and The Devil You Know.

He is the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack. He also illustrated Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas, Animal House and many others.

His website is www.spacestationnathan.blogspot.com.

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Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz. October 3, 2017. HarperTeen, 376 p. ISBN: 9780062642745.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Smoking, Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 8-11. Based on true events and figures from WWII, Katz’s novel offers a fictional tale of a Russian airwoman called Valka and her childhood friend Pasha and how their lives are disrupted by the war. Kind, peace-loving Pasha is sent to a war-hungry veteran commander as a radio operator, while Valka eventually becomes one of the famous Night Witches, supremely successful regiments of all-women pilots, stealthily flying over enemy lines each night to drop bombs in strategic places. Pasha and Valka’s steady stream of letters—which become increasingly desperate as they’re both moved closer and closer to the front lines and, miraculously, each other—is what ultimately gets them through the war. Katz’s debut doesn’t skimp on the terrible realities of war, as described in Valka’s first-person narrative and the intermittent letters between the two characters, and she nicely weaves historical events through the fictional narrative. This beautiful, emotional entry into a key moment in Russian history will appeal to lovers of adventure novels, as well as historical fiction fans.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Katz’s highly readable novel offers an entry into the story of the Soviet Union’s famed WWII squadrons of airwomen, the “Night Witches.” An accomplished pilot of a quirky, unreliable small plane, Valka leaps at the chance to sign up for the Motherland’s first all-women fighter and bomber regiments. Soon she’s operating as a bomber pilot, assigned to one of the slow, low-flying planes used for night attacks, with her beloved cousin Iskra as her navigator. Nazi fire, terrible weather, darkness, the loss of comrades, even commands to bomb their own countrymen all come into play, exercising Valka’s aeronautical and emotional resources with dramatic effect. Most notably, though, Valka worries about her sweetheart Pasha in the infantry; when the chance comes to save him, she commits treason to do so. Katz is skillfully informative, interweaving historical figures and facts without losing emotional propulsion and suspense; at the same time, she opts to stretch credulity with an expansive correspondence between Valka and Pasha, the chattiness of which would have seriously endangered their comrades, and whose liberality with locations shows a naive–or incredible–disregard of the censors. But that very correspondence is part of what makes this story accessible to American YA readers–as does, no doubt, its suspenseful, Hollywood ending. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Gwen C. Katz is a writer, artist, game designer, and retired mad scientist easily identified by her crew cut and ability to cause trouble. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband and a revolving door of transient mammals.

Her website is www.gwenckatz.com

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The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. May 2, 2017. Sourcebooks, 480 p. ISBN: 9781492649359.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 980.

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger.

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive – until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Clinical description of the results of radium poisoning

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
In 1917, the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation willingly employed young women, paid far better than most businesses, and had many enticing perks—including the glow. Radium girls, most in their teens and early twenties, painted watch dials with a luminescent paint mixed with radium dust, which clung to their hair and clothes and produced a telltale glow about them as they walked home each evening. At the time, radium was used in cancer treatments and touted in expensive tonics, so the girls didn’t question smoothing the radium-laden paintbrushes in their mouths, as instructed, or even painting their nails with them. But the women would soon suffer horrific pain and grotesquely shattered bones and teeth, and the company, it would be discovered, had known better. In 1928, just eight years after women had earned the right to vote, a group of former radium girls brought suit against the companies whose knowledge of radium’s hazards, and careless disregard for them, had endangered and harmed them. This timely book celebrates the strength of a group of women whose determination to fight improved both labor laws and scientific knowledge of radium poisoning. English author Moore, who directed a play about the girls, writes in a highly readable, narrative style, and her chronicle of these inspirational women’s lives is sure to provoke discussion—and outrage—in book groups.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
British author Moore (Felix the Railway Cat, 2017) takes a slice of ugly American history from nearly a century ago, telling a compelling narrative that could be ripped from recent headlines.A few years ago, while living in London, the author went online to search for “great plays for women,” and she found These Shining Lives, a play by Melanie Marnich about the radium poisonings and subsequent workplace-related deaths of factory employees, primarily in Ottawa, Illinois, and Newark, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s. Eager to learn more, Moore traveled to the United States to research the deaths. She found two narrowly focused, quasi-academic books about the saga but nothing for general audiences. Deciding to focus on the employers, the United States Radium Corporation in New Jersey and the Radium Dial Company in Illinois, Moore alternates chapters focusing on more than 15 women employed in Newark and a dozen women in Ottawa. Each one of them became sick from their piecework painting numerals on clock faces using a radium-infused radioactive substance that allowed the products to glow in the dark. Many of the employees died while in their 20s and 30s after years of agonizing illnesses. The employers, as well as the scientists and physicians attending to the women, denied liability for the suffering and deaths. At first, the employers claimed that the radium was benign. Later, when the toxicity had been documented, the employers blamed the women workers for careless use even though the women were observing workplace protocols. Moore clearly separates the heroines from the villains throughout this deeply researched book, and she never masks her outrage. A handful of physicians, public health investigators, and lawyers obtained some monetary awards for the victims, but the money was far from sufficient for adequate justice.Moore offers such vivid portraits of suffering that certain passages can be difficult to read, but this is an important story well told.

