A classic story about a boy and his dogs. In some ways, Where the Red Fern Grows seems like a timeless story about a boy’s determination to get what he most desires. He works hard, saves his money, and is finally able to buy his coon dogs. He trains them, he comes to love those dogs, and they love him back. The three of them are a unit that can’t be broken. However, I can’t see a child of today acting with so much patience and determination. Billy is a special character; he almost seems superhuman in a way. He thinks of others, he works hard, he sets a goal and works to achieve it. Old Dan and Little Anne also seem superhuman. They are like one dog in two bodies; they are bonded in a way you really don’t see often; and they can’t live without each other. This book had a little more coon hunting description than I was really prepared to read, but I appreciated the story. It is a simple story with a strong message, but there is a lot of depth in the storytelling that you don’t always find in current books. This is a classic for a reason.
Jameson Cooper is the son of the best printer in Charles Towne, South Carolina. He expects to one day take over his father’s business, but that was before tragedy strikes. A plague takes the lives of his mom and dad, an unscrupulous man takes the business and Jameson finds himself on the streets. He is accused of theft and sold as an indentured servant. On an errand for his master he is shanghaied by a crewmember of the Destiny, a privateer ship for Queen Anne. Jameson is not ready for life on board a ship, especially one captained by Attack Jack, but he soon learns the ropes. He makes enemies of a couple of the crew, but is championed by the ship’s cook and first mate. Jameson learns the ropes of life on a ship and becomes trusted by the Captain, who puts his printing skills to work as ship’s artist. There are attacks by a Spanish ship, storms at sea, and so much more in this high-seas adventure.
Who doesn’t like sea battles, descriptions of weird food and life on board ship? Jameson is an interesting character who goes through a lot in this book. I’m not sure it is very realistic that the captain would trust him so much after such a short amount of time, but it made for an interesting story.
I did not think I would enjoy this book as it fictionalized real historical persons, but Sharon Dogar did an excellent job! You get an entirely different perspective of the eight people hidden in the annex in Amsterdam during WWII and yet she retains the authentic emotional atmosphere of Anne Frank’s diary. Very good read!
It is the summer of 1964 in Hanging Moss, Mississippi and Glory is excited about having her 12th birthday party at the community pool. Then the community pool is closed for repairs, but there are no repairs needed. The adults in Glory’s life don’t want to explain what is going on, but she figures out that some people don’t want Blacks and Whites mixing in the pool and other places. It is Freedom Summer and there are Yankees in town putting people on edge. It is the summer that Glory learns more about the world and what it means to stand up for what is right.
I like the fact that Glory is clueless about the world. So often kids in books seem smarter and more aware than they really would be. She just seems like a regular girl who is worried about her birthday party and why her big sister doesn’t want to play with her anymore. She gradually becomes aware of what is going on, but it takes perseverance and a bit of sneakiness. I also liked that the book was pretty realistic in that there wasn’t a big change in attitudes in the community. People didn’t miraculous become more tolerant; they are just as prejudiced as before. But Glory is more aware and has firmly chosen a side in the Civil Rights Movement.
He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels. He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi some day, with tall shiny jackboots and a gleaming Eagle hat of his own. Until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind. And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.
Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw of World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young orphan.
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.
Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.
Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.
In the waning months of World War II, young Evelyn Roe’s life is transformed when she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier, all but completely buried in the heavy red-clay soil on her family’s farm in North Carolina. When Evelyn rescues the stranger, it quickly becomes clear he is not a simple man. As innocent as a newborn, he recovers at an unnatural speed, and then begins to changeÃ¢#128;#148;first into Evelyn’s mirror image, and then into her complement, a man she comes to know as Adam.
Evelyn and Adam fall in love, sharing a connection that reaches to the essence of Evelyn’s being. But the small town where they live is not ready to accept the likes of Adam, and his unusual origin becomes the secret at the center of their seemingly normal marriage.
Adam proves gifted with horses, and together he and Evelyn establish a horse-training business. They raise five daughters, each of whom possesses something of Adam’s supernatural gifts. Then a tragic accident strikes the family, and Adam, in his grief, reveals his extraordinary character to the local community. Evelyn and Adam must flee to Florida with their daughters to avoid ostracism and prying doctors. Adrift in their new surroundings, they soon realize that the difference between Adam and other men is greater than they ever imagined.
Intensely moving and unforgettable, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope captures the beauty of the natural world, and explores the power of abiding love and otherness in all its guises. It illuminates the magic in ordinary life and makes us believe in the extraordinary.
In 1922, Cora Carlisle becomes the chaperone of a young Louise Brooks as she heads to New York to become a dancer. Cora is an unassuming wife and mother from Kansas who has lived a quiet life. Louise is a young flapper with dreams of making it big and getting out of Kansas. Cora has ulterior motives in going to New York. Only her husband knows that she was born in New York and raised in an orphanage until she was sent on an orphan train west and adopted by the Carlisles. Cora wants to know who she is and where she came from. At the orphanage she meets Joseph who helps her find her records. Cora’s marriage is also not what it seems and she finds herself attracted to Joseph and willing to risk everything. The story is told in the present with flashbacks to Cora’s life before New York. We learn more and more as the story unfolds.
