Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews / Father Patrick Desbois

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: 16 years +


In this heart-wrenching book, Father Patrick Desbois documents the daunting task of identifying and examining all the sites where Jews were exterminated by Nazi mobile units in the Ukraine in WWII. Using innovative methodology, interviews, and ballistic evidence, he has determined the location of many mass gravesites with the goal of providing proper burials for the victims of the forgotten Ukrainian Holocaust. Compiling new archival material and many eye-witness accounts, Desbois has put together the first definitive account of one of history's bloodiest chapters.
Published with the support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (Amazon).

My Review: This book isn't your typical non-fiction book for youth, The Holocaust by Bullets, part memoir and part chronicle, this book is meant for older youth. While not as disturbing as other works on the holocaust, Desbois chronicles his journey to document the Holocaust of Ukrainian Jews.

             Father Patrick Desbois grew up in Saint-Laurent, France. Born ten years after World War II, Desbois’s childhood, and really the course of his whole life were influenced by the events of the war. As a child Desbois heard stories of the French resistance fighters, the Maquis, that his maternal grandparents’ farm supplied fresh supplies to the resistance, he knew where the demarcation line was, and heard of foreign places “synonymous with misfortune and suffering...” Mauthausen—a cousin died there, Dachauanother cousin was deported to and returned from there, and Rawa-Ruska­­­­, (Desbois, 6).
[T]here was one name, a name unlike all the others: Rawa-Ruska. I was told that my grandfather Claudius had been taken there during the war. As usual, I tried to understand... Just once, he [Claudius] uttered these words: “For us, the camp was difficult...But it was worse for the others!” That sentence was engraved in my consciousness as a child for all time... I was 12 years old when I saw images of the Holocaust...for the first time...I saw photographs of the concentration camps for Jews at Bergen-Belsen...Shocked by my discovery, I didn’t tell anyone about it but since that day, I have always sought to understand what happened, what the tragedy was that my grandfather had been forced to witness, (Desbois, 6-10).

In Desbois’s search for the truth, the understanding of what his grandfather endured he was led on a quest that would eventually become a great part of his life. In 1990, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union, while visiting Poland, near the border of Ukraine where Rawa-Ruska was located, the understanding for Desbois came quickly:

I was so close to where my grandfather had been...The ground slipped from under my feet and I said to myself “You’ve been looking for this for 50 years. You’ve finally found it.” How could I say that when I was only 35 years old? Then I understood in a flash that I had completed a circle. That night I was as cold as my grandfather had been 30 years before me.
I was suddenly and brutally conscious of the unfathomable nature of what it was my grandfather had tried to make me grasp: his deportation, and the Holocaust... I saw the Holocaust as a responsibility: That day I understood how much the Holocaust was part of my life. The unspeakable crime to which my grandfather had been a helpless witness—the murder of men, women, and children simply because they were Jews...[T]hat night the irrevocable decision to search took root in me. I had to understand, (Desbois, 15).

Eventually, a soviet transcript was translated and given to Desbois, containing the testimony of a forest guard, it stated what the guard, Stephan Pelip, witnessed—the execution of 10,000 Jews, and Desbois wondered if this was what his grandfather saw.
            The first step in his quest was to learn Hebrew, learn the history of anti-Semitism, and for two years he was trained by Charles Favre, and became a leading mediator of the Cardinal’s relations with Jewish leaders, later Desbois began to visit the sites of the Shoah. Eventually Desbois began to travel in the Ukraine to villages to document what had occurred in the villages and towns to communities’ Jewish population.
            Desbois’s ultimate goal seems to be—and should be documenting what happened to the Jews of the Ukraine. Desbois’s role as a Priest, I believe, made it easier (though still difficult), for people to tell them what they witnessed when the Jews were killed. The testimony of the Ukrainian witnesses indicates to me that they were not complicit in the murder of the Jews—they were forced to trample bodies, pull teeth, sort garments, and witness the horror that took place—events that still traumatized the witnesses over 50 years later. 

This book should be required reading in any high school study of the Holocaust. This book documents the plight of those who were considered less than sub-human, the Ukrainian victims never made it out of their villages, there are few ways to account for how many were murdered...but counting the bullets in the mass graves. 

