Sunday, September 26, 2010

Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen

Luba Tryszynska was a prisoner herself in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It was near the end of the war, but the conditions could not have been any worse. This was the camp where Anne Frank died shortly before the camp was liberated. Luba suspected that her own family, her husband and young son, were dead. In fact Luba wondered why she had been spared. The book, Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen tells Luba's story and explains why she felt she was still alive in the midst of such misery.

Luba woke one night hearing a child crying. She thought she was dreaming because there had not been children in some time. But she listened and heard the cries again. In what seemed impossible, Luba found firty-four children hiding in the dark behind the barracks. Luba led the children back to her barracks and persuaded the women to hide these children, at the risk of their own deaths. Somehow, Luba was able to obtain enough food to feed the hungry children, even as others in the camp were starving. When the camp was liberated some months later, all but two of the children had survived.

Author Michelle McCann tells Luba's story beautifully and provides an epilogue following Luba close to her seventy-fifth birthday ~ when she met with many of the "Diamond children" as these children had been known. A map, photographs, and a list of additional resources are also included to assist older readers with more research or deeper understanding.

I did read a rather critical review of this book in which the author was criticized for trivializing the conditions of the camp, for having illustrations that did not truthfully reflect the reality of the situation for the children and other prisoners. While the author did seem to focus on the positive aspects of Luba's experience with the children, I thought that was purposeful and geared toward a younger audience. Upon careful scrutiny, the illustrations do include some prisoners who have the stark thinness associated with Holocaust victims and it is apparent that many of the adults are terrified. I think that perhaps the book can stand as it is for young readers, while a teacher or librarian can expound on what was the experience of many camp prisoners, and perhaps how many people did not survive. As I considered the review, I did a little research and was surprised to see the photograph of a Luba and some of the children near liberation ~ you can view it HERE.

Here is a book trailer created by a librarian to encourage students to read the book. I hope it, and my review, will encourage you to pick it up as well.

TITLE: Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen
AUTHOR: Michelle McCann told by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick
TYPE: Holocaust narrative
RECOMMEND: This book shows courage in the face of almost certain failure and how love can save lives.
AWARDS: 2004 Jane Adams Award Honor Book

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW - Interview Swap

Today is the BIG DAY!! Interview - swaps! I am not sure what was harder the questions or the answers. This was the main reason I signed up for BBAW - I remember seeing these last year and thought how much fun! So without any further blathering from me, let's get started!



SHE IS SOPHISTICATED, SHE IS DORKY! Oh wait, I just gave it away! It is my privilege to introduce you to Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness!

1. To get started, tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you are not reading and blogging?

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and I just finished my master’s in journalism back in May. I started working at an engineering/manufacturing trade magazine right after that, so I’ve spent most of the summer getting used to work and trying to get outside to enjoy the weather!

When I’m not reading and blogging I like watching tv shows on Netflix (I’m watching Sports Night and Pushing Daisies right now), crocheting, and trying to learn to cook better. Last week I cooked an entire chicken, which I’d never done before.

2. You read such a wide range of books. What is your favorite genre?

Narrative nonfiction is probably my favorite genre. So, that means nonfiction books that use elements of storytelling -- plot, dialogue, characters, etc -- to tell a true story. I think they’re my favorite because I studied journalism and so I read them for the story and technique. It’s fun for me to see how other reporters work or collect information and stories.

3. Tell us about the best book you have read that was totally outside your normal choices.

That’s a tough one! I’ve read more YA because of book blogger recommendations - one I really liked was Looking for Alaska by John Green.

4. Do you have a favorite place to read?

I love reading outside on a blanket at the park, but I haven’t gotten to do that as much lately. My other favorite place to read is on my couch with a mug of tea – the couch is huge and comfortable with lots of pillows and blankets.

5. What three things do you love (reading doesn’t count, or blogging!)?

My family and friends, my cat Hannah, my teddy bear. That’s cheating a little bit, I think, but oh well :-)

6. What would the name of your autobiography be?

This is a hard one, since I always think of autobiography as something you write when you’ve lived a life and have some perspective on it. Since I’m on 24, I don’t know if I have any real perspective on myself. But if I were going to write something about myself, at this moment I’d probably call it something like Discombobulated: One Dork’s Attempt at Being a Real Grown Up.
7. Do you have a favorite bookstore?

I’m not sure if I have a favorite, but there are a few bookstores in Madison that I love - A Room of One’s Own Feminist Bookstore, Avol’s Books, and Paul’s Books are three that I try to go to pretty regularly.

8. Are you a cat person or a dog person – or maybe a neither person?

I’m definitely a cat person, although before I adopted a kitten earlier this year (Hannah), I might have said neither - my family never had pets when I was growing up. But ever since I got Hannah I’ve been this huge sappy dork whenever I see or read anything about animals. It’s a little ridiculous.

9. What book should I rush out to buy if I don’t already have it?

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, because it’s one of the most emotional and well-written narrative nonfiction books I can think of.