About the Author

Kate Moore is a New York Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2015 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.

Her website is www.kate-moore.com

Teacher Resources

The Radium Girls Reading Guide

The Radium Girls Discussion Questions

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The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek

The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II by Mona Golabek. March 28, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 213 p. ISBN: 9780316554886.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.2.

Fourteen-year-old Lisa Jura was a musical prodigy who hoped to become a concert pianist. But when Hitler’s armies advanced on pre-war Vienna, Lisa’s parents were forced to make a difficult decision. Able to secure passage for only one of their three daughters through the Kindertransport, they chose to send gifted Lisa to London for safety.

As she yearned to be reunited with her family while she lived in a home for refugee children on Willesden Lane, Lisa’s music became a beacon of hope. A memoir of courage, survival, and the power of music to uplift the human spirit, this compelling tribute to one special young woman and the lives she touched will both educate and inspire young readers.

Featuring line art throughout and B&W photos.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Antisemitism, Xenophobic epithets

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Ms. Golabek is the founder and president of the non-profit organization Hold On To Your Music. She is an author, recording artist, radio host and internationally acclaimed concert pianist. Ms. Golabek was taught by her mother, Lisa Jura, who, along with Lisa’s mother Malka, is the subject of Ms. Golabek’s book, The Children Of Willesden Lane. The work of Ms. Golabek and her sister, the late concert pianist Renee Golabek-Kaye, has been inspired by the words their grandmother uttered to her daughter at the Vienna train station as Lisa boarded the Kindertransport for safety in London at the outset of World War II. “Hold on to your music,” Malka told her, “It will be your best friend.”

A Grammy nominee, Ms. Golabek has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant and the People’s Award of the International Chopin Competition. She has been the subject of several PBS television documentaries, including More Than the Music, which won the grand prize in the 1985 Houston Film Festival, and Concerto for Mona, featuring Ms. Golabek and conductor Zubin Mehta. She has appeared in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, Royal Festival Hall and with major orchestras and conductors worldwide.

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Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Borstein. March 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 352 p. ISBN: 9780374305710.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 890.

In 1945, in a now-famous piece of archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved Michael’s life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat.

Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Genocide, Harsh realities of the Holocaust, Antisemitism, Desecration of corpses, Sexual assault

 

Book Trailer

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. In 1940, Michael Bornstein was born in Zarki, Poland—then a Nazi-occupied ghetto. In 1944, Michael and his family arrived at Auschwitz. Miraculously, in 1953, Michael celebrated his bar mitzvah in New York City. Here, with the help of his television news producer daughter, he recounts the spectacular story of his survival. The duo chronologically document the Germans’ ruthless occupation—and eventual liquidation—of Zarki; the Bornsteins’ compulsory stint at an ammunitions factory; their tragic trek to Auschwitz; and the aftermath of the war in a land ruptured by unconscionable brutality and bigotry. But this account is shaped less by events than it is people: Michael’s father, Israel, with his dangerous devotion to a crumbling community; Michael’s infinitely courageous Mamishu; his ever-resilient grandmother; and his stubbornly spirited slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sprinkled with Yiddish and appended by an informative afterword, captioned photos, and brief glossary, the first-person narrative is a tenderly wrought tribute to family, to hope, and to the miracles both can bring. A powerful memoir for the middle-grade set.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
Michael was only 4 when he miraculously survived the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945.Filmed by Soviets liberating the camp, he saw his image years later, but he was not ready to tell his story until he saw his picture on a Holocaust-denial website. He enlisted his daughter, a TV journalist, to help him uncover further information and to co-author this book. In the preface, Holinstat writes: “we tried to keep the book as honest as possible. While the underlying events are entirely factual, there is fiction here.” The father-daughter pair found documents, diaries, and survivors’ essays to supplement the limited memories of a very young child, and they write about this process in the preface. The first-person narrative begins with the events of September 1939, even though Michael was not born until May 1940, which feels artificial. Horrific as the experience was, the Auschwitz chapters are just part of Michael’s journey. Living in an open “ghetto” in his hometown, moving to a forced-labor camp, then to the extermination camp where his older brother and father die, returning home where Jews are not welcomed, and then living in Munich as a displaced person for six years until he can emigrate to the United States with his mother, the chronicle of Bornstein’s first 11 years parallels the experiences of many other surviving victims of the Final Solution. In today’s world, it remains more important than ever to remember these survivors. (afterword, photos, characters, glossary) (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

Michael Bornstein survived for seven months inside Auschwitz, where the average lifespan of a child was just two weeks. Six years after his liberation, he immigrated to the United States. Michael graduated from Fordham University, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and worked in pharmaceutical research and development for more than forty years. Now retired, Michael lives with his wife in New York City and speaks frequently to schools and other groups about his experiences in the Holocaust.

His website is www.mbornstein.com.

Teacher Resources

Survivors Club Teachers’ Guide

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Survivors Club on Amazon

Survivors Club on Goodreads

Survivors Club on JLG

Survivors Club Publisher Page

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo. January 17, 2017. Feiwel & Friends, 144 p. ISBN: 9781250105158.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.8.

England, 1940. Barney’s home has been destroyed by bombing, and he and his mother are traveling to the countryside when German planes attack. Their train is forced to take shelter in a tunnel and there, in the darkness, a stranger― a fellow passenger―begins to tell them a story about two young soldiers who came face to face in the previous war. One British, one German. Both lived, but the British soldier was haunted by the encounter once he realized who the German was: the young Adolf Hitler.

The British soldier made a moral decision. Was it the right one? Readers can ponder that difficult question for themselves with Michael Morpurgo’s latest middle-grade novel An Eagle in the Snow.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Xenophobic epithets

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 5-8. Morpurgo’s gentle WWII tale is loosely based on a real British soldier who may or may not have spared Adolf Hitler’s life during WWI. Barney and his mother are traveling to Cornwall by train after their home in Coventry is bombed. Another passenger joins them in their compartment, and when the train takes refuge from German fighter planes in a tunnel, to pass the time, the man tells them about his friend Billy Byron, who, during WWI, let a German soldier go instead of shooting him. Later, he learns that the soldier was Adolf Hitler, and he missed his chance at preventing WWII. The narrative is deceptively simple, and while Barney is the narrator, most of the narrative consists of the man telling Billy Byron’s story. The casual tone of the story the stranger tells is in compellingly sharp contrast to the powerful questions it raises about duty and honor. A couple of light twists at the end are not entirely unexpected. Morpurgo concludes the book with information about Henry Tandey, the real Billy Byron.