Books to pair with The Holocaust by Bullets for Holocaust units:

Survival in Auschwitz - Primo Levi
In 1943, Primo Levi, a 25-year-old chemist and "Italian citizen of Jewish race," was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. This is Levi's classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance.

Neighbors - Jan T. Gross
On a summer day in 1941 in Nazi-occupied Poland, half of the town of Jedwabne brutally murdered the other half: 1,600 men, women, and children-all but seven of the town's Jews. In this shocking and compelling study, historian Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts as well as physical evidence into a comprehensive reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but hidden to history. Revealing wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism, Gross's investigation sheds light on how Jedwabne's Jews came to be 
murdered-not by faceless Nazis, but by people who knew them well.

Night - Elie Wiesel                                                                 
Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. [This book] is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel's memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. (WorldCat)

Other Resources: 
United States Holocaust Museum
The Shoah
The Holocaust

The Raven's Gift: a true story from Greenland, by Kelly Dupre

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Library Binding: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

From inside flap: Home to the musk oxen, narwhal, polar bear, and raven, Greenland—the earth’s largest island—seems to hold the magic and mystery of the far north. What would it be like to visit there? To kayak along its remote shores, dogsled through its tundra, visit its tiny villages?

With charming linoleum block prints, Kelly Dupre follows the long, difficult journey of two men. In simple words, she captures the tenacity and vitality of all that they see—and subtly reveals to children what can be learned from a place like Greenland.

My Review: In The Raven's Gift: a true story from Greenland, Kelly Dupre tells the story of her husband's, (Lonnie Dupre) and his friend's (John Hoelscher) kayaking and dogsledding exploration of Greenland. her Inuit peoples, and the native animals there. 

In her story, and with  her illustrations Kelly informs the reader of some of the native animals of Greenland and the Inuit names. 

Kelly continues telling her husbands story, and the Raven's gift: when exhausted, tired and discouraged Lonnie set out the find the bird making so much noise. When he found her, the raven was ensnared in musk ox fur, and a stick. Knowing that if she wasn't freed, she'd parish--Lonnie told her his story, and when she began to trust him, he scooped her up and untangled her from the fur.

Lonnie says after rescuing the raven:

Lonnie and John traveled for 15 months in Greenland. They traveled 3,200 miles, and Lonnie stated about the Raven's gift:

The Raven's Gift is a good book, it teaches the reader a bit about Greenland and the Inuit people, but mostly this book is an example of a memoir geared to early readers. It teaches, and this may be above young reader's understanding, that even when you feel like you are at the end of yourself, if you look hard, you will realize that you have the strength to carry on.

More Books for learning about Greenland: 

Little Bear: A Folktale from Greenland / Dawn Casey

In this beautiful retelling of a folktale from Greenland, an unlikely friendship develops between a lonely old woman and a baby polar bear. With stunning artwork from Chris Corner, this book explores the moving relationship between human and animal as the bear cub grows up. (Amazon)

  • Folktales are an excellent way to learn about other cultures and beliefs.

Greenland / Jean Blashfield

Discusses the geography and climate, history, wildlife, economy, government, people, religion, and culture of Greenland. (WorldCat).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Life Cycle of a Penguin by Colleen Sexton

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Series: Blastoff! Readers: Life Cycle of A... Level 3 (Library)
  • Library Binding: 24 pages

From Amazon: 

Penguins must complete their life cycle in very cold temperatures. To protect their eggs from the cold, penguins use brood patches. Students will watch a penguin chick hatch from an egg and grow into an adult.

 My review: The Life Cycle of a Penguin is a Blastoff! leveled reader from Scholastic. It's a level 3 book which means "it advances early-fluent readers toward fluency through increased text and concept load, less reliance on visuals, longer sentences, and more literary languages," (Scholastic). The book has four chapters, a glossary, a "to learn more" section and an index. The book makes words that can be found in the glossary bold print. I learned, from this book, that penguins are only native to the southern hemisphere of the world, which is something I did not know. 

