Today I have the privilege of participating in a blog tour for Deborah Hopkinson’s new nonfiction work on submarine warfare:
Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors and Submarines in the Pacific
published in 2016 by Scholastic Press
As Deborah has noted, “This December marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which devastated the Pacific Fleet and transformed the role of submarines in the war in the Pacific.” It’s a timely account, then, which just hit the shelves this week and Hopkinson is a wonderful guide for us, whether she’s tackling historical fiction or straight non-fiction as she does here.
A number of years ago, our family toured the U.S.S. Silversides, a World War II submarine anchored in Muskegon, Michigan that functions now as a museum.
The U.S.S. Silversides
Descending into that dim, cramped ship, I was astounded that anyone could have come through active duty on one of these vessels and stayed sane! Dozens of narrow bunks were stacked so closely together, the top ones wedged among pipework running along the ceiling.
Our tour guide noted that with the sizable crew, the significant body odor resulting from having to scrimp on water, the intense heat and diesel fumes produced by the engines, as well as cigarette smoke from nearly every sailor on board, all compressed into very limited space — air quality aboard ship was tremendously bad. I would have gone berserk with claustrophobia in about 5 minutes!
Little wonder that Hopkinson mentions over and over the pleasure sailors took in gulping clean, fresh air when their subs surfaced at night.
There are surprisingly few books written for children focusing on the Pacific Theater of the war. It’s a lack that has puzzled and frustrated me. So I’m really glad to see this title. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US had only 44 Naval submarines — many of them dating from the 1920s. With the Pacific battleship fleet decimated by the Japanese, it was up to the subs and their crews to stymie the Japanese plans for the entire Pacific region.
Hopkinson has written a thorough account, forthrightly revealing the tragic defeats and key triumphs of the submarine forces. It’s dense reading, packed with military strategy, submarine mechanics, and the names of islands and bays, boats, officers and sailors.
All of this is woven around play-by-play stories of battles fought under extraordinary duress by intrepid men. The first-person accounts are incredible in terms of sheer, tenacious, audacity!
The U.S.S. Narwhal
This is not the first book you should read about WWII. An overview of the war, including a framework for understanding Japan’s motivations and the U.S. island-hopping strategy, would be a helpful foundation for the specifics of this book. But for those hankering to know the gritty reality of one of the unsung, strategic keys to Allied success, this is your book! Ages 12 to adult.
Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for her work. For other stops on the Dive Blog Tour, including author interviews and a guest post by Deborah, please check deborahhopkinson.com.
Posted in non-fiction | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, Deborah Hopkinson, nonfiction, submarines, U.S. Navy, war in the Pacific, world war II | 1 Comment »
Today I have just a few titles, each powerfully portraying the discrimination faced and the valor demonstrated by African American and Native American servicemen.
You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jeffrey Boston Weatherford
published in 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Weatherford continues to gift us with her powerful free-verse, lifting, carrying us into the African-American experience. This slim volume opens a window onto the discrimination faced by African American pilots and the determined, skillful, brave Tuskegee Airmen who pioneered the way during WWII.
As she leads us along the path from dreaming to training to combat, Weatherford weaves in characters from Eleanor Roosevelt to Joe Louis, peppers us with tidbits of flight instruction and the responsibilities of ground crews and flight crews, and always, always elevates our spirits with the dignity and love of freedom exhibited by these heroes.
Weatherford’s son has illustrated the book with strong, scratchboard pieces full of character and grit. It’s a fascinating, uplifting read for ages 9 and up.
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers, by Tanya Lee Stone
published in 2013 by Candlewick
“What is courage? What is strength?” asks author Tanya Lee Stone. For the Triple Nickles, courage included “being ready to fight for your nation even when your nation isn’t ready to fight for you.”
Racism in the army circa 1943 meant only white men could be paratroopers. First Sergeant Walter Morris’s company of black soldiers was assigned only to guard the parachute school. Although they longed to do their part in the fight, they were considered inferior, incapable of the courage, fortitude, and intelligence required in the army.
