The Consequences of War

As some of you may know from my posts on Facebook and elsewhere, my father survived the 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines during WWII. The Japanese then interred him in a POW camp until 1944, so two years, more or less. Ironically his father had sent him to a Japanese school in Hawaii when he was five years old (1915,) in the hopes that having Americans better understand Japanese culture, we would not end up in a war with Japan. Came in handy when Daddy was a prisoner. His camp was the best run one in the Philippines. But that didn’t stop the Japanese from putting Daddy on an unmarked POW ship going to Japan. The ship did not make it out of Subic Bay, where it was sunk by Allied Forces. So my father ended up drowning as he tried to save another person on the ship. Anyway, back then nobody had the equipment to dive deep enough to recover the bodies. I was three when he died and have spent my whole life wondering if he did indeed die, or miraculously survived and ended up spending his life in the South Pacific, not remembering who he really was. That’s the hope all children who have lost family members and had no closure, I’m sure. The bottom line is now researchers hired by the Department of Defense are “repatriating” the bones from service members lost during the WWII, Korea and Vietnam wars. I was contacted because I was the sole descendant the genealogist could find. The problem is, being female, I don’t have the particular DNA strand to make a match. I put the researcher in touch with my two brothers’ sons and with my 83-year-old brother who lives in Florence, Italy. Now maybe we can get some answers. The contact person from the Army says Daddy would be eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, but I’m not fond of military funerals, having been to too many of them. I hate Taps.  

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I just reviewed a book written about Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, who was in the Hanoi Hilton for eight years with little way to contact his family. (If you don’t know what the Hanoi Hilton was, be sure to research it. Senator John McCain was also there.)

And here is a hug to all who are suffering from what I’ve gone through all my life.

If you don’t read this book, look for Alan Gratz’ books on prisoners of war.

Captured

Alvin Townley

This biography of US Navy Aviator Commander Jeremiah Denton’s internment by the North Vietnamese from July 1965 to 1973 is horrifying. How one human being can perpetrate such savagery on another is beyond my comprehension. But it has happened for as long as humans have interacted with each other. Mr. Townley tells this tale with gripping attention to detail and makes the reader admire with great fervor what Commander Denton and his fellow inmates endured. Senator John McCain was also in his group. The reader learns of the torture both physical and mental these men suffered, but through it all the prisoners’ tenacity as encouraged by Jerry Denton to adhere to the Naval Code of Conduct is admirable. He promoted communication amongst the prisoners by encouraging use of a Morse Code series of taps. He withstood more torture than one would think possible. And though he occasionally broke because of treatment, he never gave out usable information and sent out coded messages with twitches or blinks of his eyes. Though the language is bit stilted, it’s hard to think how to write this story without using a “just the facts” style of writing. The reader will leave this tale of courage with a further understanding of how evil war is. Any child reading this should have someone to talk to about it.

BIBLIO: 2019, Focus/ Scholastic Inc., Ages 16 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 9781338255669

Next week, I’ll about something funny, I promise.

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope you find much to be thankful for.  I know I do.  Our family is coming to visit, including the new granddog, Titan, a Standard Poodle.  But some of you may be traveling elsewhere, so I thought I’d include three books having to do with travel.  Two of them are not actually stories, but rather activity books. Books to keep children occupied.

 

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This book is bound to keep anybody occupied for a very long time.  And it’s lots of fun if you like to solve puzzles of any sort.

 

Can You See What I See? Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun

Walter Wick

Illustrated by Walter Wick

This book should come with a warning: Do Not Open Unless You Have Time to Fritter Away.  You’ll find it hard not to try just one more puzzle.  Plus, it’s a sneaky way to encourage early readers to increase their vocabularies.  The lists are ten words each and have themes such as magic castles, fairy tales, ordinary objects such as an assortment of buttons and jewelry.  The objects to be found vary from hard to see to right in front of the reader’s eyes.  And the types of objects vary from animals to needles to plants.  There is a robot-type creature that crops up in various puzzles which are marked with a picture of a wooden block carved with the letter s.  This book is a keeper for home and classroom, but, be careful, it is addictive. Plus, it’s a compilation of pages from early versions of this book.

BIBLIO: 2016, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic Children’s Books/Scholastic, Ages 5 +, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Early Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-83863-4

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Perhaps young cousins are gathering together and they don’t know each other well.  This book will put at least the girls at ease in a hurry.  They will be fast friends by the end of the visit.

For Me & U! Fun for BFFs

Scholastic

Illustrated by Kyla Mae Pty Ltd

This book is fun for a group of seven girls at their first slumber party.  There are spaces for the girls to fill in their preferences and paste their special stickers in each of the thirty sections.  The stickers are at the end of the book.  The book starts with small rectangles where each girl may put down her name, age, grade and school, along with a circle for her personal sticker.  The second section has areas for “Selfies” and section three is a list of personality traits for the girls to circle.  Then the girls get to design their cell phone cases, what toppings they’d put on their favorite flavor ice cream, pick where they’d like travel, what fun things to do with friends, and what kinds of clothes they wear.  There are also sections on decorating cupcakes and giving preferences of activities such either going to the movies or a concert.  The girls get to pick what they’d like to be when they grow up—lawyer, actress, scientist or writer, among other choices. There are sections for coloring and noting favorite books, plus drawing a favorite celebrity.  The girls may check off their favorite school subjects in addition to designing the perfect pizza and ordering the best dinner.  What animal is each girl’s favorite and where to go on vacation make up two more sections. The final section is to draw a family portrait, including pets.

BIBLIO: 2014, Scholastic, Inc. Ages 7 to 9, $8.99.

REVIWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-73297-0

 

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First time flyers  are frequently frightened by all the confusion at an airport, what with lots of noise and people making them go through scary machines.  This book will help calm fears.