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
What if a British soldier had a chance to shoot Hitler on a WWI battlefield but opted to let him go instead? Morpurgo’s incisive historical novel draws inspiration from the life of Henry Tandey, the war’s most decorated British private, who allegedly had just such an encounter. Naming his protagonist Billy Byron, Morpurgo tells the story in flashbacks, as a boy named Barney and his mother flee Coventry on a London-bound train in 1940. Another passenger, who introduces himself as one of Billy’s lifelong friends, describes Billy’s self-doubt, guilt, and dismay when lingering battle wounds prevented him from serving in WWII, since “as far as Billy was concerned, this whole war is his fault.” The stranger’s descriptions of Billy’s compassion and emotional turmoil are gripping in their own right, but Morpurgo will catch some readers off guard with supernaturally tinged twists he drops in the final chapters and epilogue. Originally published in the U.K. in 2015, this is an intricately crafted contemplation of the wrenching consequences of good intentions gone awry. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films. He also writes his own screenplays and libretti for opera. Born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1943, he was evacuated to Cumberland during the last years of the war, then returned to London, moving later to Essex. After a brief and unsuccessful spell in the army, he took up teaching and started to write. He left teaching after ten years in order to set up ‘Farms for City Children’ with his wife. They have three farms in Devon, Wales and Gloucestershire, open to inner city school children who come to stay and work with the animals. In 1999 this work was publicly recognized when he and his wife were awarded an MBE for services to youth. He is also a father and grandfather, so children have always played a large part in his life. Every year he and his family spend time in the Scilly Isles, the setting for three of his books.

Her website is www.michaelmorpurgo.com.

Teacher Resources

An Eagle in the Snow Teacher Resource Kit

Around the Web

An Eagle in the Snow on Amazon

An Eagle in the Snow on Goodreads

An Eagle in the Snow on JLG

An Eagle in the Snow Publisher Page

Front Lines by Michael Grant

Front Lines by Michael Grant. January 26, 2016. Katherine Tegen Books, 576 p. ISBN: 9780062342157.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

Teenage witch Cam isn’t crazy about the idea of learning magic. She’d rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother’s wicked witch friends decide to wreak havoc in her high school, Cam has no choice but to try to stop them.

Esmerelda is the mean girl of the witches. Valda likes to drop anvils on people’s heads. And Malkin—well, Malkin is just plain terrifying. Their idea of fun is a little game—they each pick a student from Cam’s high school and compete to see who can make their teen the most miserable. But Cam suspects one of the witches may have an ulterior motive…which means someone at school could be in worse danger yet.

Now Cam’s learning invisibility spells, dodging exploding cars, and pondering the ethics of love potions. All while trying to keep her grades up and go on a first date with her crush. If the witches don’t get him first, that is.

Can’t a good witch ever catch a break?