10. When people visit your blog, what do you hope they leave with?

I hope they get a sense of me and my personality and that the feel inspired to try a new nonfiction book (or really any book). I feel like there aren’t as many nonfiction reading book bloggers, so anytime I can make nonfiction seem fun or exciting or get someone to try it, I feel excited.

This has been such a wonderful experience for me. I am in awe of Kim - I mean she made the short list for the Best Nonfiction Book Blog! And like Kim, I almost prefer non-fiction, as you can see by my blog. Truth is almost always better than fiction. Kim is a wonderful young blogger and I hope you will rush over to her blog, Sophisticated Dorkiness where she has her interview of me and some fabulous reviews of great books.

Monday, September 13, 2010

People of the Holocaust

People of the Holocaust by Linda Schmittroth and Mary Kay Rosteck is a two volume reference set which is an excellent resource for young people interested in the Holocaust and the many different people who were involved. The two volumes are comprised of biographies of 60 women and men who participated in or were affected by the Holocaust.

Each individual main entry biography is written at the students' level and is often accompanied by interesting photographs or primary source documents. In addition, the editors have included short related mini-biographies which are cross-referenced within the main entries. Each biography contains a "Words to Know" and "Further Reading" section.

I found the main entry biographies interesting and engaging, and feel that the volumes would be extremely useful in terms of research for middle school students. The choices made by the editors were wide and included people on all sides of the Holocaust.

A review of the 2 volume set found in the Voice of Youth Advocates (December 1, 1998) highlights some of the problems, or errors, with the text:

The text states that 1938 was the year Hitler and the Nazis began "implementing anti-Jewish regulations in Germany." This ignores the boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933 and the Nuremberg race laws of 1935, as well as the beginning of property regulations in 1937. In a paragraph describing the forced emigration of Jews in Europe, the text states that "millions of Jews were left behind in Germany": Europe is meant here, not Germany. One bibliographic entry gives the wrong date, and there are a number of typos. The following two mistakes were the most worrisome: An entry about a victim at Auschwitz reads "During the camp's [Auschwitz-Birkenau] existence, between 1940 and 1945, an estimated 400,000 people were admitted to the camp, and approximately 261,000 died there." This is a gross underestimate?nother entry states that at least 1.3 million Jews were killed there. In a sidebar on the war in Hungary a statement declares that Raoul Wallenberg helped to save 4,500 Hungarian Jews?yet another entry on Wallenberg claims he "saved as many as 100,000 Jews."

The author also includes a glossary, bibliography, and index to assist the reader. This should be in the library in every middle school across America - even with a few errors!

TITLE: People of the Holocaust, Volumes 1 & 2
AUTHOR: Linda Schmittroth and Mary Kay Rosteck
PAGES: Volume 1 & 2 - 508
TYPE: non-fiction, reference
RECOMMEND: I think this is a very good reference source for middle grade students. The errors noted in one review can be addressed with students, but the biographical information and primary sources are worth the trouble.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary, A Photographic Remembrance

I seem to have been lucky enough to receive a number of different books about Anne Frank all at the same time. Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary, A Photographic Remembrance is a wonderful book compiled in cooperation with the Anne Frank House and first published in the Netherlands a year earlier than the US copy. I think the best description of the content, the intent, of the book is found in the Introduction by Anna Quindlen:

We know Anne Frank the victim and Anne Frank the fugitive. This is Anne Frank the free, the living, the person who was able to write what has become a life lesson for millions of us in the years since: "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." (p. xi)

The photographic journey begins with the diary and slips back to the occassion of Anne's birth in Frankfurt am Main on June 12, 1929. There are pictures of newborn Anne, their home, and friends. Then back to Amsterdam where Anne had her thirteenth birthday and received the plaid diary that is so well-known today. The authors provide copies of Anne's diary with Anne's own drawings and photos glued in place. Maps and images of other documentation like food coupons, etc fill this book. Finally the copy of the transport record with the Franks being sent to Auschwitz. Although Anne died shortly after the transport, she has lived on through her writing and the authors provide photos of post-war life as well.

The authors provide learning aids at the end of the book which make this an excellent resource for children. There is a chronology, Notes on the different versions of the diary, Source notes, and an Index of People and Places.
Scholastic provides a long list of Extension Activities which could serve to expand middle schoolers' understanding of Anne's diary.

Looking for resources about Anne Frank and her diary, I ran across this Anne Frank Internet Guide, which while it is a bit dated, provides a good number of excellent links.

TITLE: Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary, A Photographic Remembrance
AUTHOR: Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven for the Anne Frank House
TRANSLATORS: Tony Langham and Plym Peters
COPYRIGHT: 1993 (US copy)
PAGES: 113
TYPE: Holocaust narrative/photographs
RECOMMEND: I loved this book, so I think we can expand the age range on this one. The photographs bring Anne Frank's history to life in a way that the written word may not. From birth to beyond death, learn about Anne's life.