Tag Archive | Germany

Who is spying on her & The Watcher in wartime? by Joan Hiatt Harlow (book review)

book cover of The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow published by McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com From Maine to Berlin,
from suspected to suspicious,
and someone is watching her…

Nothing that this young American teen thought she knew about her family is true – Mom and Dad aren’t her parents, glamorous Aunt Adrie is her mother… and a German spy! And what a terrible truth she discovers about the Lebensborn nursery where she is required to volunteer.

Find this 2015 paperback (or 2014 hardcover) at your local library or independent bookstore.  Be sure to also grab the companion book Shadows on the Sea (my no-spoiler review here) to discover how Wendy finds herself in this perilous situation in the first place.

How far would you go to stand up for your beliefs?
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Book info: The Watcher / Joan Hiatt Harlow. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014 (paperback, 2015).  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Kidnapped from America by her German spy ‘aunt’ and taken to Berlin, Wendy learns of her real parentage, encounters the people spying on her, and must decide which path to follow during World War II.

After rescuing a puppy who failed SS police dog school, Wendy walks in the park near Adrie’s house, where she and Watcher meet Barret and his seeing-eye dog – at last, someone who speaks English and doesn’t scorn her for living in America!

The young man’s grandfather says Wendy’s father wasn’t a German officer, as Adrie claims…
Frau Messner says the children at the Lebensborn nursery are orphans; Johanna says they were stolen from parents in occupied countries because they look so Aryan…
Oh, no! Was that White Rose anti-Nazi pamphlet still in Wendy’s coat pocket when she fell terribly ill??

Wendy becomes convinced that she must escape from Nazi Germany in this suspenseful tale which follows the events in Shadows on the Sea.

Why so candid? Because You’ll Never Meet Me, by Leah Thomas (book review)

book cover of Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas published by Bloomsbury Teen  | recommended on BooksYALove.comElectricity flares in rainbow colors – and will kill Ollie.
Moritz has no eyes, yet is not blind.
And a doctor suggests that they correspond…hmmm

Find this penpal story like no other in hardcover or paperback at your local library or favorite independent bookstore. And there’s a sequel!
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Book info: Because You’ll Never Meet Me / Leah Thomas. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, hardcover 2015, paperback 2017.   [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: One is allergic to electricity, the other is kept alive by a pacemaker – two very different teen boys become more than brothers or best friends through postal mail, uncovering a secret past that endangers them both.

Ollie must stay in a forest cabin, far from any US city because the tiniest bit of electricity sends him into life-threatening seizures, and says that being 14 and alone is extremely boring.

Moritz, seeing with his ears only, lives with his adoptive father in a busy German city, has a pacemaker for his fluttering heart, and at 16 is beyond bored with his schoolmates.

A doctor sets them up as penpals, so the guys begin telling one another their life stories through trans-Atlantic letters.

Their childhoods were quite strange, with parents gone missing and medical lab mishaps, and real-life friendships today are very difficult. Ollie misses Liz, who’s given up hiking in their woods for the normalcy of high school. Moritz finds a tenuous connection with Owen and his sister Fieke as bullies target all three of them.

These letters exchanged by Ollie and Moritz start encouraging each other to dare to live a little, even if it’s dangerous – as dangerous as the secret past that their shared memories begin to reveal.

Followed by Nowhere Near You.

Z is for Zlatka, making Paper Hearts secretly in Auschwitz (book review) by Meg Wiviott

book cover of Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comForbidden in Auschwitz:
humanity, relationships, possessions,
and yet…

Her life forfeit if discovered, Zlatka rises above despair in the death camp by celebrating another year of friend Fania’s life with a paper origami heart, crafted in secret.

See the actual paper heart today in the Montreal Holocaust Museum – how fragile things like paper and hope can survive such hate…

As National Poetry Month closes, this novel in verse based on a true story of friendships opens our hearts.
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Book info: Paper Hearts / Meg Wiviott. Margaret K. McElderry Books, hardcover 2015, paperback 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Pulled from their Jewish families in different Polish hometowns to this terrible place, this death camp, young women Zlatka and Fania find hidden ways to bolster their spirits as they try to stay alive.