In 1944, rules began to change and the 555th, a unit of all black soldiers, began training as paratroopers. Their story, their aggravating, heartbreaking, triumphant story, is one of a devoted, long-suffering, courageous, and dignified group of men who behaved with honor under intense pressure and grievous treatment. It’s painful to read, but immensely important.
With beautifully laid-out pages dominated by high quality black-and-white photos, this is an inviting and engrossing read for ages 12 to adult.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, by Steve Sheinkin
published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
As in the Army, racism was rampant in the U.S. Navy including at Port Chicago, located in San Francisco Bay, where black sailors – only black sailors — were assigned the task of loading bombs and ammunition into ships. The officers in charge were all white.
One day, a massive explosion in the port killed 320 servicemen, injuring hundreds of others. Despite this, and despite earnest protestations from the black sailors of numerous unsafe working conditions, a deplorable lack of training, and reckless protocols, the men were ordered to return to work. Over 200 of them refused. 50 were charged with mutiny.
Award-winning author Steve Sheinkin walks us through this case with the finesse and feel of NPR’s Serial podcast. Meet the men, listen to the varying accounts, size up the evidence against them and against their superiors, in this dramatic, unsettling account. Troubling and fascinating, for ages 14 to adult.
The Navajo Code Talkers, written by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gary Kelley
published in 2016 by Creative Editions
Despite their gross mistreatment by the U.S. Government, including the merciless Long Walk and the forced enrollment of children in harsh boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their mother tongue, the Navajo people suddenly became an important asset to our military during World War II.
The very language the government had sought to stamp out — the beautiful, complex, enormously difficult Navajo language — appeared to be our nation’s best hope in developing an uncrackable code for use in the Pacific theater.
This stunning book briefly narrates this irony. A dash of history, a fascinating glimpse of the language itself, the brilliant code created by the Navajo speakers, and some snapshots of several key Pacific battles, are all accompanied by Kelly’s magnificent artwork. Immensely strong, compelling figures and scenes dominate these pages. Really gorgeous.
I learned via the Endnotes that a number of code talkers from other Native nations also served in WWII. I have previously only heard of the Navajo in this regard. I would be interested in learning more about that. Though the text is minimal, its challenging vocabulary and concepts make it best suited to ages 8 and up.
Posted in non-fiction, picture books | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, navajo code talkers, nonfiction, paratroopers, Port Chicago 50, racism, Triple Nickles, Tuskegee Airmen, world war II | Leave a Comment »
Easily the most common focus in children’s literature about WWII, The Holocaust is an urgent, yet difficult historical event to present to young children.
Today’s titles suit a variety of ages and emphasize the bravery of those who stood with the Jewish people at the risk of their own lives.
Anne Frank, written by Josephine Poole, illustrated by Angela Barrett
published in 2005 by Alfred A. Knopf
There are a number of picture book biographies of Anne Frank. I like this one for the beauty of its language, the careful clarity of its explanations, the excellence in choice of details that bring Anne’s story alive, and the stunning, evocative illustrations.
We are introduced to Anne as a little girl, standing over the cradle of her baby sister. The familial warmth and charm is quickly overshadowed by the menace of the Nazis, the humiliation, the ever-shrinking circle of security for Anne and her family. Yet Anne shines out as a person we love and care about. Her death is noted on the final page of this story, as her father is presented with her diary.
It’s a well-crafted account in every way which could be shared with children ages 6 and up.
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, written by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
published in 2011 by Holiday House
Irena Sendler was an immensely brave Polish woman whose work has also been written about in a number of books for young children. I reviewed one, Irena’s Jars of Secrets, here.
This is a much longer account for slightly older children. Rubin is a master of non-fiction and presents the intrepid savvy of Sendler with clarity and force.
This is the story of how a young, Catholic woman in Warsaw unflinchingly demonstrated solidarity with the persecuted Jewish people, and made it her business to help rescue thousands of children from the ghetto. Despite the price on her head, Sendler risked her life again and again to obtain freedom for others. It’s an astonishing story, here illustrated with serious, emotive oil paintings. Ages 9 and up.