The content isn't too hard for early readers, and the colors chosen for the book, while bright, aren't a distraction from the content. This book has pictures instead of illustrations, and the images are related to each section of the book.

This book is excellent for young readers, it's one they can read themselves and leveled books can give a sense of accomplishment to kids when they move up a level. I think many kids will enjoy this book, and others like it, so it would be a good option to include this series in a library collection.

Other books in this series:

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly

The Life Cycle of a Cat

The Life Cycle of a Dog

The Life Cycle of a Frog

The Life Cycle of a Sea Horse

Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English

From inside the flap: 

Listen, my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...
So begins one of the most stirring poems in American literature, brought vividly to life in this breathtaking new edition by a master of picture book illustration.
Ted Rand's moonlit vision captures the swift, rhythmic gait of Longfellow's words and the drama of Revere's brave ride as he gallops from town to farm, sounding the call to rise and arm against the British. The story unfolds in memorable pictorial images: Revere's anxious wait on shore, the two lights in the belfry of the Old North Church, Concord Bridge in the early morning hours. The mixture of history, art, and poetry results in a book as gorgeous to behold as its message is inspiring to all who love freedom.

My review:
Just about everyone's studied Longfellow's poem Paul Revere's Ride in school--it was required memorization for me. Rand's illustrations help flesh out Longfellow's words, and make this an entertaining book for kids. A very patriotic poem, despite being written almost a century after the Revolutionary War, Longfellow's poem describes Revere's ride, invoking emotions in a way that prose cannot. Ted Rand's illustrations help to summon the feel of the night, the secrecy, worry, and bravery of that ride.

Poetry and rhyming is a common writing style for read-a-loud books, Dr. Suess rhymes and so does the very popular Pete the Cat. Kids like rhymes, and Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride is classic American literature. It never hurts to start kids early with the classics. Even though it is an older book, I still advocate for it's inclusion in the collection. We have several different versions of this in easy non-fiction, but this version is my favorite, due to Ted Rand's excellent illustrations.

Read-a-likes: These read-a-likes will appeal to children who have a love of history. These would also be good read-a-loud books for History units in early education. 

The Revolutionary field trip : poems of Colonial America / Katz, Susan.

Nineteen poems reveal life in colonial America as seen through the eyes of a teacher and her class when they go on field trips to historic sites from the Revolutionary War era. (Amazon).

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak / Kay Winters

Follow an errand boy through colonial Boston as he spreads word of rebellion. It's December 16, 1773, and Boston is about to explode! King George has decided to tax the colonists’ tea. The Patriots have had enough. Ethan, the printer’s errand boy, is running through town to deliver a message about an important meeting. As he stops along his route at the bakery, the schoolhouse, the tavern, and more readers learn about the occupations of colonial workers and their differing opinions about living under Britain’s rule. This fascinating book is like a field trip to a living history village. (Amazon).

A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale by David A. Alder

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 760L
  • Series: Picture Book Biography
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House; Reprint edition (March 1, 1997)
  • Language: English

From inside flap: Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, to wealthy English parents. Although it was not customary at the time for someone of her background to become a nurse, she felt it was her calling. Her parents were horrified, as nineteenth-century hospitals were dirty and primitive. Still, Florence tirelessly pursued her dream, serving the poor and sick. She became the superintendent of a hospital in London, cared for the wounded in the Crimean War, and campaigned for improved medical conditions for British and American soldiers. Florence Nightingale's high standards for health care revolutionized the nursing profession.

My Review: I know that Adler's books circulate frequently, but this book is...lacking. Lacking flow, lacking information. Overall, this book provides a very basic overview of Nightingale's life, it includes very little dates, or substance. Basically the book says: she was a dreamer, refused marriage, finally got her wish to study nursing, attended the wounded in the Crimean War, and died secluded with her many cats. Adler spends more time on her parent's child naming reasons than he does on the major aspects of her life and career. The illustrations aren't particularly attention grabbing, have the quality of hazy water colors. I'd not recommend this book for a collection. 

