A New York Times editor’s choice
by Diane Magras
Drest, a young Scottish girl witnesses her family’s capture and learns about their imminent death. With only a few days to spare, she must make her way to rescue them from a castle prison. She starts off on a quest to find them, taking a wounded prince along as a hostage. This story has all the elements of a great tale. You may be very surprised at how it ends in a series of sometimes alarming twists.
Kathryn Lasky is the Newbery Honor-winning author of many books including the Guardians of Ga’Hoole fantasy series, the Wolves of the Beyond series, A Time for Courage and several Dear America titles.
211 pages, MS and US
Night Witches is a novel of World War II. The Germans have surrounded Stalingrad. Valya, a sixteen year old Russian girl has been trained as a pilot by her father. The story starts out with the brutal murder of her mother. Left alone, Valya must now try and reunite with her sister, Tatyana, who is one of the fighter pilots of the Night Witch Brigade. Valya is determined to join up with the brigade and fight the Nazis. This book is based on thorough research and is a great read for those who love action, historical fiction, and a story featuring the first all-female air combat team.
Visit Kathryn Lasky’s website: http://www.kathrynlasky.com/
“The wall divided her family. Escaping it might take her life.”
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
317 pgs. Recommended for Upper Elementary through Middle School.
A different genre this time around from her wonderful fantasy/adventure series, The Ascendance Trilogy, Nielsen writes a very exciting fiction novel set in the postwar years in East Germany.
In Berlin, Germany, on August 13th 1961, citizens awoke to find their city radically transformed. Shortly after midnight, soldiers and construction workers in East Berlin got to work and by morning, Berlin was a divided city. Families, friends and even work colleagues would not meet again for nearly three decades.
A barrier of posts and barbed wire was built and then reinforced to cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The Berlin Wall would only be officially re-opened in November 1989. The purpose of the wall was to stop the defection of East Germans in the communist Eastern Bloc to the more liberal society of West Germany during the post-World War II era.
Nielsen‘s style is fast paced and gripping. You are never sure about the outcome, which makes her stories all the more compelling. She captures the sinister and ever-present danger of being spied on, the ruthlessness of the authorities, and the fear and mistrust of one’s own neighbors. And, as was the case during these post-war years, you meet people who can only think of being free and will risk everything, even their lives, to escape.
The Tortoise and the Soldier by Michael Foreman
Hardcover, 128 pages
Henry Holt and Co, November 24, 2015
Saw this pop up in my McMillan new book feed and bought it immediately.
This one is going in our school library And my home library. (I am delivering two books to our library today so great day!)
First, full disclosure, I have a tortoise obsessed son who Loves military history so I took a chance based on the description that this would be something he would want to read.
Now this book is a bit young for his reading level (and just like me he read it in one sitting yesterday evening). But it is a wonderful story with beautiful watercolor illustrations and real photographs throughout.
The story starts in the 1950s with our narrator Trevor, going to visit an older gentleman in his small English village who has a tortoise. The Editor wants to know if the tortoise has woken up from his Winter bromation and is walking about yet. So over on his old rickety bike rushes the young teen to see what the big deal about this tortoise is. Trevor asks Mr Friston what’s the tortoises’ story. So while Trevor works around the yard, Mr Friston, recounts his story as a young sailor aboard the HMS Implacable.
Along the way we meet Mr Henry Friston as a young man, Ali Pasha (prince among tortoises), and many exotic locations where Henry was stationed during WWI. I am sure a bit of artistic liscense has been taken, but the book is filled with actual pictures of Henry, the tortoise, and artifacts from Henry’ time in the Royal Navy. The stories about Galipoli are realistic and not pretty, but Mr Foreman tempers the death and tragedy of trench warfare with occasional sometimes dark humor. My favorite is when a truce is called where both sides took “a half time in hell” for first aid and burial to be rendered to both sides. Or later when Henry is carting aboard crates of dates (Ali’ favorite food). This is a middle grade book though, and while some of the story might give sensitive readers pause, it is done in small doses with a huge dollop of compassion and humanity to balance the horror. Besides this is a story about war, and trench ware fare no less.
The author Mr Foreman does explain that he met Mr Friston driving the local bus usually filled with soldiers in WWII, and became friends with Dan, Mr Friston’ son. It was Dan who introduced Michael to Ali Pasha, and he grew up hearing stories about Henry’ time in WWI over many years. So while the story about Henry and his adventures with Ali Pasha are true, the narrative about the newspaper and a young boy learning about it over days is not.