The Butterfly, written and illustrated by Patrica Polacco
published in 2000 by Philomel Books
From Amsterdam, to Warsaw, and now to the small French village of Choisi-le Roi, where a little girl named Monique and her family live under Nazi rule.
Monique begins to witness the terrible persecution of her Jewish friends in the village and then discovers something even stranger: an unknown girl is being sheltered in her home. It’s a discovery she wasn’t supposed to make, in order to prevent her from mistakenly blabbing the secret.
Eventually, their Jewish guest is discovered and a dangerous mission to spirit her away must be carried out.
This is a fictionalized account based on stories from Polacco’s aunt, a member of the French underground movement. As always, Polacco tells her story with compassion, honesty, and perfect pacing, and illustrates it with her lovely human figures. Ages 6 and up.
Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II, written and illustrated by Marisabina Russo
published in 2005 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
And now to Germany, with Russo narrating the story of her mother, grandmother, and two aunts, all attempting to survive Hitler’s war.
Their story is told through the device of a grandmother walking through the pages of her scrapbook with her granddaughter. Born and raised in Poland, she had moved to Germany as a young woman prior to WWI because, incredibly, Jews were better treated there.
She was a young widow with three daughters when the Nazis came to power. Miraculously, all four would survive the war, though grandmother and one daughter were placed in concentration camps. The power of a family’s love to give strength for the darkest of days is the thread woven through this moving account.
Illustrations augment the feel of a scrapbook, an afterword tells more of the story, and the endpapers are strewn with historic photos of the author’s family. Ages 7 and up.
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story, written by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee
published in 1997 by Lee & Low
Imagine — a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania rescuing Polish Jews from German invaders.
That’s the incredible story here. Chiune Sugihara was able to save as many as 10,000 Jewish refugees due to his compassion, moral compass, quick thinking, and nerves of steel.
Over a period of about a month in 1940, at great risk, Sugihara invented paperwork allowing these Jews to escape the oncoming Nazi armies. It’s a story of civil disobedience that came with a cost. Dom Lee’s sepia-toned illustrations emphasize the dignity and humanity of all concerned. Ages 7 and up.
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, written by Loïc Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, color by Greg Salsedo, translated to English by Alexis Siegel
published in France, 2012; first English translation 2014 by First Second
Again, a grandmother’s account of her experiences form the structure of this book, but it’s a graphic novel this time with more emotionally-distressing content. I’d recommend it for ages 11 and up.
Dounia Cohen is a young Jewish schoolgirl in France. As the grim treatment of Jews intensifies, Dounia’s parents prepare a safe hiding place for her in their home. One night, as angry fists pound at the door, Dounia is stuffed into the secret space and told by her parents not to move until someone comes for her. She waits, terrified, as her parents are arrested and the darkness seems to smother her.
Rescued by a neighbor, Dounia is given a new name, religion, family, and home in the French countryside. At the end of the war, she is reunited with her mother who has survived the concentration camps. It’s been a long, bitter journey for both of them, and the grief over losing her father has never disappeared.
This honest, emotional, sorrowful story, is portrayed powerfully via the graphic novel format. It’s not nearly as intense as Spiegelman’s Maus, so it makes an excellent choice for middle-graders.
His Name was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II, written by Louise Borden
published in 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Finally, this nonfiction account of another diplomat, this time Swedish, who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
It’s written in free verse by the talented Louise Borden, who crafts this complicated story into a highly-readable account of a heroic man.
Like Mr. Sugihara, Wallenberg found himself in a position in which his government was unable to provide the degree of protection he knew the Jewish people required. It was up to him to fabricate paperwork that would save their lives while not exposing the neutral Swedish government to danger.
Wallenberg paid for his courage with his life. “His enduring legacy” Borden notes, is “the knowledge that one person can make a difference in the world.” It’s a thought-provoking read that will generate discussion about civil disobedience for middle-graders and up. Illustrated with historic photos.
