Children of the Stars by Mario Escobar

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From international bestselling author Mario Escobar comes a story of escape, sacrifice, and hope amid the perils of the Second World War.

August 1942. Jacob and Moses Stein, two young Jewish brothers, are staying with their aunt in Paris amid the Nazi occupation. The boys’ parents, well-known German playwrights, have left the brothers in their aunt’s care until they can find safe harbor for their family. But before the Steins can reunite, a great and terrifying roundup occurs. The French gendarmes, under Nazi order, arrest the boys and take them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver—a massive, bleak structure in Paris where thousands of France’s Jews are being forcibly detained.

Jacob and Moses know they must flee in order to survive, but they only have a set of letters sent from the South of France to guide them to their parents. Danger lurks around every corner as the boys, with nothing but each other, trek across the occupied country. Along their remarkable journey, they meet strangers and brave souls who put themselves at risk to protect the children—some of whom pay the ultimate price for helping these young refugees of war.

This inspiring novel, now available for the first time in English, demonstrates the power of family and the endurance of the human spirit—even through the darkest moments of human history.

I have enjoyed reading other novels by Mario Escobar so I was excited to get this one via Net Galley. While it tells a memorable and suspenseful story of two brothers, I must admit that sometimes I found it stretched my ability to find it believable. If I suspended my disbelief a bit, I enjoyed this story about family and brotherhood in the time of war. Lots of historical references are built in accurately, such as the Vel d’Hiv roundup (something lots of people don’t know about since the Velodrome d’Hiver is no longer standing). I will share it with my high school daughter as it’s not a disturbing read, but instead one of hope and resilience.

Thank you for my ARC, Thomas Nelson Publishers!

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

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Those of you who love Kate DiCamillo and her “Raymie Nightingale” will remember Louisiana Elefante. In this middle grade novel, the next chapter of Louisiana’s story is told. This was a quick read with a very distinct narrator’s voice (I don’t think Louisiana ever speaks with contractions), and while it was sad (the child is basically abandoned – twice), it has a sweet ending with a theme of accepting yourself for who you are.

I’ll be sure to recommend this one to our school library. Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

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The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

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So — I found this title on Net Galley and I love a suspenseful read, even more if it takes place in Norway! This was well-plotted and suspenseful, though I did figure out what was happening. Moving through time and place with different narrators, the stories eventually weave together to the present.
I have to say that I did not like the main character, Annika, at all. I wanted to feel something for her — sympathy, empathy, pity, a connection, something! — but I didn’t. She was pretty much a self-centered, selfish, egotistical, cruel, immature, and heartless person. Pretty much.
If you like suspense, you should check out The Boy at the Door. Thank you for my review e-copy!

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

 

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A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the story behind the picture is worth a thousand more…

Philadelphia, 1931. A young, ambitious reporter named Ellis Reed photographs a pair of young siblings on the front porch of a farmhouse next to a sign: “2 children for sale.”

With the help of newspaper secretary Lily Palmer, Ellis writes an article to accompany the photo. Capturing the hardships of American families during the Great Depression, the feature story generates national attention and Ellis’s career skyrockets.

But the photograph also leads to consequences more devastating than ever imagined—and it will take jeopardizing everything Ellis and Lily value to unravel the mystery and set things right.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photo that stunned readers throughout the country, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of ambition, redemption, love, and family.

 

I love Kristina McMorris’ writing, and was thrilled to receive this galley through Net Galley. I actually thought of the picture that this novel is based on as I’ve seen it, too, so I had the picture perfect (no pun intended) image in mind while reading. This is such a sad but moving story, reminding us that sometimes desperate people do desperate things. The main characters, Ellis and Lily, want to right the wrong that was done and put themselves on the line to do it.

I love a book that has self-forgiveness and redemption as a theme, and that ran throughout, culminating in a satisfying ending.

I follow Ms. McMorris on Facebook and she seems like a lovely and positive person. This is the second novel of hers that I’ve read – and it won’t be the last! Thank you for my e-copy!

The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

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So — if you read me, you know I love suspenseful novels, and this one was no exception. There are lots of things happening in this story and you need to pay attention to them (or end up confused!). I thought I had it all figured out (twice) but I was wrong. I will say that I had to suspend my disbelief just a tad with the ending. Overall, it was a fast and fun read that kept me eerily on edge!
Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

For My Ears: BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate – Read by Emily Rankin

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Wow! This story was recommended online in the blogisphere, and I thought I might enjoy it, but I was blown away by this story of a family torn apart and the young girl who tries to keep her siblings together against all odds.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for fans of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge – until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents – but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals – in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country – Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

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While these children weren’t real, this is based on true events, and you will be forever haunted at the shocking and terrible things that happened to poor families in the Depression and post-Depression era South. Normally I don’t like disturbing books centered on children, but this story was so compelling, and I loved the character of Rill so much, along with the fact that the present day protagonist was unraveling the mystery of the family tree, I just could not stop listening!

Beautifully narrated, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.

I used my audible credit for this one.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk – For My Ears…

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Wow.

Just wow.

I had heard about this book and read that it was a Newbery contender, so of course I thought, “I should probably read it.” (Reminder: I’m a reading specialist in a K-8 school). I hadn’t heard too much about this book except that it was a “good book” and “about a girl bully”.

This book is SO much more. You can read this book on multiple levels – which is one reason it is so good for so many ages. It is beautifully written. I got the audible version (which is beautifully done by Emily Rankin) and listened to it as I drove, but also with earphones by myself as I just didn’t want to leave this story.

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience and strength help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

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I could devote an entire blog entry to the character of Betty Glengarry. Why was Betty the way she was? Did something happen that made her so dark within? What does her personality say about the animal that lurks within all of us?  (okay I’ll stop now).

I could devote another entry to the character of Toby, a PTSD sufferer who is somewhat reminiscent of Boo Radley.

But I won’t. (Due to my job/family/volunteer work/life my entries need to be completed in under 30 minutes!).

Take my advice and read this book! Share it with a young person in your life. Share it with another adult. Don’t let it be seen as just a “book about bullying”. This is a beautifully written coming of age story that has so many layers to it. Don’t miss it.