The guards turn girl against girl, and girls try anything to get another ration of moldy bread. Forced to work as slaves in a German metal factory making bomb casings instead of bowls, Zlatka and Fania and a few others do their best to be human to one another.

Watching the seasons pass, praying to Adonai in whispers no one can hear. As winter comes near, Zlatka decides to make a card for Fania, because a birthday – or any day – is a gift too precious to ignore.

Can the young women barter enough bread to get a piece of paper or pencil stub?
Can they keep this secret from Fania and the guards?
Will they live or die or keep existing in between?

Zlatka and Fania each tell their story through chapters of poems, enduring and persevering because friendship can make its own family in the midst of horror and despair. Based on actual people and events at Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp during World War II, this novel in verse celebrates the best and the worst of humanity.

Escape from peril to danger! Journey onward with free audiobooks

Tales of difficult decisions and travel travails in this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC.

Nearing the end of this great summer program, so please download either or both books (click on link following title) before Wednesday 3 August 2016, so that you can listen free as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device.

CD cover of audiobook Juba! by Walter Dean Myers | Read by Brandon Gill Published by HarperAudio | recommended on BooksYALove.comJuba! (download here 28 July – 3 August 2016)

by Walter Dean Myers
Read by Brandon Gill
Published by HarperAudio

After Mr. Juba dances for appreciative crowds in England at the behest of Charles Dickens, the black freedman must decide whether to return to America where he could be captured and enslaved.

Pennies for Hitler (download here 28 July – 3 August 2016)CD cover of audiobook Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French | Read by Humphrey Bower Published by Bolinda Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com
by Jackie French
Read by Humphrey Bower
Published by Bolinda Audio

Escaping from Nazi Germany, Georg becomes George as this child of British professor is smuggled to England, then Australia, leaving behind family and friends, encountering prejudice and possibilities.

What to do when it’s not safe to stay, dangerous to leave?
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H for harmonica in Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan (book review) – 3 musicians play a promise

book cover of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan published by ScholasticTerror as father is taken,
fear of orphan brothers being separated,
despair at losing friends and opportunities.

Three young people whose lives are terribly disrupted in the turbulent years leading into World War II find comfort in playing a harmonica with magical music and unknowingly fulfill a pleasing prophecy.

Find this wonderful spring 2015 release at your favorite local library or independent bookstore so that you can discover the intricate music this wonderful harmonica threads through lives that need it most.

Have a story of an object that connects you to history? Please share in the comments below.
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Book info: Echo / Pam Munoz Ryan. Scholastic Press, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:  A harmonica crafted through magic and mystery links three young people in different countries and times as they use their musical talents to overcome terrible odds.

In 1933 Germany, Friedrich apprentices in the harmonica factory with his father and uncle, away from those who mock his facial birthmark and conducting of the music he’s heard. As the tide of Nazi fervor overtakes his sister, threatens free-thinkers like his father, and condemns the harmonica as uncivilized, the melodies that 12 year old Friedrich plays are a small consolation.

At a Pennsylvania orphanage in 1935, Mike and little Frankie are determined to stay together. When a lawyer requests ‘musical children’ specifically, the brothers find themselves in a grand mansion whose owner wants to adopt one daughter! Tragedy took music out of Mrs. Sturbridge’s life years ago – perhaps 11 year old Mike’s practice for Hoxie’s Harmonica Band auditions can make her smile again.

Ivy plays harmonica concerts for her brother Fernando before he joins the army in 1942, before Papa is hired to care for a Japanese family’s California orange groves while they are detained in internment camp. The bigger cottage is nice, but not the rundown Americanization school for Mexican children – will the fifth grader be allowed to play in the new orchestra at the main school?

“Your fate is not yet sealed.
Even in the darkest night, a star will shine,
a bell will chime, a path will be revealed.”

