Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’

Review – “Parallel Journeys” by Eleanor H. Ayer

Parallel JourneysParallel Journeys by Eleanor H. Ayer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title of this book is clever. It refers to the two journeys through WWII and the Holocaust the narrative traces of a Jewish mother and a boy in the Hitler Youth, it also refers to the structure of the book. The chapters alternate between Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck with no clue to the reader but context and the consistency of the shift in perspective.

I recently read Night again. I’ve read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and been to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. Neither the books or experience provided the emotional roller-coaster found within Ayer’s book.

Helen Waterford’s story is heartbreaking, she goes into hiding with her family, her husband and young daughter, in order to protect their daughter they arrange for her to live with foster parents, they are found by the Gestapo (possibly because they were informed by the people hiding the Waterfords), husband and wife are separated – never to be reunited, she endures and survives death camps, finds her way back home, finds her daughter who looks upon her as a stranger and begins to rebuild her life.

Alfons Heck is a young boy when Hitler starts his rise to power. Taken in by the nationalism and propaganda Alfons joins the Hitler Youth. At sixteen, he became a Bannfuhrer, equivalent to the rank of a major general in the U. S., with 6,000 troops under his command. He believed whole heartedly what ever he was told about Germany, Jews, and the enemies of Germany. When the war ends Alfons is a prisoner, the French show him and other Nazi’s images of the concentrations camps which are regarded as forgeries by the Nazi’s (Heck included) to make them feel bad. They truly did not believe that Germany had perpetrated such horrendous crimes. He eventually comes to realize the truth. Heck moves to Canada to escape his past and then to the U.S. where Helen reads a column Alfons is writing and calls and sets up a meeting up with Alfons. They talk and then begin touring together talking about their “Parallel Journeys”

The story is told by Ayer, but within her narrative excerpts from Alfons and Helen’s personal stories are interspersed. Giving the history two very real faces.

The most interesting, sad thing that this book offers is how the youth of Germany were used, Heck calls these youth the other victims of the Holocaust. Seeing these two people travel through the war on their respective paths provides an illuminating and incredibly sad testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and the power of well crafted messaging to inspire hatred and violence.

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Review – “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My CryRoll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 6th book about the Logan family though this novel was published first. The narrator is Cassie Logan, the great granddaughter of Paul Logan, protagonist of “The Land“. Cassie’s father must leave for months at a time to work on the railroad in order to make enough money to pay the mortgage and taxes on their land. Cassie discovers just what it means to be black in the South during the Depression when a white girl tells Cassie to walk in the road and the girls father soon makes Cassie do just that. She doesn’t understand why Big Ma allows this to happen but does manage to get revenge.

This is a sad and poignant view of hatred and ignorance.

Another great book to discuss American history and see the challenges and hatred newly freed African Americans faced.

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Review – “The Land” by Mildred D. Taylor

The Land (Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner)The Land by Mildred D. Taylor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this prequel to Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry more than I thought I was going to. The 1800’s have always interested me, most of what I’ve read about and/or from that time has been British but America was going through some ugly, painful times.

Paul Logan is half white, and could almost pass as white. His white father treats him well, despite the social distaste associated with doing so. This treatment means that when he finally strikes out on his own he comes face to face with the harsh reality of being black in the south right after the war. His determination to own land (hence the title) is what motivates him through all the hatred and poor treatment that he encounters.

A great book to discuss American history and see the challenges and hatred newly freed African-Americans faced.

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Review – “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miranda and Sal live in the same apartment, they grew up together and spent all their free time together. After Sal is the victim of a walk by punching, they start to drift apart.This is about the time Miranda starts finding mysterious notes that have eerie knowledge of the future. She makes friends with Marcus, after punching Sal, and turns out, through time travel, to be the Laughing Man, a crazy homeless guy who practices kicking all the time. Oh yeah, Miranda is obsessed with “A Wrinkle in Time“.

Themes: Friendship, honesty, family, time

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Review – “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird PondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kit travels to New England from Barbados to find her Puritan family and townsfolk difficult to warm up to. She finds happiness with Nat a sea-farer.

While this book, no doubt, provides an accurate description of puritan New England, and could be used to discuss the historical period, and the themes of loneliness and being different, it was boring. The title character does not have as large a part as I would have liked. I stopped reading this book any chance I got and only finished it for EDU 513.

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Review – “Here Lies Arthur” by Philip Reeve

Here Lies ArthurHere Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very interesting twist on the Authurian legend. Author is not the hero that we are used to but a power hungry war lord that a storyteller has high hopes for uniting Briton. Gwyna is found by Myrddin who ‘transforms’ her into a boy, back to a girl, and a spy.

Myrddin is convinced that Author will unite Briton and has been spinning and spreading embellished tales of his actions and character to create the legend as he still lives. It seems like Mryddin expects Author to become the character is portrays in his stories. Gwyna is turned into a boy by Mryddin, by cutting her hair and dressing her as such. He takes her under is care to save her from the same fate as her family, namely being killed by Author’s men. Gwyna also is turned into the Lady of the Lake by Mryddin through misdirection and playing on the superstitions of Author and his followers.

It seems to the reader, and Gwyna, that Mryddin is single minded in his quest to raise Author to more than just a war lord, but we discover that he does indeed care for Gwyna.

I am much enamored with the Arthurian Legend and enjoyed the alternative perspective Reeve presents. This is the first Reeve novel I read that was not in the steampunk genre and I was happy to find it as good as those novels.

Themes: Truth vs. Perception, the power of words, family, unity, violence

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Review – “Predator’s Gold” by Philip Reeve

Predator's Gold (The Hungry City Chronicles, #2)Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the sequel to Mortal Engines, we find two years have passed and Tom and Hester are in love and traveling aboard their airship, the Jenny Haniver, which they had ‘inherited’ at the end of the previous novel.

Their simple life is interrupted when the Green Storm, a group that fights for static cities, discovers them and wants the airship of their comrade back. They crash on Anchorage, where Tom and the Magravaine Freya crush on each other, much to Hester’s dismay. Due to the scar that runs across her face Hester suffers from low self esteem and had just begun to feel confident in Tom’s feelings for her. She leaves as soon as the Jenny is fixed, leaving Tom behind.

This book is much funnier than the first. For example, Christopher Columbo is mentioned, the famous explorer detective. It is done is such a serious manner that makes it even more hilarious.

Themes: Love, betrayal, control, change, movement vs staying static, violence.

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