Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

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Title: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Premise:

Sadako is a young girl who lives with her family in Hiroshima, Japan.  She dreams of running on the school’s relay team.  Though she was only a baby when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima during WWII, she later contracts leukemia.  Sadako’s best friend, Chizuko, tells her of a legend that says that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, the gods will grant your wish to get better.  Sadako makes it her goal to fold 1,000 cranes and tries to come to terms with her own mortality.

My thoughts:

I think this may have been the first book I read as a child that made me cry and made my heart ache.  Sadako’s story is so tragic and it’s simple enough that it’s a good way to introduce kids to the concept of death.  It also serves as an age-appropriate introduction to WWII and some of the lasting effects that it had on everyday people.  The book is based on a true story.

A few years ago, my husband read the book at my suggestion.  I didn’t tell him how sad it was, and he came to me after he had finished, with tears in his eyes, and asked why I didn’t warn him.  Oops–I didn’t know it would affect him quite so much.  So, be prepared for some weepiness if you or your child chooses to read the book.

I recommend Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to kids in elementary or middle school, or as a poignant family read-aloud.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale

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Title: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tale: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale

Notable: Book #4 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series

Premise:

Nathan Hale teaches readers all about World War I through the medium of a graphic novel.  Each nation’s characters are portrayed by a particular animal (i.e.: Britain is the English Bulldog) to help keep the characters straight.

My thoughts:

So far, this is my absolute favorite book in the series!  The author told an amazingly cohesive story, considering it spans years and involves many nations and many battles.  The book doesn’t cover all of the battles or even touch on all aspects of the war, but it gives you a well-balanced overview of the entire war and the reasons behind the decisions that were made.

Prior to this book, I had never read anything about WWI.  This was an excellent introduction to the subject, because it gave me a basic, broad understanding of a very complex subject.  It’s certainly enough to start kids with, and if you’re older you’ll want to do further research.  I will definitely be reading more books about WWI in the future, because now it’s not just this big, confusing war which gets jumbled up in my mind.

The thing that most struck me in this story was the sheer wastefulness that resulted from WWI.  It started from a situation which could have been resolved with some wisdom and diplomacy.  Unfortunately, hotheads won out and 9 million people lost their lives in the end.  NINE MILLION–all because of the assassination of one man!  Think about that for a while.  I think this book is an excellent way to show kids the true nature of war, the huge toll that it takes, and the value of resolving conflict peacefully.  It’s a very sobering story.

I recommend Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood to kids, from elementary through the teen years.  Even for older folks, it’s a fun way to learn about history.

A favorite quote:

“Humanity is mad.  It must be mad to do what it is doing.  What a massacre!  What scenes of horror and carnage: I cannot find words to translate my impressions.  Hell cannot be so terrible.  Men are mad!”  (p. 87, from the journal of a French lieutenant, WWI)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Help – Movie 2011

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Yesterday I watched The Help, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  It was awesome!

For those of you who have never read the book, this is a story about a young lady named Skeeter who wants to become a writer, and the relationship she develops with a couple of maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights era.  All of the women will be in grave danger if they are caught as they work on their writing project — sharing what it’s like to live as a black maid in the South during that time period.  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I was already a fan of the novel, so I was a bit nervous to see how they had translated it to the big screen.  I’m happy to say that the movie adaptation of the book was strong.  I think a large part of the movie’s success is in its amazing actresses.  Whether they are good or bad, all of the ladies played their parts really well.  Even Hilly, the bat-sh** craziest of the Southern belles, excited a certain fascination in me.  She’s one of those characters you love to hate.

The movie was shortened and simplified somewhat from the book, but that is nothing unexpected.  I don’t think the essence of the story was damaged in any way.  I was glad to see that they took out the scene in which Minny and Celia are accosted at Celia’s house.  I thought that it was out of place in the book, and it would have been even more mystifying in the movie.

The true artistry in this film is the message it shares.  Viewers are shown a story of love, acceptance, betrayal, and hatred–and asked to come to their own conclusions.  Who was right and who was wrong?  Can relationships based on respect, compassion and a desire to do what’s right, overcome the color barrier?  Should we take a risk in working with someone different from ourselves, even at the risk of getting burned?  This message needs to be heard today, just as it did during the Civil Rights era, because our country’s racial issues certainly haven’t gone away.

I recommend The Help to all adults and possibly some mature older teens.  Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s still a wonderful story worth watching.

Possible Objections:

  • A moderate amount of bad language
  • Racially offensive language

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER THE HELP POSTS:

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

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Title: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Premise:

This is Helen Keller’s autobiographical work covering the first 22 years of her life.  Before her teacher, Anne Sullivan, came to unlock the door to the outside world for Helen, hers was a very isolated and joyless existence.  Learning the manual alphabet opened up the wonders of the world to Helen and she went on to get a college education.  The last part of the book shows a progression of Helen’s thoughts, expressions and skill, as expressed in her letters.