Better Reads on Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale / Demi.
Florence Nightingale revolutionized the world of medicine by emphasizing cleanliness, food that was hot and nutritious, and organization in hospitals. What began as an attempt to make army hospitals safer and more effective became a lifelong mission, and remains relevant today. This new picture book biography of Florence Nightingale, from celebrated author and artist Demi, beautifully portrays the story of Florence's life and explores the long-lasting effects of her career.

Florence Nightingale : the lady of the lamp / Barnham, Kay.
Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 to a wealthy family. Against the wishes of her parents, Florence soon realized her dream to nurse and became superintendent at a hospital in Harley Street, London. However, it was for her work during the Crimean War that Florence is most remembered. Upon arrival at the British army hospital in Scutari, Turkey, Florence and her nurses set about bringing order to the filthy, diseased chaos that greeted them. Sickened by what she had witnessed at Scutari, at the end of the war Florence returned to London where she dedicated the remainder of her life campaigning for better nursing facilities both in the army and civilian life. (Amazon).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Queen's Progress by Celeste Davidson Mannis

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
    Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
    Hardcover: 48 pages
    Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 26, 2003)

    Book Summary from Amazon:
    Rhymed verses, stunning illustrations, and a fascinating text all come together to form this imaginative story about Queen Elizabeth and her progresses, or journeys, through England's countryside. Ibatoulline's illustrations are not only beautiful colorful works of art, they also tell a story within a story-one about the attempted murder of the queen and about her loyal servants who seek revenge. The main text follows Elizabeth's travels and is filled with anecdotes and historical details.

    Perfect for history-lovers, alert readers, and suspense-seekers, this multi-layered picture book reveals something new with each reading.

    My Review:
    With Elizabeth I being my favorite English queen, it's not much of a surprise that I liked this book. The Alphabet part of the story is told in rhymes,

and each letter has a corresponding prose fact. This, in my opinion, makes the book multi-use, you could read the letter rhymes, the prose facts, or read them all, depending on the age and attention span of the reader or listener.

I love Ibatoulline's illustrations. They're detailed, and very Tudoresque. Ibatoulline inlcudes subtle details about the story, like the many attempts on Elizabeth's life: pictured below Elizabeth's page stops an arrow from hitting the Queen.

My nephew loves the rhymes, and my niece (who is older) likes the prose facts, so this is a good book to read-a-loud to them. 

Overall, the language and the illustrations make it appropriate for children; It's format is like that of an "easy" reader fiction book, so even though it's non-fiction, it will still engage and amuse children.


Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ted Rand (Illustrator)
Just about everyone's studied Longfellow's poem Paul Revere's Ride in school--it was required memorization for me. Rand's illustrations help flesh out Longfellow's words, and make this an entertaining book for kids.

Pioneer Life from A to Z (Alphabasics) by Bobbie Kalman 
A to Z books are handy for kids learn facts about subjects/people like Elizabeth or pioneer life. Pioneer Life is a little more advanced than The Queen's Progress but is equally engaging and informative for young readers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Locomotive by Brian Floca

Age Range: 4 - 10 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 5
Lexile Measure: 840L
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Published: September 3, 2013
Honors: Caldecott Medal Winner, Sibert Honor Book

Book summary from Amazon:
It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

My Review:
Brian Floca’s Locomotive is an excellent nonfiction choice for kids. There are a lot of illustrations in this book, and the detail is amazing. This book is written in narrative- verse form.

The details about locomotives are fun, and informative—without being too overwhelming. The amount of illustrations and the detail of them makes this book an excellent nonfiction book for kids, it doesn’t feel like a “traditional” non-fiction book. The image below is an example of how detailed with the little thing Floca is:

There are a ton of words in this this book which does kind of make it a chore to read aloud, but because of the illustrations and the fun verse format the kids love to hear it, and like to just look through it on their own at times.

  My older readers like the history and map in the front of the book, and the detailed illustration and information on the steam engine on the inside of the back cover.

There is one issue I could potentially see for the illustrations in this book—cursive writing:
In several places Floca uses cursive writing in several illustrations, this is potentially problematic for future children because cursive isn’t really taught in schools these days, and cursive is really becoming a dying art.

Overall my youngest nephew and I really enjoyed this book—so much that he got it for his birthday.