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review 2016-10-13 02:25
MILKWEED by Jerry Spinelli
Milkweed - Jerry Spinelli

MILKWEED By Jerry Spinelli

208 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2003)

ISBN:  0439682363 (ISBN13: 9780439682367) 


  Set in Warsaw, Poland from prior to World War II and following an orphan with many names in his quest to survive not only living in the streets, but, also, in the Warsaw Ghetto. Author Jerry Spinelli wrote this as a young adult book, and definitely gives the young adult reader something to think about and to learn. I found it very well written. When given the name Misha by an older orphan helping take care of him, he started to believe his "story"of where he came from. Milkweed is his story of survival of the streets, the Ghetto, and the Holocaust; this is also his search to belong. I loved the characters that Misha interacted with throughout the story. Spinnelli kept the story moving. He didn't shy away from some of the horrors that Misha had to deal with, but wrote about the longing to belong, to be someone, understanding, and becoming family. I definitely would recommend this book to others, both the YA readers and adult readers.


One of my favorite things-I found this on one of those Free Little Bookshelves in the apartment complex that I baby sit at. Really cool.



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review 2016-10-01 15:17
This is history, through a glass darkly.
Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto - Tilar Mazzeo

Thanks to Net Galley and to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for offering me a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I had not heard the story of Irena Sendler before I read this volume, and it is one of the great untold stories of War World II, unfortunately not the only one. In the last chapter of the book (before the copious acknowledgements and notes) the author speculates about the possible reasons for that neglect, including how tough life was for those who had supported the Polish Resistance in the years after the war, under Soviet control, and also personal difficulties and even change in religious feelings. By the time Irena Sendler wrote her memoirs she was in her nineties and it must have been impossible to recall all the details of what had happened at such a cruel time, fraught with risk and physical and mental hardship. I could not help but wonder if the fact that she was a woman also had a bearing on it. Heroism is expected in men, for whom it is OK to put duty or fighting for one’s ideals before family and heart matters, but when it comes to women, the general discourse looks at them in a suspicious manner if they put ethics, politics or ideals before their role as homemakers and their families. Sendler also always said that the task of saving the children was a team effort and insisted on giving credit where credit was due, and collective events always make for a story less easy to sell and less straightforward to tell. I learned a lot, not only about Irena Sendler and her collaborators, but also about what Poland went through in the war, the resistance movement in Warsaw and Poland, and the strength of individuals set on helping others, no matter how big the odds against them. Although there were betrayals and terrible things (not only on the German camp) taking place, there are also incredible feats of bravery and generosity. It is easier to fully comprehend what certain events might have meant for the population when one has a human being (be it an invented character in historical fiction or a real person in non-fictional accounts) to follow and empathise with. In this book, we follow not only Sendler but also the experiences and fates of many of her friends and collaborators, and also of some of the children who were rescued by the whole team. The book is detailed and follows a chronological order (apart from a short Prologue set at a particular dramatic moment for the protagonist), building up from the early times before the German occupation, providing us enough information about Irena to understand where her ideas came from, and showing clearly how quickly things deteriorated, at first for Jews only, but eventually for everybody. It is not an easy book to read, not because of the writing, but because of the content. Some of the images the book creates: of the effects of the epidemic illnesses, of the contrasts inside the ghetto between the glamorous cabarets where champagne flew a few streets from where others were dying, mothers throwing their children over the wall to try to save them or the Jewish family who sent a gold crucifix and a baptism gown for their baby when they were informed he’d have to be converted to Catholicism to save him, I will not forget. There were blackmailers, and unknown kind strangers, people who would not join in the cause but helped given a chance. This is not a story of battles and big armies (although they are there too, in the background), but of individual and small guerrilla resistance, of the everyday battle and of the people who would help, because of their beliefs and ethics or for money. Perhaps the best-laid plans fail because they never take into account the individuality of the cog in the machine and how they can subvert everything, both for good and for bad. I recommend this book to anybody interested in this historical period but perhaps not as familiar with the history of what happened in Poland as with events in other places. It is also a great read for anybody interested in inspiring stories of human endurance, resistance, bravery and fighting against all odds. Although the book is not a memoir of Irena Sendler’s life, and only makes a passing reference to what happened to her after the war, it centres on her and her role in saving the lives of over 2500 Jewish Polish children. Sendler is not presented as a heroine with no weaknesses and the book tries to show her doubts and internal struggles when trying to decide what to do, worrying about her mother and her lover, Adam, but sometimes putting herself and others at untold risks without thinking about it. It tries to remain close to the documentation, data and witness accounts, although I recommend reading the author’s note before reading the book itself, as that explains the process of creation of the book and how the different materials are incorporated into the final narration, including the use of italics to indicate material the author has written and added to make up the missing parts. In one of the reviews I saw they mentioned pictures, but I got an ARC e-copy with no photographs on it, so I can’t comment on them. There are very extensive notes of the sources at the end that will be useful to people wanting to explore further the materials and a cast of characters that will be useful to keep track of the many characters (especially as some of them had to change identities and names). I also noticed that there is a version for Young Adults that is worth exploring. In sum, an important work to bring attention to a figure and a movement that deserves to be better known and remembered. A must read.

