‘Sisters of the Resistance’ WWII fiction by Christine Wells is fascinating and engrossing from the first page

Sisters of the Resistance by Christine Wells

“Sisters of the Resistance” is an apt title for this historical fiction that’s partly based on real events and real people and in which women are the main characters. What is unusual about how Christine Wells, the author, chooses to share the events is that the story is told in two different timelines, which is not so unusual, but they are only three years apart. We meet Yvette, the main character, in 1947, as she returns to Paris after the war to testify in the trial of a movie star accused of collaboration with the Nazis and treason. She has not been to Paris nor communicated with her mother and sister since she was smuggled out of France in the final days of the war. Then the action changes to 1944, in the final days of the war.

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Three picture books that will make kids laugh…and think

It’s difficult to say when children outgrow picture books. Educator and book expert Colby Sharp reads picture books daily to his fifth grade students. My fourth graders loved hearing and discussing picture books this past year. Often, picture books are aimed at older readers, but even those for younger readers can have important messages to impart and ponder. Here are three picture books which are adorable on the surface but also thoughtful and worthy of discussion.

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‘What a Dog Knows’ by Susan Wilson is about the connection we have with the animals we live with and about searching for family

What a Dog Knows by Susan Wilson

In “What a Dog Knows,” author Susan Wilson gives us an entirely relatable main character who is not a young woman, and who has been dealt a tough hand since birth. While she is a grandmother, she is certainly not your typical grandmother, although she does, on occasion, knit. Ruby Heartwood, formerly known as Mary Jones, was left at a Canadian convent as an infant. Her only family is a daughter, conceived after Ruby was raped as a young teenager, and a dog who found shelter with her after a thunderstorm.

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‘Rescue’ by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a riveting middle grade historical fiction set during the Holocaust

Rescue by
Jennifer A. Nielsen

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s middle grade historical fiction novels are wonderful examples of books that teach kids about history while sandwiching that information in thrilling, emotional stories that will hook them. “Rescue,” her newest release, is no different. In this story we meet Meg, whose father is British and her mother French. Meg grew up speaking both languages and when the Germans, before WWII, became aggressive, they began to teach her German as well.

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‘Dog Days: A Novel About Love, Loss and What It Is To Be Human’ by Ericka Waller

Dog Days by Ericka Waller

The novel “Dog Days” by Ericka Waller is kind of like what might happen if Fredrik Backman decided to write a novel with Jenny Colgan. It has Backman’s sardonic view of life and the people we might encounter and Colgan’s setting on the coast of England with blustery weather and beautiful views and muddy dogs. In this novel, we meet several important characters: Dan, a counselor who is OCD, and who has not had the courage to come out as gay; Lizzie, who lives in a women’s shelter with her son, Lenny; and George, an irascible old man whose wife has died and who doesn’t know how to cope.

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‘The Paris Apartment’ by Kelly Bowen is a gripping historical fiction that has it all: suspense, sacrifice, loss, and ultimately, love

The Paris Apartment
by Kelly Bowen

Ready for a thrilling trip into the heart of Europe during WWII to see, vicariously, how two daring women best the Nazis in the name of freedom and justice? “The Paris Apartment” by Kelly Bowen will grip you from the first page, the first sentence, even. “The woman was nude.” Pretty gripping, right? It’s actually a painting that is in the titular Paris apartment that Lia Leclaire inherits from her grandmother. What we learn immediately is that Lia is confused. As far as she knew, Estelle Allard, her grandmother, had never lived in Paris, but rather spent her whole life in Marseille. But here is a Paris apartment, untouched for almost 75 years, filled with exquisite furniture, couture clothing, and paintings by the masters. Who was her grandmother and why was this secret?

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‘The Box in the Woods’: Maureen Johnson brings Stevie Bell back to solve the mystery of the summer camp murders

The Box in the Woods
by Maureen Johnson

“The Box in the Woods” is a murder mystery by Maureen Johnson, and in it we see the return of Stevie Bell, the super sleuth who solved the “Truly Devious” murders at Ellingham Academy in Maine in the three books that constitute that series. While this mystery features Stevie and her friends, it definitely works as a stand alone mystery, also. The setting is a summer camp where decades ago, four teenage camp counselors were murdered in the nearby woods. Three of the bodies were found in a hunting box on which the word “Surprise” had been painted. It was gory and gruesome and remained unsolved.

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‘The Woman with the Blue Star’ by Pam Jenoff is a story of survival, compassion, and friendship

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff is known for her meticulously researched historical fiction, and “The Woman with the Blue Star” is no different. In it, we read a fictionalized account of an historical occurrence. In at least one town in Poland, Jews descended into the sewers to live in hiding when the Nazis began emptying the ghettos and implementing their “final solution.” As difficult as living in a sewer must have been—and Jenoff describes it in such detail we can see it, feel it, and smell it—that horrible existence was still better than the alternative.

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Incredibly — ‘Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice’ by Yusef Salaam an inspiring read

Better Not Bitter by Yusef Salaam

The set of blazing emotions provoked by Yusef Salaam’s memoir, “Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice,” includes strong doses of disgust, shame, anger — and inspiration. In 1989, five teenagers, all Black or Hispanic, were convicted in the notorious case of a young White female jogger who had been raped, beaten, tortured, and left for dead in Central Park. Salaam was one of those five teenagers.

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‘That Summer’ by Jennifer Weiner is about two Dianas whose lives intersect in an unexpected way

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

In “That Summer,” Jennifer Weiner returns to her beloved Cape to share the tale of two Dianas, who each in her own way have had her life’s ambitions destroyed by one man. The difference is that one Diana has her life destroyed—almost—when she is fifteen while the other Diana is seduced into choosing a life of postponed dreams and belittled ambitions.

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‘Seven Perfect Things’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Before we even open to the first page, the cover reveals the mystery of the title. The jacket of “Seven Perfect Things” by Catherine Ryan Hyde is adorned with adorable, sleeping puppies. And when thirteen-year-old Abby’s abusive father tells her that nothing in life is perfect, and even dares her to “name one thing in this life that’s perfect,” she responds that she could name seven. We know that these seven perfect things, the “things” that changed Abby’s life, were once so unwanted and considered so imperfect that someone put these precious puppies in a bag and threw them off a bridge to drown in a river.

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‘Spellmaker’ is the thrilling sequel to ‘Spellbreaker’ by Charlie N. Holmberg

Spellmaker by Charlie N. Holmberg

In an alternative Victorian world filled with magic and spellmakers and spellbreakers, “Spellmaker” by Charlie N. Holmberg gives us the conclusion to the story that began when Elsie Camden, a rogue spellbreaker, came into her own in “Spellbreaker.” It is in the first book that while following the orders of a mysterious group pursuing justice and equality, Elsie is trying to remove a spell on the estate of a wealthy duke, and she runs into Bacchus Kelsey, visiting from his plantation in Barbados. Her life changes, and for the first time she questions this anonymous group and their orders. We learn that Elsie had been abandoned by her family as a child and ended up in a workhouse. From there she ended up working for Ogden Cuthbert, a kind artist who has hidden his own magical talent, and who treated her almost like a daughter.

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