I really enjoyed this story about Cora and her life both before and after New York. The audiobook was wonderful to listen to and I never really wanted to turn it off. I liked that Louise was a real person and the actual events of her story were used to tell this tale. I did think it went on a little too long. We do get Cora’s entire life story from birth to death, but I would have been happy if it had ended shortly after she got back from New York. The rest seemed like more of an extended epilogue/summary of events and very different storytelling from the first two-thirds of the book. There was a lot of wonderful historical information in this book and I would highly recommend it.
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
Horace is the apprentice for Enoch Middleditch, a photographer in 1870s New York City. When hired by the wealthy Von Macht family to photograph them in mourning for their lost daughter, the unscrupulous Middleditch has Horace help him create a fake double-exposure ghost image of the dead daughter within the Von Macht portrait, in order to lure them into continuing to use his services. Soon, however, Horace realizes that more than a scam is at work, for it seems that a real ghost is showing up on his photographic plates.
This tale is equal parts ghost story, mystery, and history. The descriptions of the old photographic techniques are interesting, but it is the interactions between Horace and a servant girl, Pegg, which supply the heart of the story. As the secrets of the Von Macht family are unveiled, and the creepy atmosphere builds, I can see why Avi remains a beloved children’s author.
No Crystal Stair is a mix of fiction and nonfiction. It details the life of Lewis Michaux from birth to death and everything in between. It is written by his great niece. Lewis was born the son of a fish seller in Newport News, Virginia. He was one of 11 children; his mother also had 4 babies die at birth. All the children and the hard work eventually drove her a little crazy. His father was an ambitious and driven man who worked his way up to a successful business. Lewis’s brother Lightfoot became a well-known and successful preacher, who started several churches on the East Coast. Lewis tried many things in his life, some legal some not so legal, before he moved to Harlem and decided to educate the Black community. He believed that if you were ignorant of your history you were just a negro. So he wanted to inform Blacks about who they were and where they came from. He opened his National Memorial African Bookstore in the heart of Harlem. Starting with just five books, he built the store up to a quarter of a million books. All of his books were by Black people and about Black people. The bookstore became the meeting place for people like Malcolm X and others interested in helping the Black Community. Lewis, called the Professor, thought it was his duty to help and educate those around him. His place was a sanctuary, a school, a pulpit and a store. Eventually, the state forced the closure of the store and Lewis died of cancer shortly after. But his legacy lives on in those he helped and the lives he improved.
Set in Chicago in 1893 as the city prepares for the World’s Fair, sixteen-year-old Emily Wheiler should be enjoying her last few days as a carefree youth of a prosperous family. But her whole life changes when her mother dies leaving her the adult responsibility of being Lady of Wheiler House as her father, a powerful bank president, needs her to entertain and conduct the house as her mother would to help him keep his social standing and influence among the city’s wealthy and powerful and the designers and leaders of The White City: The Chicago World’s Fair.
As Emily tried to adjust to her new role and it’s many responsibilities that she is unprepared for she realizes that her father has a dark violent side she’s never seen before and she reaches out to a handsome young man and his family at one of her father’s parties. But then she is marked by a vampyre and once again her whole world changes.
A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in an attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught? Of course not he’s…Dodger. Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl–not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.
From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine with adventure and mystery.
Before Briony’s stepmother died, she made sure Briony knew that she was a witch and that she was responsible for all the family’s hardships. Briony has accepted her guilt. Of course, she’s dangerous. Of course, she’s unlovable. She used to escape to the swamp, where she told stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the punishment that would come with it.
It’s 1944, W.W. II is raging. Jayna’s big brother Rob is her only family. When Rob is called to duty on a destroyer, Jayna is left in their small town in upstate New York with their cranky landlady. But right before he leaves, Rob tells Jayna a secret: they may have a grandmother in Brooklyn. Rob found a little blue recipe book with her name and an address for a bakery. When Jayna learns that Rob is missing in action, she’s devastated. Along with her turtle Theresa, the recipe book, and an encouraging, ghostly voice as her guide, Jayna sets out for Brooklyn in hopes of finding the family she so desperately needs.
It’s 1952 and Janie’s family has found it necessary to leave their sunny LA home for the dramatically different city of London. Janie hates the fact that they had to move, but in this particular era, certain political views can make anyone a target; in this case, Janie’s parents. Shortly after her move to London, Janie meets the local apothecary and his son, Benjamin. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Benjamin and Janie are left in charge of an ancient text, the Pharmacoepia, and are instructed to guard it with their lives. After a bit of experimentation proves that the recipes and spells in the Pharmacoepia are real, Janie and Benjamin realize that the stakes are higher than they had originally thought possible and that they must keep the Pharmacoepia safe from those who would wish their countries harm, namely Russia.
I’ve previously enjoyed Maile Meloy’s work and was excited to find that she was writing for younger audiences. This book was a delightful mix of historical fiction, espionage and magic. The characters are charming and clever and the situations they find themselves in are both humorous and exciting. This wound up being a great choice for my middle school book group. All of my readers thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns, as well as the historical angle.