Friday, May 15, 2020

Guy Friday- WWII

It occurred to me after reading these two books that it will be time for me to retire when there is zero interest in World War II among my readers. Between the 8th grade unit on the Holocaust during which I need about 200 books set during WWII and the handful of readers I have in every grade who ONLY want to read about this period in history, I need a weirdly large number of new titles every year! When I don't, that might be a signal that I've been on the job too long!

Burgan, Michael. Nazi Prison Camp Escape (Great Escapes)
April 28th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Bill Ash was an American who volunteered for the Canadian Air Force in 1940, and was sent to Europe shortly afterward. In 1942, his plane was shot down over France, and while he was able to parachute down safely, he had to make sure he didn't run into Nazi soldiers on the ground. He got help from a French family, who fed and clothed him and connected him to the Resistance so he could try to get to Switzerland. While he managed to escape for a while, he soon found himself in Stalag Luft III. While there, he found himself often in "the cooler" (solitary confinement) and took part in many escape attempts. One involved tunneling out from an outhouse to the perimeter of the camp, with the stench of the outhouse helping the process! When the Allied troops arrived in France, Ash was finally able to get help from the British army. In all, he had attempted escape thirteen times.
Strengths: The bits of history interspersed throughout the story were perfect. Information about the planes, the POWs, the Resistance helps readers who might not know much about those topics. Ash's story is told in an engaging narrative form, and these brief snippets don't distract from that. The length is perfect, the details about camps and escaping are interesting, and the addition of occasional illustrations will help sell this to reluctant readers. There is another book in the works by Sherri Winston, Journey to Freedom 1838.
Weaknesses: While I need lots of short and simple books about WWII, Ash's story was so interesting that I wouldn't have minded if this had more details.
What I really think: This is a great choice for WWII aficionados, lovers of survival stories, and reluctant readers who want an action packed adventure.

Marino, Andy. Conspiracy (The Plot to Kill Hitler #1)
April 21st 2020 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The Hoffman family live in Berlin, and with the air strikes causing damage and injuries, their surgeon father is often asked to help. When a man stumbles into their home with fatal wounds one night, Gerta and Max hear him asking their father to finish off Hitler, and see papers being passed. Soon, the children are dressed up and trotted out to see Frau Becker, and learn that their parents have been active in the resistance to the Nazis. Max isn't really interested in fighting at first; his solid, middle class existence has been shattered, and he would rather just play soccer with his friends. Still, his awareness of what is really happening with the Jews who are being "relocated" makes him want to help defeat Hitler. He and Gerta are assigned to do "dead drops"; they write a coded message on a building that alerts Jewish people where they can pick up fake identity and ration cards. They are almost caught by the block warden one night, and know that their activities could lead to their death, but continue on despite the danger. When Frau Becker's circle has a traitor, the children help by setting up fake drops to see who the traitor is. Once this is discovered, however, the whole operation is put in jeopardy and the Hoffman family must flee Berlin.
Strengths: This is a bit unusual in that it centers on an ordinary, gentile civilian family of Germans during the war. I had good friends who were in similar circumstances, although the man ended up having to join the Wehrmacht even though he didn't want to. I liked that they were portrayed as interested in helping to defeat the Nazis, but didn't necessarily hide Jews in their house. Those books have been written, but this was something new! The Becker Circle (which is based on some real people and events) adds a nice air of mystery and intrigue to the story. All three paperbacks are being released around the same time, and I do hope that Follett will offer them in a prebind.
Weaknesses: I wish this were just one book.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase, but one day in ten years a student WILL lose book two and I will be sad because I won't be able to get a replacement!

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