Monday, July 25, 2016

MMGM-- Books, and some Blather

It's 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.

An update on a few personal mattes; feel free to skip:

Back from London. We went to the Warner Brothers studio where Harry Potter was filmed, and she cried while standing in front of the scale model of Hogwarts. We saw just about everything else we wanted to see, and had a great working knowledge of the Tube by the time we left. 

My podiatrist didn't understand that "normal activity" for me is walking 10-15 miles a day. After the first week of walking about London (one day was 17 miles!), my foot started to ache. Couldn't very well NOT walk, so I'm back in my boot for a month. 

I mean, the spy mission went well, and I managed to nab the double agent, but my wall scaling skills need work, and falling from the top of the Shard is not a good idea!

To make matters more interesting, my street is under construction and my car is parked a 1/4 mile away. After my first two "ninja injuries", I was able to walk and stand, but this time, my foot hurts and I really have to be off it. 

So, of course, I'm biking to work to see if there are any boxes of ARCs from Baker and Taylor and THEN staying off my foot for the next three weeks. Seriously. I can't even get to cross country practice, and I'm deputizing all of the work for the garage sale this weekend. 

A bit grumpy, but trying to think of it as a lovely opportunity to do nothing but read. 

Hope everyone else's summer has had fewer complications! On to the reviews!

The Enemy Above: A Novel of World War IISpradlin, Michael. The Enemy Above
June 28th 2016 by Scholastic Press
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Anton's life in the Ukraine has been difficult. His mother died when he was young, and his father went off to fight in WWII and has not been heard from for a very long time. He has a supportive uncle, however, as well as his grandmother, Bubbe. When his village is overrun by the Nazis, a small group of people manage to escape, but they are found by Major Von Duesen, who is taking his directive to make the area free of Jews very seriously. Bubbe is angry and lets Von Duesen know, which gives Anton time to escape, although Bubbe is taken into custody so she can be questioned later, and two neighbors are shot to death. Anton is bound and determined to get Bubbe back, since she is all he has left. He manages to sabotage the truck she is on and free her, and they make their way to a cave where they set up a community and try to survive by stealing food from local farms. Von Duesen is angry that his career was ruined by Bubbe's group, and vows to find them and bring them to justice, especially since the war is not going well for the Nazis. How will Anton and his friends and family be able to survive until the Americans come and the Nazis retreat? 

There are never enough books about the Jewish experience in the Holocaust, and this is an interesting change from books where people are sent to camps. The details of escaping, living in the cave, and foraging for food are all vivid and helpful in understanding another facet of the Jewish experience. That this book is set in the Ukraine was also interesting, especially since Bubbe knew some German since the Ukraine had been so unsettled for so many years. 

Anton is motivated by survival, and also by helping to keep his family alive, and his efforts to do this are well described. It is Von Duesen, however, who is an interesting character study. While there had to have been many Germans who treated the Jews in horrific ways, there were probably a larger number who did what they were told to do lest they suffer themselves. Von Duesen is between these two types of people-- he's irritated by the Jews enough to commit atrocities, but the core of his motivation seems to be his own success. Therefore, when the Jews escape, he is more concerned that it will look bad for him with his superior officers than with the fact that there are Jews who escaped. I hadn't really thought about people who lingered in that area of self-absorbed cruelty. Kathryn Lasky's portrayal of Leni Riefenstahl in The Extra would be the closest book I can think of that has such a character. 

Fans of Dan Smith's WWII books, Will Osborne's Hitler's Secret, or even Hoose's nonfiction book, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club will find the portrayal of Anton's struggle against the Nazis to be an excellent addition to the body of books about the Holocaust.

24397131Steinmetz, Katy. Awesome America
May 31st 2016 by Time For Kids 
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Unfortunately, this came in the mail right before I left for England, and it's the sort of book that I have trouble reviewing. It's not connected narrative; it's sort of like a geographical and historical Guinness Book of World Records. Highly browsable and the sort of book that children love to flip through to look for pictures that amuse them. In that regard, it's sort of like a whole week pasta version of Guinness. 

A variety of topics, ranging from presidents to states to little known historical facts are covered in well-illustrated, beautifully designed pages. I can see this being used by classroom teachers to instruct students about elements of the page such as side bars, bold print, etc. 

This will get a lot of heavy use in middle school and elementary libraries, so it does concern me that the paper over board binding is already showing small tears. With a list price of $24.95, this will probably get its money worth in use, but might not see out an entire year. 


  1. It sounds like your summer so far has been adventurous. Reading is a good reason to stay off your feet and let yourself heal. Come see what my week was like here. Happy reading!

  2. Oh my! You've had a memorable and forgettable summer rolled into one. Hope what remains is happy. Thanks for your insights on THE ENEMY ABOVE. I'm going to give this one a read through.

  3. Holy Crow, you have been having adventures. Hope your foot is better soon. The Enemy Above looks like an interesting read. I think Stones from the River by Ursula Heigi (adult fiction) has this kind of self absorbed character.

  4. London is such a great city to explore, but it definitely does involve a lot of walking!! I can see Awesome America being a hit with kids, though I definitely hear you when it comes to binding - library books, especially kids books, need to be able to survive a lot of very enthusiastic "love" from young patrons! ;)

  5. Stay off the foots! But that Heart Potter thing sounded totally worth it. Wow. My kid would probably tear up at that too.

  6. So much going on in your summer thus far. My daughter visited the Harry Potter studios, too, when she studied in London - and she cried, too. I hope your foot heals soon!

  7. Hope you can get rested up and back up to speed soon. Try to enjoy the extra reading time in the meantime. Sounds like the trip was amazing! I once visited a castle where some of the outdoor Hogwarts scenes were filmed (notably the one where Harry first learns to fly a broom). That I'll never forget!

  8. Let's try this again as the power went off in the middle of the comment. London is awesome! I cried at the HP experience, too. But yes, lots of walking. I want to go back cause third time's the charm, right? But to hit up the lake country and maybe Stonehenge. Anyway. A hop across the pond is a good thing. But I hope you are healing quickly and properly. Now to the books ... I want to read Enemy Above. That sounds super interesting.

  9. My, my. You have to stay off that foot! But at least you will have lots of reading time. I have Awesome America and agree with your assessment. The Enemy Above sounds like a good one. It's going on my TBR list. Thanks for the post.

  10. I am in awe of the HP experience!!!!! A colleague of mine was just there and sent me a bunch of photos--such a wonderful place!
    I am reading Awesome America--it is so full of information! I'm impressed by Time, Animal Planet, and NG's recent books.

    Happy reading this week :)

  11. Sounds like you had a wonderful and memorable trip. Hope your foot mends quickly and the road fixing doesn't take to long.