 

The Airport Book

Lisa Brown

Illustrated by Lisa Brown

Preparing your youngsters for what to expect when they’re traveling by airplane is probably a good thing to do.  This story starts at home while the family is packing.  Mom reminds her daughter and her husband to make sure the toy monkey is packed.  Then they take a cab to the airport and go through all the lines one needs to go through.  The reader follows the luggage because the monkey’s tail is sticking out of the bag.  Little sister cries when she goes through the scanner because she doesn’t know what’s happening, but she is comforted by her mommy and when they’re done, big brother holds his sister’s hand so she won’t get lost.  Finally everyone is on board and happily buckled into a seat.  Monkey has an adventure of his own in the cargo hold when a dog gets out of his crate, pulls Monkey out of his suitcase and snuggles with him during the flight. But Monkey is back with his suitcase when the plane lands and everybody’s happy.  Cute book that will give grown-ups a chortle as it comforts little ones.

BIBLIO: 2016, Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, Ages 2 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-62672-091-6

 

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This post is probably a bit late for those of you traveling for Thanksgiving, but December holidays are right around the corner.  Now you have time to prepare.  Safe travels and happy family get togethers.

It’s Magic!

Who’s up for some magic? I love magic and the endless possibilities it suggests. So we’re doing magical today.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Frankie vs. the Cowboy’s Crew

Frank Lampard

Illustrated by Frank Lampard

“Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball” leads Frankie, Louise, Kobe and Max-the-talking-dog on exotic soccer trips, this time to the Wild West to play a game of soccer against the fearsome Cowboy Crew at high noon—only an hour away! The Crew has robbed all the towns of all sweets, including sugar, and is gunning for Sweetsville. Frankie’s team must defeat them before the next shipment of sweets arrives in town. To make matters worse, Louise is the spitting image of Sue-Ann, a member of the Cowboy Crew. Sue-Ann is wanted all over the place for her nefarious deeds. The town sheriff hauls Louise off to jail in red liquorish handcuffs. And already it’s 11:20. In ride the Cowboy Crew, led by Tex on a brown stallion. The leader is extremely fond of his lariat. Next in line is the dastardly Sue-Ann, and bringing up the rear is an enormously fat varmint named Sandy, formerly Deputy Sheriff Sandy. Then Tex hollers for his last player to show up—Spike, a tall cactus. The soccer match is delayed when the express train arrives early and Tex plans to rob it of its cargo, enough candy to supply towns for miles around. But Frankie and his team are now locked in a jail cell along with the sheriff. No problem, Frankie knocks the keys of the wall and frees them. The team beats the bad guys at a soccer game and ride the train magically to their home. The good thing about this story is it might encourage boys to read.

BIBLIO: 2014 (Orig. 2013,) Scholastic, Inc., Ages 6 to 8, $4.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-66616-9

Who wouldn’t want to have a treehouse that grows to fit your needs?

The 52-Story Treehouse

Andy Griffiths

Illustrated by Terry Denton

Andy and Terry live in a gigantic and convoluted tree house with, at the moment, fifty-two stories, occupied by all kinds of games and gadgets with which to amuse themselves. But, at the moment, they are supposed to be finishing work on their latest novel. Usually their editor, Mr. Big Nose, starts nagging them about the deadline, but they haven’t heard a word from him. So they go to his office to see why he hasn’t nagged them. Well, no wonder! He isn’t there and his office is a mess, with lots of broken things, not to mention all the vegetable leaves strewn about. Turns out he’s been kidnapped. Terry and Andy must find him so he can remind them to finish their novel. As the story progresses, they of course end up in one pickle after another. They do, however, solve many mysteries and eventually save Mr. Big Nose, along with discovering they’ve just written their novel. Middle-grade boys in particular will get a huge chortle out of this book and there is enough going on to keep teachers in classroom discussion material having to do with physics, chemistry and other physical sciences. The story is simplistic enough to appeal to reluctant readers, but amusing enough to hold better readers’ interest.

BIBLIO: 2016, (org. 2014,) Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan/Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd., Ages 8 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Graphic Novel

ISBN: 978-1-250-0269-3-4

ISBN: 978-1-250-08023-3

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This last story has all kinds of appeal, what with the magic and taking place in Ireland and a bit of mystery and a bit of Irish folklore.

The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox

Nigel Quinlan

The Maloneys have a secret, they think. Mr. Maloney is the Weatherman, in charge of keeping the changing of the seasons orderly. Except this year, the magical weatherbox, which, to the untutored eye, looks rather like a phone booth, doesn’t ring for the changing of the seasons. So Summer hangs around not letting Autumn cool off Ireland and other northern hemisphere countries. Then Neil, the heir apparent, still learning the ways of being a weatherman, rescues a baby season, imprisoned by the evil witch, Mrs. Fitzgerald, who wishes to be the Weatherman. Chaos ensues and Neil must save the day. He gets lots of assistance from his family, especially his sister Liz, though younger brother Owen helps in his way by befriending a bog beast. A stranger comes to stay and becomes part of the saving team. In the end it looks as if Mrs. Fitzgerald will win out and the Maloney family will lose the right to be the Weatherman. Liz saves the day by giving the baby season back to its family—the four seasons. She becomes the next Weatherman and the Fitzgeralds are sent far away. Lovers of magic, adventure and utter chaos in stories will get quite a kick out of this story. The characters are well drawn and the plot is fast moving. Though not even close to the realm of reality, this book could lead to classroom discussions about weather, magic and Ireland. It’s a thoroughly likeable read.

BIBLIO: 2015, Roaring Brook Press/Holzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-62672-033-6

ISBN: 978-1-62672-034-3

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So here’s hoping magically good things happened to and for you.