More WWII titles can be found in my Subject Index under History. I’d also like to draw your attention to a beautiful and unusual story I included in a post about Islam:
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, written by Karen Gray Ruelle, illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix, published in 2009 by Holiday House
Posted in fiction, graphic novels, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged Anne Frank, book reviews, children's literature, Chiune Sugihara, Irena Sendler, nonfiction, picture books, Raoul Wallenberg, the holocaust, world war II | 2 Comments »
Today I’m continuing my focus on WWII with some tremendous nonfiction I recommend for ages 14 through adult. These riveting titles all address aspects of the courageous resistance to Hitler.
Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin
published in 2012 by Roaring Brook Press
I have deferred reading this book for several years, even as it has accumulated so many accolades! Newbery Honor. Sibert Medal. Yalsa winner. National Book Award finalist. Sheesh! For some reason, I just couldn’t cook up the interest to read about atomic bombs.
That was a mistake! This is a superb book!
It’s an engrossing account of the world-changing discovery of atom-splitting and the leviathan destruction these minute particles could unleash. Brilliant scientists unveiling realities that shook them to their core. Governments racing to be the first to control these weapons, and thus the world. Spies and counter-spies risking their lives. Americans. Germans. Russians. Explosive tests beyond imagination and unfathomable carnage rained upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Even if reading that list of ingredients fails to whet your whistle, you must believe me when I say that Steve Sheinkin has accumulated a mammoth amount of information, organized and parsed it out impeccably, sprinkled in just the right amount of asides to bring rays of sunshine to the story, and brought a fascinating human face to this technology-race. I could not put it down. Highly recommended. 236 pages plus photographs and source notes. It deserves every honor it has won.
Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb, by Neal Bascomb
published in 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books
One of the facets related in Sheinkin’s book is the Nazi-occupation of Norway and control of a plant producing heavy water — the key to Germany’s development of an atomic bomb. It was imperative to slow or stop the Nazis from getting this weapon of mass destruction before the Allies did. To do this, Brits and Norwegian resistance fighters teamed up in an extraordinary series of heroic actions.
While Sheinkin had to treat that as just one factor among many in his book, Bascomb focuses entirely on this amazing episode. And believe me — there is plenty to tell! The bravery and coolheadedness, audacity and unqualified devotion to their homeland of these young Norwegian men, is far beyond a meek word such as “inspiring.” It’s jaw-dropping. It’s profoundly thought-provoking. Sobering. Captivating.
Saboteurs in the Norwegian resistance
At 255 pages, this account is a bit more technical and, obviously, far more detailed than the broader, slightly-more accessible Bomb. For readers hungry for true stories of espionage and bravery, it’s a fabulous choice.
Another plum pick along these same lines is a book I reviewed a while back:
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. You can read my review here.
And a tremendous fictional account based on the Norwegian resistance:
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolph Hitler, by Russell Freedman
published in 2016 by Clarion Books
“What we have said and what we have written is what so many people believe, only they don’t dare speak up.” These were the unflinching words of Sophie Scholl, age 21, at her 1943 trial in Munich, just hours before she was beheaded for her work in the resistance movement known as the White Rose.
Scholl, her brother Hans, and a cadre of other young German students, lived out their impassioned conviction that Hitler and the Nazi movement must be defied. Having risen through the ranks of the Hitler Youth, they increasingly found themselves disillusioned, and finally at complete odds with the philosophy, the unthinking robotic obedience, and the horrendous crimes against humanity perpetrated by their own government.
At the risk of their lives, they formed a club known as the White Rose and proceeded to be the voice crying out in the wilderness, calling their countrymen to conscience and resistance. This sobering, powerful account of their young lives and early deaths is exceptionally thought-provoking. Freedman is a non-fiction master. Even with its shorter page count of 87 pages, I consider this material best for ages 14 through adult.
A chilling, at times raw, account of the millions of boys and girls swept into Hitler’s Youth and what became of them is given in Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s Newbery-Honor, Sibert-Honor title:
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow, published in 2005 by Scholastic.
The story of the Scholls is woven into that account as well. At 157 gripping pages, it contains the most distressing details of any of the previous titles. Chilling and gripping.
Tomorrow I’ll have some titles geared for younger ages telling brave stories of many people who risked their lives to save the Jews from Hitler’s madness.
