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.
Perfect Picture Book Friday
Watercress (Holiday House/Neal Porter Books, 2021) by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin is such an emotional story.
In Ohio, a little girl’s family stops on their drive and the parents make the girl and her brother help harvest watercress growing in the ditch. She’s embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to see her. At dinner that night her parents press her to eat it. It’s fresh and free. But she thinks free is bad. “Free is hand-me-down clothes and roadside trash-heap furniture…” When her mom talks about the great famine in China, the girls is ashamed of being ashamed of her family. She tries the watercress and together they make a new memory.
This book is for everyone who hasn’t had enough, and for everyone else who needs to understand what that’s like. The award-winning book received a Caldecott Medal (for illustrations), a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, a New England Book Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor.
Read about the author here and see Andrea’s other books here.
The spread about the great famine in China made me tear up. So much shown in the illustrations.
Jason is not only the illustrator, but he’s an author too. On this page you can read about him and see his titles scroll by on the bottom.
almost American Girl (Balzer + Bray, 2020) by Robin Ha is a fascinating graphic memoir of one girl’s life. I learned a lot about Korean culture and had such empathy for Chuna.
Chuna and her mother often travel. This time they’re going to Alabama which Chuna hasn’t even heard of. But it isn’t just a visit as Chuna thinks–they’re going to stay. Trying to fit in with a new family, new school, and new country when she barely speaks English is very tough. One consolation is getting to pick a new name, Robin. After many tears, a comics drawing class makes a huge difference in her life.
Don’t miss the acknowledgements at the end. They are well worth reading, too. I wish this book was required reading for everyone.
Robin Ha is a cartoonist–read more about her here. See her work here.
Perfect Picture Book Friday
Poetree (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019) by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds and illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani makes me smile. I love the developing friendship. This is one sweet book.
It’s spring and Sylvia celebrates by writing a poem. She ties her poem to a birch tree in the park. The next day her poem has been replaced by another. The tree is writing back! Her daydreams about the tree get her in trouble at school. But then something surprising happens.
Poetree was on the Spring 2019 Kids’ Indie Next List and received a starred review in School Library Journal.
Author Shauna LaVoy Renolds says she writes “uncommon stories for uncommon children.” Read more about her here. Poetree is her debut picture book.
Check out illustrator Shahrzad Maydani’s illustrations and sketches on Instagram. Read about her here.
I love learning about history via historical fiction–it just brings it alive. Is It Night or Day? (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010) by Fern Schumer Chapman is a recent discover for me. The book is inspired by the author’s mother’s experiences, who was one of twelve hundred children rescued from the Holocaust by Americans through the One Thousand Children project.
It’s 1938 and twelve-year-old Edith has to travel alone from Germany to America as the anti-Semitism is getting worse. She’ll be staying with family she’s never met in Chicago. Is that scary or what?
See if the opening lines of this book don’t just grab you: “The first long train trip I ever took in Germany was my last. Now I see that it was a funeral procession. The mourners traveling with me were my father, my mother, and Mina, a Christian girl who lived with my family and was as dear to me as my big sister, Betty. We were burying my childhood.”
The author creates such sympathy in the reader’s heart for Edith. Wow! It’s an unforgettable story and definitely a good read.
Read about Fern Schumer Chapman’s other books here.