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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.

Soviet Terror

28th April 2011

I read two books recently that shed new light for me on the suffering caused by the Soviets during World War II. The first, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, is a novel based on the author’s family history. Stalin and the Soviet government used the cover and confusion of World War II to “cleanse” the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, killing outright or deporting millions of people. Lina and her family live in Lithuania in 1941. Because of unknown “crimes,” 15 year old Lina, her younger brother and her mother are sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in Siberia. Only her mother’s sheer determination, her brother’s childlike innocence, and Lina’s love of drawing can sustain the family during their darkest hours.

The second, Hiding in the Spotlight, by Greg Dawson, is a biograhpy of the author’s mother, Zhanna.  Zhanna and her family were Jews living in the Ukraine during the start of World War II. Already suffering under Stalin’s brutal communistic policies, the people’s torment increased as the Germans swept into Russia. Soothed by false promises of kindness from both the Soviets and the Germans, Zhanna’s parents decide not to flee from the swiftly moving German army. Once the Germans reach their town, the Arshanskys soon realize their terrible mistake. Unable to save themselves, Zhanna’s parents manage to save their two daughters. Through the kindness of strangers, and using their amazing musical talents, the girls are able to survive the war in plain sight, by entertaining the Nazis.

Meg is a modern day woman who has no use for her great-grandmother’s diaries, as famous as they may be.  The diaries chronicle her great-grandmother Hannah’s arrival on the New Mexican frontier in the 1890’s, and Meg’s grandmother, Claudia, has spent her life researching the diaries and getting them published.  Meg has always lived in the shadow of the diaries, and has not even read them, until she is strong-armed into accompanying Claudia back to New Mexico to tie up a few loose ends.

Once Claudia and Meg arrive in New Mexico, new discoveries about Hannah’s life are made, and Meg begins to read the diaries.  She is instantly captivated by Hannah’s story, and becomes intent on solving the mystery swirling around Hannah’s death.

This is one of those books that takes awhile to get into, but once your are, you can’t put it down.  The strong female character, doing what needed to be done to survive on the frontier, reminded me somewhat of Turner’s These is My Words.

After committing an unspeakable crime one rainy night, Allison is sent to prison. Her sister Brynn is left to deal with their parents, their high school friends, and her guilt at being the only one who knows what really happened that evening. I’d categorize Gudenkauf’s books as “chick lit suspense.” Fans of Jodi Piccoult and Kristin Hannah will appreciate it. I also very much enjoyed her first novel, The Weight of Silence.

An inspirational and practical book for parents who are trying to create a warm learning environment in their homes. No worksheets, no flashcards, just authentic learning experiences.  This book is meant for parents whose children will go on to traditional school, but homeschooling parents will benefit as well.

My two favorite quotes:

Referring to a class of 5 year olds: “I need my kids to talk.  After all, these kids can’t think with their mouths closed.” (p.9)  My son is constantly talking, muttering, and whispering to himself.  But that’s just how 4 year olds think!

“The love of reading and the ability to lose oneself in another world are gifts we give our children when we read aloud to them.” (p. 34)  My parents gave me this gift, and my husband and I are giving it to our kids as well.

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