Bracketed by the prophecy and promise fairy tale of the harmonica’s creation, the stories of Friedrich, Michael, and Ivy playing this fabulous instrument Echo with hope, joy, and longing to ensure their families’ well-being.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Stories from the Holocaust in final AudioSYNC books of summer 2014

The last week of summer 2014 to download free audiobooks from SYNC so you can read with your ears!

As long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device, you can listen to either or both of these complete audiobooks, if you download them by Wednesday, August 13, 2014.

CD cover of Living a Life That Matters: From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream By: Ben Lesser Read by:  Jonathan Silverman and Ben Lesser Published by: Remembrance PublishingLiving a Life That Matters: from Nazi Nightmare to American Dream  (download here)
By: Ben Lesser
Read by:  Jonathan Silverman and Ben Lesser
Published by: Remembrance Publishing

A Holocaust survivor urges us to stand up for our neighbors, not stand idly by and allow violence to injure anyone.
The Shawl CD cover of The Shawl By Cynthia Ozick Read by  Yelena Shmulenson Published by HighBridge Audio
By Cynthia Ozick
Read by  Yelena Shmulenson
Published by HighBridge Audio

In this award-winning short story, an anguished mother in a Nazi concentration camp searches for the shawl which could bring her just-murdered child back to life.
Many thanks to the publishers who allowed free downloads of their noteworthy audiobooks this summer through AudioSYNC.

Thirteen weeks, 26 great audiobooks – which was your favorite title?
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E for Elephant in the Garden, by Michael Morpurgo (fiction) – survival, love & an elephant inWorld War II

War means casualties and refugees.
Family ties are forged in trying times.
Marlene is a refugee, a member of the family, an elephant.

The new nursing home patient is ranting about her missing photo book, but the staff has never seen it. Is old Lizzie just imagining things? Luckily, nine-year-old Karl doesn’t care what the grownups say and visits her room to learn that her little brother was named Karl, too! And the stories that she tells about Karl’s magic tricks and her mother being a zookeeper are so real. Was the grieving young elephant who came to live with her family real, too?

This book tells parallel stories, with the present Lizzie’s tale in one typeface and young Elizabeth’s in another. Morpurgo says this book was inspired by the news story of the Belfast zookeeper who kept a young elephant at her home during threats of WWII bombings of the Irish city, as well as the heroic efforts of refugees helping and protecting children in many situations.

Find this unique book soon at your local library or independent bookstore so you can meet Elizabeth, Marlene, and their family on the cold and difficult journey toward safety.
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(p.s. Giveaway for ARC of Cat Girl’s Day Off continues here through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012.)

Book info: An Elephant in the Garden / Michael Morpurgo. Fiewel and Friends, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Bombs falling through the winter night, thousands of people – and one elephant – flee Dresden as it burns. As the old lady talks in the nursing home, Karl and his mother at first wonder how much of the story is true, then marvel that anyone survived it.

Elizabeth grew up in Dresden, with her younger brother Karli who loved doing magic tricks, their mother who loved peace, and their father who loved his family more than anything. But the war changed everything, taking away their father, making their mother work to feed the family. Mutti became a zookeeper, caring for the animals, telling Elizabeth and Karli about their antics and the sadness of Marlene, the young elephant whose mother had suddenly died.

When it becomes clear that Germany is losing the war, the zoo director reluctantly decides that the animals must be destroyed so they can’t run wild through Dresden when bomb attacks open their cages. How could Mutti let Marlene be killed? She brought the elephant home to their garden where Karli fed her and comforted her, inside its tall brick walls.

But soon the Allied bombers came, and the city became an inferno. Mutti led them away from the flames, through the snow, toward her brother’s farm in the country. A noise in the barn where Marlene sleeps alerts the family to an intruder – an enemy soldier!

Can they trust this young Canadian man? How can they feed Marlene in the winter forest? How will they get to safety with Allied troops approaching and German forces retreating? (and is Ms. Lizzie’s story really true?)