Part of Series: Front Lines (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; Harsh realities of war; Sexual harassment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 4))
Grades 8-11. In many ways, Grant’s latest feels like an old-fashioned war novel—it begins with the soon-to-be soldiers at home, worrying about what they are going to face, and saying good-bye to family. Then they arrive at boot camp, building both combat skills and bonhomie. Finally, they find themselves in the thick of it, unprepared for the gravity of death, both witnessing it and serving it, while tapping heretofore unknown reserves of fortitude, resilience, and stony-eyed vengeance. The only difference, and it’s a big one, is that women are in the battle ranks. Though women are not yet being conscripted in this alternate history of WWII, Rio, Jenou, Frangie, and Rainy sign up anyway. Rio’s feeling a bit listless after her sister dies in the battle of Pearl Harbor, and her best friend, Jenou, makes a convincing case for signing up. Jenou says she wants to meet handsome officers, though in truth, she is desperate to escape her rocky home life. Frangie, an African American girl in Oklahoma, sees enlisting as an opportunity to get medical training she otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for. Jewish Rainy is smart, capable, fluent in German, and wants to kill Nazis. Just because women are permitted to enlist, however, doesn’t mean they are treated any more fairly. It’s abundantly clear that Grant has done an impressive amount of research, not only into battle movements and period details—which are exhaustive, vivid, and clearly, grippingly written—but also the prevailing attitudes. In keeping with the historical period, the women face down plenty of prejudice, and Grant doesn’t shy away from ugly language, particularly regarding Frangie, who endures a deluge of hateful slurs and more than one threat of rape. While there are enough military men open to women in their ranks, enlisting alone can’t change deeply ingrained beliefs. There’s no magical eraser for racism or misogyny here, except the rigors of the battlefield, where they prove their mettle. The history is certainly illuminating and fascinating, but where Grant excels even more is in the tight, propulsive, and immersive storytelling and compelling bonds among the multifaceted characters. Grant alternates among the four young women, interspersing their stories with letters and news bulletin–like summaries of historical events, framing the whole thing with commentary from the unnamed narrator, who sits typing the story in a military hospital, offering brief glimpses of the near future. Most of the pages are dedicated to Rio and Jenou, who blessedly get to stay together, ending up in a mixed-company platoon in North Africa. Rainy leaves New York with a stopover in intelligence training before heading to Tunisia to translate incoming communiqués. Frangie heads to North Africa as a medic with an all-black battalion. Finally, the four women meet at the Battle of Kasserine Pass, grittier, bloodier, and tougher than when they set out. Though it’s an epic story with a page count to match, the dynamic characters and urgent plot never get lost in the enormity of the historical moment. Grant’s writing is remarkably tidy, cultivating a staggering amount of feeling out of only a few lines, and imbuing each figure with such depth and personality that, even if a character gets less than two total pages of attention, his or her death is utterly, completely devastating. This is a story about soldiers, and those soldiers never take a backseat to history. Given current headlines about women in combat, it’s natural to assume this novel has an agenda, but Grant trumpets no cause, and while he makes a huge change to WWII history, he so unobtrusively weaves it throughout the story it’s easy to forget that, except in a few special cases, women weren’t fighting alongside men. Rio and Jenou drink and smoke and trash talk just as much as the men in their …

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2015)
Three young women supply a gritty grunt’s-eye view of World War II in the opener to an ultrahistory series. After a court decision declares women eligible for combat, aimless California farmer’s daughter Rio Richlin volunteers for the Army, partly to avenge her sister’s death but mostly to keep her best friend company. Diminutive, compassionate, and determined, African-American Frangie Marr enlists for the paycheck, but she also hopes for medical training. And Jewish Rainy Schulterman just wants to pour all her ferocious intelligence and steely will into killing Nazis. Switching among these three viewpoints, the narrative slowly constructs intimate portraits of each, as the “soldier girls” are tested in body and spirit, overcoming laziness, fear, and cockiness. They suffer through boredom, rough conditions, and incompetent commanders as well as routine sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism (authentically, highly offensive language is employed throughout). A framing device ponderous with foreshadowing–along with such standard teen tropes as love triangles and family secrets–keeps the plot moving, but it’s the immersive, quotidian details that set up the gripping climax amid the chaos of combat. Bestselling science-fiction author Grant did his research (an extensive bibliography is provided), but the odd and likely unintended consequence of his premise is the erasure of thousands of military women who historically served and fought and died. Still, an engrossing portrayal of ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances. (Alternate history. 14 & up)

About the Author

Michael Grant is married to Katherine (K.A.) Applegate. They’ve been together for 36 years. Which doesn’t say much for Katherine’s judgment does it? And they’ve been writing for 25ish years, sometimes as partners — Boyfriends/Girlfriends, Animorphs, Everworld — and sometimes on their own.

Michael and Katherine have two kids, Jake 18 and Julia 16. (Feet tall. Get it? 16 feet tall? Ah hah hah. Yeah, okay: not funny.) Anyway, the point is that Michael Grant is the author or co-author of 150 books. Yeah: 150, including most recently the critically-acclaimed Front Lines, and of course the also critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Gone series

Her website is www.michaelgrantbooks.co.uk.