Posted in non-fiction | Tagged Adolf Hitler, atomic bomb, book reviews, children's literature, Manhattan Project, non-fiction, Norwegian Resistance, spies, White Rose Movement, world war II | Leave a Comment »
WWII involved civilians more than any previous war, not only due to the millions killed in bombings and imprisonment, but also the wholehearted participation of those at home sacrificing for the sake of the armies, defending against attacks, maintaining farming and industry despite the absence of those away fighting, awaiting news of loved ones.
The home fronts make especially apt windows into the war for those too young or sensitive to hear about more militant aspects. Here are some excellent choices:
Diana’s White House Garden, written by Elisa Carbone, illustrated by Jen Hill
published in 2016 by Viking
Based on a true story, this book follows Diana Hopkins, daughter of President Roosevelt’s chief advisor, who lived in the White House. In 1943 she was 10 years old — old enough to want to do her part in the war effort.
Diana’s well-meaning intentions go utterly awry until FDR brings up the idea of Victory Gardens, urging Americans to grow their own food in order to provide more for the troops. Diana seizes on the notion of helping with a Victory Garden at the White House itself and the whole country takes notice.
It’s a pleasant, entertaining story, beautifully illustrated in graceful, period styling, for ages 4 and up.
A Year of Borrowed Men, written by Michelle Barker, illustrated by Renné Benoit
published in 2015 in Canada; first U.S. edition 2016 by Pajama Press
Having had a daughter living in Germany for several years recently, I’ve become more attuned to the plight of the ordinary German people during the war. It’s tough to find books from that vantage point, which makes this title especially welcome.
Based on her mother, Gerda’s, childhood memories, author Michelle Barker tells the story of their family’s farm in Germany and of the French prisoners of war who were sent to help run it while their own men were away soldiering.
Little Gerda has a tender heart towards these seven men, who are supposed to be treated as prisoners. Her mother also has a hospitable heart, yet even inviting the men to eat indoors on a severely cold night, rather than in the pig kitchen, brings accusations from snoopy neighbors, a visit from the police, questioning at headquarters, and threats of imprisonment for any further kindness.
Read this brave, kindhearted story with children ages 4 and up. Warm, homey illustrations strike a gentle tone throughout. An Author’s Note tells more about the harrowing war experiences of the author’s mother.
The Lion and the Unicorn, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 1999 by DK Publishing
Many British children, of course, experienced the war as refugees in their own country. Evacuated from the nightly bombings of London, they were abruptly separated from everyone and everything familiar, to arrive on their own, amongst strangers. I cannot imagine the trauma.
Shirley Hughes tells the story of one of these young evacuees, Lenny, who is taken in along with several other children by Lady De Vass at her expansive country estate. Lenny’s transition is far from easy, and Hughes explores it honestly, sensitively, without any rush. How can Lenny find the courage he needs as such a young child?
It’s a touching story, heartbreaking in places, and relatable for other children facing separation, loss, loneliness, homesickness, and the like. Illustrated in Hughes’ masterful watercolors, full of the gray shadows and peeks of sunlight in Lenny’s journey. Ages 6 and up.
My Secret War Diary: My History of the Second World War, written and illustrated by Marcia Williams
published in 2008 by Candlewick
Marcia Williams has pieced together this brilliant pseudo-journal, written by one Flossie Albright who is nine years old at the outset of her diary-keeping in July, 1939.
140+ brown-paper pages are crammed with Flossie’s schoolgirl writings, drawings, photos, and keepsakes, all telling the story of her life and world during these six momentous years.
Flossie represents another British story, of those living in areas where they received the evacuees. At age 9, she’s already life-hardened. Her mum died of pneumonia a year ago, leaving behind a newborn baby, Boo. Now her dad’s been drafted, leaving Flossie with Uncle Colin and taking on the roles of mother, cook, and gardener’s helper. Tough times faced by a stalwart little girl.
Flossie is a thoroughly engaging character. Her bits of war history and her insider’s depiction of the deprivations in wartime England, completely drew me in, and when I handed this to my 93-year-old mother-in-law, she was hooked as well! A fantastic approach to history for ages 9 and up.
Don’t You Know There’s a War On?, written and illustrated by James Stevenson
published in 1992 by Greenwillow
I love James Stevenson’s lesser-known autobiographical picture books. This one offers a lighthearted yet poignant look at his life as a young boy — a Henry Huggins sort of fellow — during the war years.
Stevenson’s smidgeons and snippets of narration alight on vast white space, accompanied by his genius brushstrokes of spot art. His words convey the plainspoken reminiscences of a grandfather talking about his childhood. Some of it is delivered in Stevenson’s characteristic, handscratched conversation-exchanges.
Humorous, dry, insightful, directly from the mindset of a 10-year-old boy whose brother and father have both left to fight the war. Ages 6 and up.
Barbed Wire Baseball, written by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu
published in 2013 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Of course, for Japanese-Americans, life on the homefront rapidly turned into a nightmare of hostility and imprisonment in the internment camps of the West Coast. Many titles are available to understand this sorrowful episode in our history. I particularly like this one.
It’s the story of Kenichi Zenimura, a talented baseball player who moved to Hawaii with his family at age 8. Zeni grew up playing ball, excelling at many positions, and went on to coach, manage, and tour Japan with other Japanese ballplayers in order to popularize the sport there.
All that happened before the infamous day at Pearl Harbor, after which Zeni, his wife and sons were sent to the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, suspected along with every other Japanese-American of being disloyal and dangerous.
Zeni turned to baseball to relieve the drudgery, monotony, oppression, and humiliation of the camp, guiding his fellow prisoners to construct an impressive ball field complete with uniforms and stands.
The courageous story leaps off the page with Shimizu’s handsome, powerful, carefully-historical illustrations. Gorgeous work. Ages 7 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged baseball, book reviews, child refugees, children's literature, germany, home front, internment camps, japanese-americans, picture books, The London Blitz, victory gardens, world war II | Leave a Comment »
Throughout this week I’m going to be sharing titles related to World War II.
We’ll be looking at life on the home fronts, the race for the atomic bomb, heroic efforts to rescue Jews from the Holocaust, racism in the military, and submarine warfare in the Pacific.
Japanese-American children in Little Tokyo, L.A.
I wouldn’t even try to take a stab at how many children’s books exist– fiction, nonfiction, picture books, novels, graphic novels – related to WWII, with new titles cropping up continually. There is still so much to be learned from the experiences of that war – the self-sacrifice, endurance, dogged determination, courage, as well as visible and invisible damage for civilians and soldiers alike. So many great conversations can arise from these amazing books.
British children evacuate London
To start the week off, I have two child-friendly titles providing overviews of the war.
From a British point of view…
The Story of the Second World War for Children, by Peter Chrisp
published in 2015 by Carlton Kids in partnership with the Imperial War Museums
Heavily illustrated with photographs from the Imperial War Museum collections, this book features two-page spreads on a variety of chronologically-arranged topics.
Brief paragraphs of text and photographic captions offer engaging, informative introductions beginning with the lead-up to the war and continuing through to the Allied victory celebrations in 1945.
Coming from the UK, this book does a better job of covering the years 1939-1941 than U.S. books generally do. In fact, almost half the book takes place prior to Pearl Harbor making this a great addition to American bookshelves. There is more coverage of fighting in the Soviet Union and a more diverse look at the various home fronts as well.
Really well done, for ages 8 and up.
From an American viewpoint, I’ll recommend again a title I posted several years ago…
The Good Fight: How World War II Was Won, by Stephen Ambrose
published in 2001 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
It provides an excellent overview of the war, with two-page spreads on topics from the obvious — D-Day — to the less-covered Aleutian campaign and Allied invasion of Sicily. Immensely readable. Chock full of historic photographs, maps, and bullet-point lists of interesting points to spark interest in further reading. My full review is here.
Posted in non-fiction | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, world war II | Leave a Comment »
It’s been about nine months since the exciting news emerged about the discovery of one final tale from Beatrix Potter and at long last, with the peculiar timing of a much-anticipated birth, this baby’s on the shelves for you to admire!