As gently as the young elephant finds her way across the snowy hills with her adoptive family, this story of survival and love quietly flows from Lizzie’s memories into the lives of Karl and his mother in the present. Based on true history of the Belfast Zoo’s elephant during World War II. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

World Wednesday (fiction) – Writers from all over

When your mind wanders, where does your imagination take you?

If you really want to go places – without leaving your favorite reading spot – be sure to check out these interesting books written by authors from outside the USA.

Travel back to the time of Scheherazade when Yeats ventures Between Two Ends – magical bookends, that is – to rescue a young girl trapped in her favorite story decades ago, now facing almost-certain death. Canadian author David Ward takes readers far from the Bronze Age Britain setting of his Grassland Trilogy in this exciting tale.

Katherine wants people to see what’s inside her, ignoring her burn scars – can she break free of limitations set by others, like Butterflies burst from their cocoons in the Sydney springtime? A story beyond the usual everyday high school worries, ably written by Australian Susanne Gervay.

French author Guillaume Prevost takes us all over the world, hopscotching across centuries as Sam uses The Book of Time to search for his father and stop a cunning criminal. William Rodarmor translated all 3 books in the series, with its dizzying turns and twists through time.

Amazing determination sets apart young Eon: Dragoneye Reborn from others competing to become Dragoneye apprentice. Courage and loyalty in the face of massive psychic and physical peril keeps Eona and her country alive in this adventure duology by Australian author Alison Goodman.

Berlin during the waning days of the Great War was an increasingly dangerous place, as Socialist demonstrators clashed with police and wounded German soldiers returning from the front lines told truths that the government would not let newspapers publish – German author and international schools teacher Monika Schroeder brings us young Moritz’ perspective in My Brother’s Shadow.

Japanese mythology collides with modern life in London as Miku and her friend Cait race to save the teen’s baby brother from evil Takeshita Demons who have followed her family from Osaka. Australian author Cristy Burne sent me a tweet to say that books 2 & 3 in the series are now available in the US.

Living in London and going to school is much better than staying in their tiny Pakistani village for Halima, but the threat of an arranged marriage and no further education sends her running. The Payback promised by the groom’s family will end her hopes of choosing her own Muslim husband and could end her life! British author Rosemary Hayes says only the names are fictional in this story.

Perhaps Mercy is the ultimate exchange student, flung from heaven to earth, suddenly awakening in someone else’s body (with their mind riding shotgun), on a mission to stop a crime – when she doesn’t know what it is yet! First in series by Australian author Rebecca Lim – Exile (book 2) and Muse (book 3) are already published, with Fury on the 2012 horizon.

Please do look for these fine books at your library or independent bookstore as you support the local institutions that take our imaginations everywhere! And click Non-US Authors in the Labels section on the right for these and other great books by writers who bring us different perspectives and other dreams.

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sitting on my Florida porch, wondering if those sunset clouds will ever bring us rain

Peter & Max (fiction), by Bill Willingham – Fables, love & revenge

Peter and Bo live up on The Farm,
keeping to themselves after Bo’s crippling accident,
near the moon-jumping cow and that talkative puss.

Oh yes, storybook folk and creatures live in our boring mundane world, leaving behind the enemies and evils that attacked them in their magical homeworlds. But you won’t find Fabletown on any maps of New York City and no country road will let you drive to The Farm upstate where all the magical animals stay. None of the Fables want to draw the attention of the mundy populace – laying low is their key to staying alive.

But here comes Peter’s brother Max, asking for admittance to Fabletown after all these years of evil power and magical domination over Hamelin, outside the mysterious Black Forest.

He wants revenge, he wants Bo Peep, he wants to take over a new kingdom.