Around the Web

Front Lines on Amazon

Front Lines on Goodreads

Front Lines on JLG

Front Lines Publisher Page

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes. November 8, 2016. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481462525.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

From the author of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy comes a thought-provoking, action-packed page-turner based on the little-known history of the Japanese Americans who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Yuki Nakahara is an American.

But it’s the start of World War II, and America doesn’t see it that way. Like many other Japanese Americans, Yuki and his family have been forced into an internment camp in the Utah desert. But Yuki isn’t willing to sit back and accept this injustice—it’s his country too, and he’s going to prove it by enlisting in the army to fight for the Allies.

When Yuki and his friend Shig ship out, they aren’t prepared for the experiences they’ll encounter as members of the “Four-Four-Two,” a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers. Before Yuki returns home—if he returns home—he’ll come face to face with persistent prejudices, grueling combat he never imagined, and friendships deeper than he knew possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. In December 1941, FBI agents arrest Yuki Nakahara’s father without cause. By 1943, 18-year-old Yuki and his family have been “relocated” from California to an internment camp in Utah. Despite this, Yuki enlists in the U.S. Army with his best friend, Shig, and they join the Second Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (which comprises only Japanese Americans, as whites refuse to fight alongside them). Yuki initially boasts about becoming a war hero, but is sobered as he sees friends killed by German artillery. After months of relentless battle, Yuki and Shig’s comrades-in-arms suffer countless casualties and gain a reputation as “the Purple Heart Battalion.” Finally, because generals view the nisei soldiers as expendable, Yuki’s battalion is sent on an almost impossible mission to rescue white American soldiers surrounded by German forces. Hughes’ writing effectively evokes the horrors of war and the internal conflict of young men fighting for a country that has treated them unjustly. The challenges of Yuki’s reentry into the States are also well conveyed: the guilt of survival, the difficulty of communicating the war experience to civilians, and the continued widespread racism. Though a couple of conversations seem stilted for the sake of exposition, in general the dialogue reads naturally (even the pidgin English spoken by Hawaiian soldiers is decent). This is historical fiction at its finest—immersive and inspirational.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2016)
The book’s title refers to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed entirely of Issei and Nisei (first-generation Japanese immigrants and their children, respectively) who served in WWII, and which earned the name Purple Heart Battalion because so many of its soldiers were either wounded or killed in battle. In December 1941, Hughes’s protagonist, Berkeley high-schooler Yuki Nakahara, watches helplessly as FBI agents arrest his father as a spy and unceremoniously haul him away. Less than six months later, Yuki and his siblings, all American citizens, are deported with their mother to the Topaz internment camp in Utah. Yet Yuki decides to join the army because he believes it’s the only way he’ll “ever be respected in this country.” Readers follow him through basic training; the agonies of battle, loss, and injury; and his return home. Events, characters, and dialogue create an indelible sense of time and place. When Yuki’s mother protests her husband’s arrest, an FBI agent spits out: “That’s enough, lady. Your husband’s a sneaky little slant-eyed Jap. That’s all we need to know.” A Denver barber refuses to “cut Jap hair” even though Yuki is wearing his Silver Star and Purple Heart. Yuki’s wish to put it all behind him realistically characterizes so many of “the greatest generation”; his father’s lack of physical affection is a cultural marker; and the sweet, naive romance with the girl back home reflects the times. A predictable story arc lessens the novel’s tension; still, Yuki emerges as a true hero during a dark period of American history. betty carter

About the Author

Dean Hughes is the author of more than eighty books for young readers, including the popular sports series Angel Park All-Stars, the Scrappers series, the Nutty series, the widely acclaimed companion novels Family Pose and Team Picture, and Search and Destroy. Soldier Boys was selected for the 2001 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list. Dean Hughes and his wife, Kathleen, have three children and six grandchildren. They live in Midway, Utah.

His website is www.deanhughes.net.

Around the Web

Four-Four-Two on Amazon

Four-Four-Two on Goodreads

Four-Four-Two on JLG

Four-Four-Two Publisher Page