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review 2015-08-25 10:22
A clear-eyed child's view of the Warsaw Ghetto. Stunning Literature.
The Book of Aron: A novel - Jim Shepard

I hesitate to review this. I met Jim Shepard in March and heard him read the opening of 'The Book of Aron' just prior to publication. It was a fantastic delivery of a deeply compelling story. I wondered how it would hold up, this Holocaust story told through a child's perspective, by comparison to Anthony Doerr's 'All the Light We Cannot See,' which I'd read for the purpose of working with that author the same week. (If you're at all inclined to apply for the Sirenland Writers Conference, by all means, DO. It's a big investment in time, travel, and money, but did you just read that paragraph above? Seriously, do it).
Oh my, this novel holds up. I hadn't read the reviews. I didn't even read the blurbs on the back, and I'm grateful to the universe that I was led to this book by entirely organic and encouraging ways... The interviews and jacket copy all ought to have spoiler alerts. I can't believe I got to experience this young boy Aron's life in the Warsaw ghetto as Shepard unrolled it, much like the protagonist, never knowing what would happen when I turned the page. And boy, did I turn them fast.
It's an important book -- a word people sometimes use for a book without humor -- but this one, even in its darkest moments, reveals shafts of lightness and light. And yes, you'll learn something about history, about the Holocaust, about Poland and Warsaw and the Nazi invasion, and power and crowding and the complexities of heroism, jealousy, weakness, hunger, family, and fear. And typhus. And a lot of lice.
Yes, I'm skirting the issues of plot here, and even character... on purpose. Just read it.

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text 2013-12-19 10:47
It's here!
Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law - Michelle Granas

I've just got my giveaway book "Zaremba or Love and the Rule of Law". I'm excited to read it soon, for holidays. I've read a lot of good things about this book. A novel set in Warsaw by a person living in here, currently, with the references to the events that happened not so far ago... Just flipping the pages makes me even more interested. And it makes me interested in the author.


Dziękuję, Michelle.

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review 2013-10-11 00:00
Saying Goodbye to Warsaw
Saying Goodbye to Warsaw - Michael Cargill First of all I want to thank Michael Cargill again for sending me his book for review. I really appreciate it.
This book isn't what I would usually read. Yes, I do like historical fiction but I wouldn't pick up a book about war if I would see it in a bookstore or a library but when I read the description I found myself liking the sound of this book and I decided to take a chance on it. I am SO glad I did. This book really did something to me and I would actually rate it 4.5 but as some of you may know I don't work with halves but still it should be that rating. Anyways, before I start the real review I would say that everyone should at least read this book once in their life. It's pretty damn special.

Saying Goodbye to Warsaw follows nine (almost ten)-year-old Abigail 'Abbie' Nussbaum and her family which include her older brother, Leo and their mother, Chana, during World War 2 in Poland. After being send to the Warsaw Ghetto life became increasingly hard for them but Abbie manages to live her life as best as she can and seeing things in a rather naive and although not entirely possitive but sweet kind of way.

First of all, let me say that I'm quite surprised by how this book overwhelmed and grabbed my attention. I must admit that the beginning was a little 'eh' for me. And I was going a little crazy with the author's over-ussage of the word 'whilst'. I'm not sure why it bothered me so much but there you go. But after the first 80 pages I couldn't stop reading anymore and I was totally caught up in Abbie's life. Actually, I was caught up in all the characters' lives. Chana's, Leo's, Elenka's even Borys'. My favorite character probably was Leo because I could relate to him the most. (And I just like male points of view the most)

As for the overall story, it was brilliant. And although I wasn't sure about it all at first, I loved the writing when I think back about it. It was quite dark but that's what I would expect from a book like this. And I loved it. Michael Cargill has a real talent writing a book like this that I admire.
The end was pretty shocking to me. When the resistance in Warshow arose I was hanging on every single word. And, yes, I was crying with that end. Actually I was already crying when something happened to Borys. How could I not? It's been a while since a book has impressed me emotionally like this one had. Sure, I couldn't expect a happy ending but yeah... I still hoped.

Overall Saying Goodbye to Warsaw by Michael Cargill was close to brilliant. Not perfect. It had some flaws like every book has but I really liked it. I even cried over it and I don't usually cry with books. The characters were close to my heart which made the ending all the more emotional for me. I'd recommend it to everyone, even if you don't like the genre or topic or whatever. Just read it. You might end up being surprised like me.
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