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Anetxu “Ani” Largazabalago is a twelve-year-old girl living in
Guernica, Spain, during WWII. Although Hitler’s militant coups earn the focus of  the world, General Franco creates his own brand of civil war in Spain. With  Ani’s father fighting in Spain’s Civil War, her mother and she are left to fend  for themselves. Selling sardines door-to-door, and relying on the mercy of   others, leaves Ani’s mother bitter and Ani with few friends. However, little   does Ani know that her life is about to change. 

When Mathias Garza’s family moves to Guernica, Ani suddenly finds  herself in the middle of espionage. Even though her mother has always told her  that she is insignificant, she can’t help but feel as though she is contributing  something great by helping the underground resistance. 
 
Then, Nazi planes attack her quiet, little town, and Ani realizes  that no one is insignificant.

 Readers who enjoyed Zusak’s The Book Thief (2005) will enjoy this novel. Ani’s life in Spain dramatically mirrors Liesel’s life in Germany during the same period. The main difference is that Death tells Liesel’s story for her while Ani speaks for herself. Although the girls’ lives are very similar, I enjoyed reading Ani’s thoughts because it gave me an insight that I felt was lacking in my connection with Liesel. 

I don’t think that people fully understand the impact that WWII had on the world. We often focus on the horror of concentration camps – as we should – but there were many, many other victims to Hitler’s hate. As a result, Gonzalez presents a different perspective of the many layers that made up this war by focusing on the children who became orphans because of senseless attacks.

 This novel drags in a few places, but, overall, it is a pleasant read. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, but I found myself   unable to put it down during the last few pages. Although the events in the novel are devastating, the author does a good job of communicating hope without diminishing the cruelty of events.

ARC provided by Radom House (Thank you!)
Publication Date: October 9, 2012


 
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It's the summer of 1925 in Dayton, TN, and Johnny Scopes broke the law: he taught evolution. This novel takes the real event, and delivers it through the eyes of Frances Robinson, a fifteen-year-old native of the sleepy, little town. As the trial heats up, Frances watches Johnny's spirit diminish, and the townspeople go from neighborly to violent - all in the name of God. As she comes to terms with her own beliefs, she realizes that a line has been drawn, and the consequences may be more than anyone bargained for.

I've read several fictional versions of this trial set to young adult literature, and this one is the best. Kidd does a good job of drawing the battle lines and presenting the chaos that ensues when people are consumed with assumptions and closed minds. The main reason that this gets a 3 STAR rating is because it was boring in a lot of places, but the overall content is good. I'm just not sure if it will keep young adult readers' attentions.

 
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Hiram Hillburn loves Mississippi; he loves the neighborly community, the slow-paced atmosphere, and, most of all, his grandpa. But, there is an undercurrent of racism that is about to explode that he never knew existed until he's right in the middle of it.

Chris Crowe uses the voice of a sixteen-year-old boy, Hiram Hillburn, to relay the events of the true story surrounding the murder of a fourteen-year-old black boy, Emmett Till, which spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till was born and raised in Chicago, IL, and was unaware of the intense racism and hatred that whites held for blacks in the South when he went to visit his relatives in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. In a spur-of-the-moment decision to show off for his cousins, Emmett thought it would be funny to whistle at a white woman, and it cost him his life. Four days after the incident, his body was found floating in the Tallahatchi River, beaten, mutilated, with a bullet to the head. Even though the quiet community of Money, Mississippi, was shocked at such brutal treatment of a child, they weren't going to let two white men go to prison for the death of a black.

This story begins slowly because the author is trying to set up the plotline of the sixteen-year-old narrator and how he came to know Emmett "Bobo" Till during the very brief time they were in Mississippi. Even though Hiram Hillburn never existed, all of the newpaper references and court scenes are from actual documents, which leave the reader in utter shock at how corrupt the Southern jury was as well as the court system as a whole when it came to the murder/lynching of blacks. This book will open the eyes of every reader who gazes upon its pages, and make them mourn for all of the innocents that racism has killed.

This is not the most action-packed novel. It is written as historical fiction, but it's an excellent piece of literature that teachers could implement into their classrooms to set up the context of the Civil Rights Movement. Be aware, however, that the author uses the "N" word throughout the novel to give it authenticity to reflect the Southern dialect and mindset during that time.

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Wow! What an amazing and gut-wrenching story about the Holocaust and all of the lives destroyed by one man's (Hitler) ambition. Told from Death's perspective, readers get a humanized version of the people living in Germany, being forced to serve a Fuhrer who promotes hate and genocide. While some readily embrace Hitler's promises at the expense of Jewish lives, several German families and soldiers learn that human life is precious no matter what the race, ethnicity, or culture. Unfortunately, the Fuhrer and his followers don't look kindly on compassion. In fact, it's a sin punishable by Death.

The novel begins in 1939 with nine-year-old Liesel Meminger traveling by train to be taken to her new foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. It is on that train ride that Death meets Liesel for the first time because he has come to collect her six-year-old brother. Following her brother's brief funeral, one of the grave diggers drops his book, THE GRAVE DIGGERS HANDBOOK. Liesel takes it as a reminder, and the book thief is born.

Zusak's novel walks the reader through Liesel's life in this small German town from 1939 through 1943 as she steals books, develops lasting friendships, hides a Jew, and loses everything. He shows that war is not about winners and losers, allies and enemies; it's about people who suffer and the inhumanity humans show towards one another. Death makes an insightful observation about the bravery of young men eager to go to war:

"I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They're running at me." - Death, p. 174-75