Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive (Youth Adaptation)
Published November 11th 2014 by Delacorte Press
Louis Zamperini's life was certainly interesting; after a misspent youth stealing food from people's kitchens, he heeded his older brother's advice and took up running, which he did superbly even though he got off to a rocky start. He eventually ended up going to the Olympics, but when WWII started, he decided to join the Army Air Corps. He worked closely with a good group of guys, and had many successful missions, although there were a lot of losses as well. At one point, he and two airmen ended up in a raft for a very long time, resulting in the death of one of the men. Eventually, the two washed up on an island that was occupied by the Japanese, and their life of torture started. Zamperini's family was told he was dead, although they believed he was alive. He and the other men did their best to not call undue attention to themselves and to survive their incarceration, but all of the POWs lost tremendous amounts of weight and were left with physical and psychological problems. Zamperini was eventually freed and made his way home. Once there, he had a rocky time and self-medicated with alcohol, but he did manage to make a living with speaking engagements and married a woman he had only recently met (apparently, many people did this during this era!). He eventually was able to quit drinking with the help of religion, and went on to live a very full and productive life, passing away just this past summer, when the movie of his life was being made.
Strengths: The appeal of an Olympian athlete caught in the travails of WWII is undeniable. I bought a copy without reading it because I've had students asking for it since September. For readers who are obsessed with this military conflict, this is a must read.
Weaknesses: Even the youth edition is really long (292 pages) and somehow ill paced. There's a lot of time given to his childhood, but very little about what he did after the war. Zamperini seems to have been a fairly good person at the end of his life, but he certainly started out as a less than stellar example.
It seemed odd that Netgalley would have an ARC of More About Paddington, so after I read it (and ascertained that it was Paddington in all of his 1950s glory), I did some searching and found out that there is a Paddington movie coming out today. It looks delightful; Hugh Bonneville plays a rather testy Mr. Brown, but the animatronic Paddington is rather clever, and there seems to be lots of slapstick. Could probably do without Nicole Kidman as an evil taxidermist, but I guess today's films need a villain.
Bond, Michael. More About Paddington (#2)
February 24th 2015 by HarperCollins (first published 1959)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Paddington is still living with the Browns, getting into scrapes and being washed up by Mrs. Bird, the housekeeper. He tries to redecorate a room on his own, tries to take a family picture with an old fashioned box camera, and does some Christmas shopping. Along the way, he has elevenses with his friend Mr. Gruber, learns about Guy Fawkes day, and eats his fair share of orange marmalade.
Strengths: There is nothing depressing in this book. Hooray! Even though Paddington is far from home and his Aunt Lucy, he doesn't whine about it. He makes the best of his situation and, shockingly, even enjoys himself. What a relief, after all of the thoroughly depressing middle grade books I've read this year.
Weaknesses: Middle school students today will think they are too young for these stories, and they are VERY British. Perhaps the movie will gain the books a new audience, but I have a distinct feeling that the target demographic for the movies is ages about 3-10.
Have to see if I still have the smelly old Permabound copy of the first book. May not.