‘The Blackbird Girls’ by Anne Blankman is a touching story of Chernobyl, of the Holocaust, of love, and of friendship

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“The Blackbird Girls” by Anne Blankman is so much more than its description. It is about two young girls who are rivals, Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko who end up escaping from the town of Pripyat, their town near the nuclear power plant Chernobyl where their fathers worked. After the explosion, we learn that the government hid news of the explosion for two days, and the day after it happened, residents of that small town strolled about the streets as if it were a normal day in spite of the clouds of blue smoke and the red skies that lit up over Chernobyl. Continue reading

‘The Light in Hidden Places’ by Sharon Cameron is an inspiring and unforgettable YA novel based on a real story that must be shared

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Sharon Cameron’s genius is clearly demonstrated by the careful and masterful text she has created in “The Light in Hidden Places.” This is a real story of heroism and courage brilliantly re-crafted into a novel that takes readers directly into the heart of the darkest days of WWII Poland.

Stefania Podgórska has grown up on a large farm with her parents and many siblings. When she turns 13, she wants to escape the farm, so she travels to the larger city of Przemyśl, where she finds work with the Daimants, a Jewish family that owns a grocery store. Continue reading

‘All the Flowers in Paris’ by Sarah Jio is a beautiful but heartbreaking combination of historical and current fiction taking readers to Paris now and during WWII

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Paris, ostensibly the most beautiful city in the world, has a checkered past. During the German occupation in WWII, many Parisians collaborated with the Nazis. “All the Flowers in Paris” by Sarah Jio is about a French family with Jewish ancestry that is “outed” by a neighbor, and about a woman in modern Paris who loses her memory and must find out who she is and why she was basically a recluse before the accident that caused her memory loss. What she finds hidden in her lovely apartment gives her a mystery to solve, and by solving that mystery, Caroline not only finds closure for the long-ago Parisian family, but also for herself.

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‘The Girl from Berlin’ by Ronald H. Balson is another legal mystery/historical fiction fabulous novel

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“The Girl from Berlin” is another wonderful novel by Ronald H. Balson in which he continues with Catherine and Liam, his attorney/detective main character couple, who take cases in which the reader gets to travel back in time to see the background of those cases, as Catherine and Liam are learning about those events. The stories are especially riveting because of Balson’s ability to create the dual story, cutting off each story at a cliffhanger moment, making the reader continue reading to find out what happens next, until before the reader looks up, the day has gone by and the book is read.

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‘Someday We Will Fly’ by Rachel DeWoskin is a complicated YA historical fiction about Jewish refugees in Shanghai

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“Someday We Will Fly” by Rachel DeWoskin is a fascinating account of Jewish refugees during WWII who escaped to Shanghai, one of the few places they could go without a visa. Not only is the setting unusual for a Holocaust story, main character Lillia and her family defy Jewish stereotypes — her parents are circus performers.

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‘What the Night Sings’ by Vesper Stamper: A Touching Book about Rebuilding Life After Losing Everything and Everyone

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In this touching Holocaust story, “What the Night Sings,” by Vesper Stamper, a young Holocaust survivor must reconcile her life after she is liberated from a concentration camp.

The reader meets Gerta at Bergen-Belsen just before the camp is liberated. Rivkah, an acquaintance of Gerta’s parents from their hometown of Köln, is dying in Gerta’s arms. Just as the liberation soldiers enter, Rivkah dies. Thus is the reader introduced to the fact of death and its importance in Gerta’s life.

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‘The War I Finally Won’ Is the Amazing Sequel to ‘The War that Saved My Life’

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It’s rare when a sequel is just as beautifully written and just as touching (maybe even more so) than the first book. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley accomplished this difficult feat with “The War I Finally Won,” the sequel to “The War that Saved My Life.”

Ada is the main character in both books, and it’s her story, that of a child who has endured unimaginable abuse and cruelty, who has struggled through life with a disability, yet who emerges strong and brave. That story has enthralled readers and made tens of thousands of them weep.

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‘Karolina’s Twins’ by Ronald H. Balson is a beautiful tribute to love and survival

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“Karolina’s Twins” by Ronald H. Balson is a beautifully told story about an older woman trying to fulfill a promise she made to her best friend during the years they were in a Nazi camp during World War II.

Lena is currently a well-to-do woman living in Chicago. She has, in her late eighties, decided that she needs to fulfill the promise she made to her friend Karolina to take care of Karolina’s twin babies. She asks husband-and-wife team Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart (investigator and attorney respectively) to help her find them. In order for the couple to investigate, she has to tell them her story, her history.

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‘Somewhere There Is Still a Sun’ by Michael Gruenbaum: Middle grade memoir about the Holocaust

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“Somewhere There Is Still a Sun” is Michael Gruenbaum’s story about his childhood in Prague and then, when the Nazis invaded, in the ghetto and then in Terezin, the concentration camp.

The readers learn about Gruenbaum’s life before they moved to the ghetto, then life in the ghetto, where his father died. He, his mother, and his sister got his father’s body back to bury before they were sent to the concentration camp.

The first person narrative is compelling and gripping. The reader feels as if her or she is living through the experiences with Gruenbaum. And middle grade readers will empathize with 10-year-old Gruenbaum’s (at the beginning of the memoir) love of soccer. Once in the concentration camp, Gruenbaum’s narration tells about living with 40 other boys and the young man, Franta, who takes them under his wing. His demand for high morals, even in the face of adversity, is inspiring.

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