What better way to celebrate Middle Grade Monday than to head over to Middle Grade March at Deb Marshall's blog, or perhaps hop over to read a lot of good book reviews at Middle Shelf Magazine.
You can also check out the list of Middle Grade Bloggers on pages 52-53.
Farrell, Marie Cronk. Pure Grit:How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp
March 1st 2014
by Abrams Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com
There are so many facets of WWII that haven't been addressed as much in literature for children, and both the role of women and the Pacific theater are covered in this well formatted nonfiction title. Based on extensive research from first hand accounts, the lives of a group of Army nurses stationed in the Philippines is described in detail. From the country club atmosphere before the war to the extreme deprivations of being held captive by the Japanese, the struggles of daily life are depicted in a sensitive but unflinching way. There are lots of great pictures and copies of letters that add a lot. I certainly learned a lot, and the readers who want more information about anything related to WWII will find the accounts of Corregidor and Bataan fascinating. The fact that the women not only survived he bombings, fighting and deprivations but then went on to live long and productive lives was inspiring.
Strengths: This was extremely readable, with interesting anecdotes well strung together. Again, the research and use of primary resources was great. The illustrations and format of this book were well done, even reading it on an e reader. I can't wait to get my hands on the print edition.
Weaknesses: This is a bit on the long side, and may take some selling to students, but it is a must have for any middle school and high school collection.
Sax, Aline, Strzelecki, Caryl (Illustrations), Watkinson, Laura (translator). The War within These Walls
October 16th 2013
by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Misha is living in the Warsaw Ghetto with his family, and even though conditions are worsening for everyone, Misha thinks that his father's job as a doctor will keep them safe. For a while, this means a little bit of food and safety, but as the Nazis confine people more and more, even this disappears. Misha starts using the sewers to leave the Ghetto to find food, and his young sister follows him. This works well until the Nazis start to use flame throwers to clear out the sewers, and his sister never returns. When Misha finds that people are being sent to camps, he starts to work with the Resistance, who feel that if they are going to die anyway, they might as well die fighting. Many of them do, but Misha survives and manages to flee the Ghetto.
Strengths: This is not a graphic novel, but has lots of pictures that accompany the text. This will appeal to many readers. The descriptions of the deprivations and inhumanity are again unflinching. Our 8th grade studies the Holocaust, and this will be a good addition to the collection, but it is not for the faint of heart.
Weaknesses: Other reviewers have said that the narrow format represents the narrowing of prospects for the Jews, but it also caused the words to be rather small. The pictures didn't add much to the story for me, and the extensive use of blue ink is perhaps the reason for the odd smell of the book. This is also a paper-over-board hardcover without a dust jacket, which will not hold up well. I liked the story, and the translation was good, but I wasn't fond of the format of the book.
Setterington, Ken. Branded by the Pink Triangle
April 15th 2013
by Second Story Press
Stonewall Children's and Young Adults' Literature Award, 2014
This is certainly a very well researched book about the plight of homosexual men during the Holocaust. Starting with an explanation of the accepting culture in Berlin from the late 1800s until after the first world war, this gives a very complete account of why and how the Nazis persecuted men who were perceived to be homosexual. The inclusion of information about individuals who have recounted their tales makes this especially poignant, and there is a chapter dedicated to the state of the homosexual movement after that time. Definitely deserving of its award.
Marvelous Middle Grade
Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading?
day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.