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I just love Ann Martin, and this book made me love her even more. She has written a fantastic story about sisters and family. Pearl is the younger, 4th grade sister to middle school age Lexie. Pearl tries hard (usually) but just can’t understand why Lexie acts the way she does. When the girls’ grandpa comes to live with them in their cozy apartment, the girls are forced to share a room. Pearl is thrilled with the chance to observed Lexie up close. Now, just maybe, she can figure out her big sister once and for all!

Older fans of Beezus and Ramona books will love this sweet, but realistic, look at the complicated relationship between big and little sisters. A perfect book for 3rd-6th grade girls.

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.

As the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire draws closer, there have been a slew of books published, recalling the horror of that day, honoring those who risked their lives to save others and reminding our country of the need for laws to protect workers from unscrupulous, selfish bosses.  While I am no fan of unions in their current state, every time I read one of these books, I am reminded of the reason we have unions, and of the good that they have accomplished for our country.

Political messages aside, this was a good book.  It traces the journey of Raisa, a young Jewish girl, who travels from her Polish hometown by herself to New York City, in search of her sister.  When Raisa arrives in New York, her sister is nowhere to be found.  So Raisa settles in to find a job and begin hunting the city for her sister.

Some other good books about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory are Lost by Jacqueline Davies; Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix; and Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch.

Lost by Jacqueline Davies

05th March 2010

I was at the library, juggling both of my kids, when I spotted this book.  Normally I don’t even bother looking for my own books when both kids are with me (most of my book browsing is done on-line these days.)  But the cover caught my eye, so I snatched it up as the 3 of us whirled by, and I’m so glad that I did.  The simple cover (hats and a scarf on a hook) and short, somewhat vague title — Lost–was the outer shell of an exciting book with a unique perspective on The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, an event about which I’ve read several books.

I’ve been trying to summarize the plot without giving anything away, and can’t.  So I’m not going to even try.  This is a fantastic book, hard to put down, and the suspense builds with each chapter.  Go read this book.

This is one of those delightful books that seems to be about a lot of unrelated incidents, and then at the end, the author ties them all together so neatly, you spend the next day marveling at the way it all came together.

Some of my favorite features of the book:  authentic, middle school friendships; a realistic, yet loving mother-daughter relationship; beautiful references to A Wrinkle in Time; adults who don’t always get it right, but generally try to help kids; and did I mention the beautiful way the end all comes together?

A definite recommendation for middle school readers, both guys and girls.

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