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, written by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Quentin Blake
published in 2016 by Frederick Warne
And oh, it is worth the having!
All that we adore in Potter’s tales — her storytelling mastery; grubby, flawed characters; the rapscallions; the saucy, ill-advised adventurers; the wry observations of the narrator; the wit and sophistication. And the language! It’s all here, in unabashed glory.
Additionally, for those of you well-acquainted with all the tiny tales, you’ll be delighted to run into quite a few old friends here including Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and her laundry…
Ribby and Tabitha with their reputations for prudence, a stouter, yet still audacious Peter Rabbit…
I’ll let you discover the others.
The story itself features Kitty, a feline with a dual personality. At home, she calls herself Miss Catherine St. Quintin:
But when she dons “a gentleman’s Norfolk jacket and little fur-lined boots,” Kitty’s friends have a few other monikers for her.
It is in this guise that Kitty lands herself in a heap of Potter-esque trouble. As you might expect from Beatrix, things do not come to an end without considerable fur flying and other forms of injury. This is all quite deserved, according to our narrator, on account of the bad behavior of Kitty and several colleagues.
Potter left her manuscript without illustrating it, giving Quentin Blake the task of filling in for Beatrix. I’m thankful for an illustrator with the supreme clout and vision of Blake, who did not attempt to replicate Potter’s style but employed his own, much more frenetic brushstrokes and eccentricity, while retaining enough of Potter’s style in composition, page-layout and image-size that the book still fits tickety-boo in the Potter canon.
An audio version of the story is included with the book. The narrator is none other than Helen Mirren. First thing I did on collecting my copy was to pop the CD in the player and let myself absorb the story through Mirren’s masterful voices. Superb.
This is a deadringer for a Christmas gift for lots of folks, young and old. Thank you Beatrix, Quentin, and all those who have had a part in bringing this treasure to life.
Meanwhile, it’s still the year we’re celebrating Potter’s 150th birthday. She was born on July 28, 1866.
To that end, Frederick Warne has collaborated with 32 outstanding children’s book author-illustrators to bring us an utterly delectable collection of Potter tales, original art, and musings:
A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by more than 30 of today’s favorite children’s book illustrators
published by Frederick Warne, 2016
Gahhhhh! This book is a wonder!
Take nine of Potter’s tales – Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Tailor of Gloucester, Two Bad Mice, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, the Pie and the Patty-Pan, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Mr. Tod.
Add brief introductions about the inspiration and making of the original books, and excerpts of the stories with Potter’s illustrations.
Pour in the imaginations and observations of some of today’s most talented author-illustrators – Melissa Sweet, Lauren Castillo, Wendell Minor, Brian Pinkney…I can’t list them all. It’s a powerful list!
These folks were asked to reflect on what Potter has meant to them, and choose an episode from one of these stories to illustrate with their own flair, style, vision.
What you get is a stunning collection of art and a tender, thoughtful compilation of ideas from folks whose business it is to soak in story and create story. I love every page. It’s a tribute to Beatrix Potter, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a window into these artists’ thoughts about drawing, mischief, human frailty, imagination, the out-of-doors, comfort, fear, and how Potter’s tiny tales speak to all of that.
Hear Tony Diterlizzi’s delightful ramblings about his encounter with Jeremy Fisher at the “ramshackle bait and tackle shop” he frequents:
Or come nose-to-nose with Jen Corace’s terribly-vexed Hunca Munca, as Jen describes her childhood dollhouses and the deep, emotional investment and disappointments we, too, experience that makes us empathize with that perturbed, wee mouse.
Potter was a brilliant artist, with her boots firmly planted in the muck of the Lake District, and we love her for that. If you’re a Potter fan, or an artist, ages 12 through adult, do yourself a favor and check this collection out.
It hits the shelves here in the U.S. on November 1st.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged Beatrix Potter, book reviews, children's literature, illustration, picture books, Quentin Blake, The Tale of Kitty in Boots | 6 Comments »
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