My thoughts:

I finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and for some reason I’ve been struggling to record my thoughts about it.  I first read it as a kid, and I remember enjoying it back then.  Now that I’ve read it as an adult, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the book and probably come away with a bit more understanding.

Helen’s story is so encouraging and touching.  Her early years must have been steeped in frustration and confusion, but her life slowly blossomed as she learned to communicate and learn through the help of her teacher.  She must have had a remarkable mind to forge ahead through so many obstacles and to pursue her dream of going to college.

One thing which really stood out to me was that Helen got to rub shoulders with some pretty famous people.  She enjoyed the company of several famous authors, as well as regular interactions with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell.  It’s neat to hear about their interactions from her perspective.  Helen seems to have had a natural gift for winning people’s hearts with her fresh, novel way of looking at the world and expressing herself.  I’ll confess that I’m just a wee bit jealous that she got to meet Mark Twain.

Helen helped many people both during her lifetime and in succeeding generations.  Her academic achievements helped pave the way for those in the deaf and blind community who would come after.  Not only that, but through her writing, we get a glimpse into the mind of someone who has encountered great adversity and come out victorious on the other side.  That’s an encouragement to anyone who is feeling inadequate, discouraged, or overwhelmed.

I recommend The Story of My Life to teens through adults who would like to know more about this remarkable woman’s life.  It’s an enlightening read which will help you to better understand those who are deaf and blind, and the obstacles they face in everyday life.  Plus, it’s just a really interesting biography.

A favorite quote:

“Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages to going to college.  The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time.  I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I.  We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent.  But in college there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts.  One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think.  When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whistling pines.”  (p. 72-73)

Possible Objections:

  • some outdated references to African Americans & glossed over issue of racial inequities (“crowds of laughing negroes,” etc.)

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years Slave - WM

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Twelve Years a Slave is the final book in my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge!  I am so excited to give away the books from this challenge to one lucky winner–so stay tuned!

I was really looking forward to reading this book because I’ve been studying slavery and other social justice issues since I was a child.  For some reason, those difficult subjects have always fascinated me.  I had never heard of Solomon Northup, nor seen the recent movie that is based on this book.

First, you should know that this book uses old-fashioned language.  That’s just something that you’ll have to get used to.  The words may not flow off your tongue like melted butter, but you should really stick with it because of how truly fascinating the story is.

Second, you will notice that this story seems to be choked with minute details that wouldn’t really be necessary for simply telling the story.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, Solomon had to establish his right in representing the true state of slavery by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his story was undeniably true.  All of the small details in the book are facts that could be checked and corroborated.  Additionally, Solomon published this book a short time after he was rescued from captivity, hoping that by sharing his story he could educate people about the truth of slavery.  (Remember, at this time there were people who actually believed that the slave preferred his state of bondage to a life of freedom.)  As a free, educated colored man, he had a unique perspective to offer.  He had been accustomed to freedom, then that freedom was stripped from him and he was forced to endure slavery.  Twelve years later he was restored to freedom again.  Upon his return, he could give utterance to the true state of slavery in an observant, introspective, and educated manner.  He could speak to whites at the time on an equal footing (at least intellectually).  So, while the details may get tedious and seem irrelevant at times, they served a very specific purpose when the book was written.

I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  I didn’t enjoy reading about the hardships and injustices, but I appreciated learning about Solomon’s experiences.  Mainly he shares events and information about his daily life in a matter-of-fact tone.  He also shares the things he felt and what others said.  The reader is expected to arrive at their own conclusion as to whether or not slavery is a just institution.  I appreciate that Solomon appealed to the reader to take what they had read and consult their own conscience about what was fair or not.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

“They left me in the cabin, that I might rest.  Blessed be sleep!  It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews of heaven on the bond and free.  Soon it nestled to my bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had fallen into the arms of that other sleep, from which they never would arouse.” (p. 94)

“‘If I was in New-England,’ returned Bass, ‘I would be just what I am here.  I would say that Slavery was an iniquity, and ought to be abolished.  I would say there was no reason nor justice in the law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold another man in bondage.  It would be hard for you to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn’t be half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty.  You have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, than Uncle Abram yonder.  Talk about black skin, and black blood; why, how many slaves are there on this bayou as white as either of us?  And what difference is there in the color of the soul?  Pshaw! the whole system is as absurd as it is cruel.'” (p. 179)

Because of the subject matter and language, I would suggest this book for teens and up.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence
  • Racial epithets
  • Bad language — mostly the d-word
  • Some talk of sexual exploitation

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori