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World War II Fiction

22nd January 2011

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr: This juvenile autobiographical novel tells the story of 9 year old Anna and her family.  Anna’s family must flee their Berlin home for the relative safety of Switzerland, leaving friends, family, and most of their belongings behind.  Anna’s life as a refugee is completely different from the one she left in Germany.  In spite of the hardships and danger, she learns to cherish her family even more, and even finds satisfaction in making their new life together.

Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer: Gustave and his family leave Paris just ahead of the Nazis, settling in a small French village that happens to be just across the river from Nazi occupied France.  Even though the Nazis technically aren’t in control of Gustave’s village, the Vichy French government is still in complete cooperation with the Nazi agenda.  Gustave comes to realize that he must face his fears and help the people close to him, even if it means risking his life to do so.  While the story is fiction, many of the events in the book are based on real events from the Meyer’s father’s life.

While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin: Penny, trying to escape her domineering parents, agrees to care for handsome Eddie Shaffer’s children, Esther and Peter, when he goes off to war.  Jacob Mendel, still grieving after his wife’s death, spends every spare moment searching for his grown son and family, trapped in Nazi controlled Hungary.  Esther and Peter, missing both mother and father, desperately need someone to love and care for them.  Everyone is searching for meaning, comfort and reason in a broken world.  This was definitely one of Austin’s best books.  The stories of the characters are alternately told, without being distracting.  While the ending was somewhatpredictable, there were a few surprises, and throughout the book, God’s love, mercy, providence and unseen workings are gently shown, without being preachy or overly dramatic.

Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli: Roberto and his friends are taken from their Italian town by German soldiers and sent to a work camp deep in Nazi occupied Europe.  Struggling to survive and to protect his best friend, Roberto must find the courage to finally fight for his freedom.  An excellent book.  There is a sequel, Fire in the Hills, that I am eager to read.

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale My favorite Napoli book to date.  This one tells the tale of a spoiled Irish princess who is kidnapped and brought far from home on a Viking slave ship.  Sold into slavery, Melkorka’s one protection is the vow of silence she has taken.  Fabulous book–highly recommended.

Breath by Donna Jo Napoli

15th March 2007

This re-telling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin was quite interesting.  Young Salz lives in the medieval town of Hameln, and suffers from cystic fibrosis–although of course his disease is unnamed and unknown at the time.  When a strange illness begins to show up among the people, and then a plague of rats begins, Salz is as puzzled as the rest of the townsfolk.  The church can’t help, the magic coven can’t help, only the piper promises a cure.

Part fantasy, part horror, quite graphic. . . This definitely isn’t a children’s fairy tale.  It’s not my favorite fairy tale retelling (that would definitely be Ever After by Gail Carson Levine) but still quite engaging, and certainly not predictable, even though I already knew the ending!

The King of Mulberry Street

31st December 2005

The King of Mulberry StreetDom is a nine-year-old stowaway, who ends up in New York City on his own in 1892. With only a pair of shoes from his mother, Dom must find food and shelter, avoid the “padroni” who prey on homeless boys, and somehow earn enough money to get home to Italy. Dom is up to the challenge, and works harder that he ever has before to survive. This is an excellent book that really highlights both the best and worst in our country.