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It’s been a long year, with quite a lot of reading, but no posting. This amazing book is what it took to inspire me to write again. I found myself thinking of all the readers I know who would enjoy this book. This true story follows a Czech family from their early beginnings in a free Czechoslovakia, through the tumult of World War II, into the fire of the Communist takeover, and out into the world as they wander in search of a forever home. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys true historical accounts. But far from being a dry recounting of historical facts, Kapra celebrates the importance of peace, family, love, home, courage and freedom.

We recently watched the HBO mini-series The Pacific. It was a fascinating and horrifying look at the American Marines who served in the Pacific theater during World War II.  One of the featured Marines was a private named E. B. Sledge.  Sledge’s journey from his country home in Alabama to the war-torn islands in the Pacific, and his transformation from boy to Marine were powerful stories.  As we completed the series, we discovered that Sledge had written a book about his service with the Marine Corp.  Eager to find out more about his story, I immediately checked out the book from our library.

Sledge’s book is a straightforward account of his beginnings as a Marine, and of the battles that he fought.  Some of the movements of the troops were confusing to me, as were the references to various Marine regiments and divisions.  I’m sure that readers who know more about the military wouldn’t be confused at all.  But Sledge’s account isn’t just a retelling of troop movements.  Rather, it’s his personal story of the sights, sounds, horrors, defeats and triumphs of war.  It’s graphic at time, but matter-of-fact.  As I ended the book, I was overwhelmed with admiration and respect for the thousands and thousands of troops who have served so faithfully in combat for our country.

Many of the things that Sledge experienced were documented in the mini-series.  If you haven’t yet watched the mini-series, I would highly recommend reading With the Old Breed first.

Historical Fiction Roundup

30th October 2010

Blue Willow by Doris Gates

Janey and her family have been on the move since their farm failed in the dust storms of Texas.  Janey can’t even imagine staying in one place for more than a few months, and her dream is to settle in a house like the one pictured on her precious blue willow plate.  This Newbery Honor book told Janey’s story gently, and was enriched with illustrations by Paul Lantz, whose drawing style reminded me of Lois Lenski.

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen

A fictionalized account of the Todd family’s journey to Oregon, told through the eyes of 9 year old Mary.  Written for upper elementary/middle grades, the story is authentic, full of details and awe inspiring.

Lost Childhood: My Life in a Japanese Prison Camp During World War II
A Memoir by Annelex Hofstra Layson

When the Japanese invaded the island of Java during World War II, they imprisoned the island’s Dutch citizens in prison camps for the duration of the war.  Annelex was 4 years old when she was sent to a prison camp with her mother and grandmother.  In this slim volume, she shares her memories of that horrible experience in order to honor those who suffered, and to share the lessons of compassion, freedom, and positive thinking that she learned in the camps.

Annexed: A Novel by Sharon Dogar

Anne Frank’s story has been told in many ways by many people.  But what about Peter’s story?  For the first time, an author explores what life may have been like for Peter VanPels, hiding in the annex with Anne and 6 other people.  This novel is based on Anne’s diary, other historical documents and extensive research.  Haunting, powerful, heartbreaking.

Little House on the Prairie fans will love this book.  Melissa walks you through her seasons on Little House, giving her thoughts on various episodes and sharing little known trivia and background.  She also share memories about the cast, in particular, Michael Landon.  I’m inspired to re-watch my favorite episodes.

I’m also impressed with Melissa Anderson as a person.  Here is a child star who went on to have a successful career and then put it all on hold for the sake of her own children.  She stepped out of the limelight so she could put her family first.  You just don’t see that very often.

This is one of the more unusual memoirs that I’ve read. Patsy Harman is a nurse-midwife, who co-owns an OB-GYN practice with her doctor husband.  (Even though they run an OB-GYN practice, they no longer deliver babies, as their malpractice insurance rates for deliveries have skyrocketed.)

Harman’s memoir combines reflections on the business side of the medical practice with personal anecdotes from her own medical life, as well as that of her patients.  Even thought I don’t agree with Harman on all of her stances on social issues, I thought she was a wonderfully caring practitioner, and found myself wishing I lived closer to her Appalachian home so I could go to her office!

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