If you like YA books set in World War II and haven’t read the award winning author Elizabeth Wein, you’re missing out. I just finished the wonderful The Enigma Game (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020). It was fascinating and I learned some new facts too.
Fifteen-year-old British Jamaican Louisa Adair wants to do something to fight the Nazis. Both her parents were killed in the War. But it’s hard simply finding a job. She finally gets one in Scotland, but how can taking care of an elderly German woman accomplish anything for the war efforts?
We also meet Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, and read about their struggles. The three get involved together because of an Enigma machine.
I love the elements of music in this book. And the fact that we meet some characters who often aren’t mentioned positively in books from the time period.
If you’ve read Code Name Verity, you’ve met Jamie before.
Read about the author here and check out her other books here.
As a kid I was horrified to learn about Nazi Germany and the holocaust. How could people think like that?! My naive self thought antisemitism would disappear. And, of course, so would Nazis. Unfortunately not. Here are two books to help middle grade and young adult readers with these topics. Both are told in multiple points of view.
Linked (Scholastic Press, 2021) by Gordon Korman deals with what happens when a student paints a swastika on the school walls. Meet Michael, Lincoln, and Dana all struggling with the aftermath in their quiet town. Who did it and why? (mg novel)
The Assignment (Ember, 2020) by Liza Wiemer starts out with the good intentions of a teacher wanting his students to understand how horrific the genocide of the Jews was, but his approach is wrong and two students–best friends Logan and Cade–take on the battle to get the assignment canceled. (YA novel)
Both stories have surprising twists and are thought provoking.
Gordon Korman is a many-times-published author. On his website this time, I learned his first book was published when he was fourteen!
The Assignment is Liza Wiermer’s second novel and has won numerous honors. Check it out here. Read about Lisa here.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
A Wish in the Dark (Candlewick Press, 2020) by Christina Soontornvat is my favorite read so far this year!
Pong was born in Nomwan Prison. He and his best friend and Somkit stare at the lights of Chattana–the city that one man, the Governor, brought light to after the great fire. If only they could escape there.
Nok is the daughter of the prison warder. She and her family are at Nomwan because the Governor is coming to visit. To her shock the young Pong approaches the Governor.
Pong thinks that such a good man as the Governor will see how unfair it is for children born to prisoners to be imprisoned. But when the Governor doesn’t agree, all that’s left to Pong is to escape, which he does.
Nok’s father is blamed for Pong’s escape and she wants to capture him to restore her family’s name. But secrets she discovers in her quest make her question everything she’s ever known.
Who will win in this unfair world?
The story has many surprising twists and turns. This Thai-inspired fantasy is a 2021 Newbery Honor book–I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. Plus, it has won other awards and been put on many lists. See those here.
Christina has written a number of award winning books in a variety of categories–read more about her here and see all her books here.
Wow! Outrun the Moon (G.P Putnam’s Sons, 2016) by Stacey Lee is an outstanding read. Set in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, it’s hard to put down. (And such a gorgeous cover.)
Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to go to high school at St. Clare’s School for Girls, but who would ever let a Chinese girl in? The Chinese have their own school–never mind that it ends at 8th grade. Her ingenuity and resourcefulness gets Mercy in, but she’s not accepted by her classmates and even many of the staff. Then the whole community is stricken by the earthquake. Mercy, not only survives, but with the help of some classmates makes a difference to many involved in the disaster.
Stacey Lee is a founding member of the We Need Diverse Books movement. Here’s her website. Check out all her books here.
Previously I recommended her The Secret of a Heart Note and I should have recommended the wonderful The Downstairs Girl.
Perfect Picture Book Friday
Powwow Day (Charlesbridge, 2022) by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight is a great book to celebrate the upcoming 10th Anniversary of Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 26th.
River is usually excited about Powwow Day, but this year she can’t dance like she did before she got sick. She doesn’t even enjoy the scents of sage and sweetgrass when they arrive on the grounds. Everyone dances except River and she can’t even feel the drumbeat. She’s too tired. But when her friends and family do the girls’ jingle dance, a healing dance, River can feel the drums and knows she’ll dance again.
This is a sweet story of hope. It also has good backmatter that explains powwows, talks about the tribes, the drums, and the dances. I really enjoyed the information of how the jingle dance originated with the 100 year ago flu pandemic.
Author Traci Sorell is a member of the Cherokee Nation. Visit Traci’s website to learn more about her and read about her other current and forthcoming books.
I loved the illustrations by Madelyn Goodnight, who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation. On Madelyn’s website, you can read about her, look at some of her art, and check out her books.
I was given one copy for review from Charlesbridge and will pass it on to one lucky commenter drawn at random. (USA only) Comment by January 27th for a chance to win.