Even if you haven’t read the Fables graphic novels, you’ll enjoy the twists and turns of familiar Fables with Willingham’s skillful backstory additions. And Fables fans will delight in this long-form narration which fills in some storyline gaps while staying ever-true to the series.

p.s. remember that the Fables series started publication over 10 years ago, well before TV shows like “Once Upon a Time” – see this interesting article by Bill Willingham.
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Book info: Peter & Max (a Fables novel) / Bill Willingham; illustrations by Steve Leialoha. Vertigo/DC Comics, 2009. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Left for dead in the Black Forest, Peter and Max are separated from their minstrel family and must find their way through its terrors alone. Sinister forces prey upon the Piper brothers’ minds, twisting one toward wrathful revenge while the other draws closer to the magical music of the flute given to him by their father.

Making such otherworldly music exacts its price, and Peter’s mouth collects many small cuts and scars as he plays. Max finds an instrument of his own, invoking its darker powers to get back at Peter and anyone who may have helped him escape the Black Forest.

Yes, this is the tale of Peter Piper, whose playing gladdened the heart, and of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who lured away all that town’s children. So long have their stories been told that the people are now Fables themselves, including Peter’s childhood friend and love of his life, Bo Peep.

Replaying the same dark vengeance wearies even Fables, so Peter and Bo decide to leave their storybook land and retire to an obscure corner of the human world. Such an unmagical place shouldn’t attract the dangerous interest of the dark forces who pursue Fables in their enchanted homelands – but sometimes evil slips through Fabletown’s watch spells and guards.

Max has come into the human world, and he plans to duel Peter to ultimate death, taking Bo Peep as his prize. Can Peter win this fight without exposing Fabletown to the humans?

Peter & Max is the first novel based on the long-running Fables graphic novel series, and author Bill Willingham has called on series cartoonist Steve Leialoha to provide illustrations for this compelling story. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the series or are visiting Fabletown for the first time, you’ll enjoy meeting familiar storybook characters in most unfamiliar circumstances. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Brother’s Shadow (fiction)

To keep your family alive…
would you lie?
would you cheat?
would you steal?

Germany’s people go to sleep hungry in 1918, as young men and old men go to fight in the Great War. Kaiser Wilhelm assures them that the war is almost won – his lies do not fill empty bellies or heal maimed soldiers.

Moritz does all he can to support his mother, sister, and grandmother with his older brother Hans still fighting in the trenches, their father dead in the war. What about his dreams of becoming a writer?

We stand in the ration lines with Hedwig, hear the radical speeches at secret meetings, and see protesters cut down by government police as Moritz struggles to make sense of his world. Schroder, author of Saraswati’s Way (review), accurately portrays defeated Germany as the seeds of its future actions toward Jews and the rest of the world are planted in the bitterness of the War’s closing days.
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Book info: My Brother’s Shadow / Monika Schroeder. Frances Foster Books/FSG, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Moritz knows he’s lucky to work at the printers – Berlin in 1918 is a place of hunger and desperation. Older brother Hans is now fighting on the Western Front, leaving the 16-year-old as head of their household; Father died at Verdun in the early days of this Great War.

His mother and sister trudge home day after day, reeking of chemicals from the munitions factory, chilled to the bone from standing in ration lines that shortchange them on food. The British have successfully blockaded all German ports for 4 years now.

The Kaiser says that Germany is winning the war, but secret meetings of the social democrats call for public demonstrations to end the fighting. Moritz discovers that his mother not only attends these forbidden meetings, but is a leader in the anti-war movement, now hunted by the police.

Desperate to feed his family, Moritz is pulled into his brother’s old gang of thieves, stealing from rich men’s brimming pantries and bakers’ dwindling supplies of chalk-tainted flour. He meets a young lady in an unfamiliar neighborhood and wonders if there will ever be a peaceful time to discuss books with Rebecca Cohen.

A letter in unfamiliar handwriting arrives – Hans has been wounded badly. Will he survive? Will the Kaiser really agree to an Armistice to end the war? Can mother and Hedwig stay safe in the protest marches? Revolution? Is more fighting the answer to everything?

This compelling story takes readers into Germany’s dark times during the closing months of World War I, when anti-Semitism began to take root and the massive reparations demanded by the Allies would cripple the Germany economy for decades. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.