Tuesday, September 26, 2023

164. The Librarian of Auschwitz

The Librarian of Auschwitz. Based on the novel by Antonio Iturbe. Adapted by Salva Rubio. Translated by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites. Illustrated by Loreto Aroca. 2023. 144 pages. [Source: Library] [Graphic novel; YA graphic novel]

First sentence: Back then, she was just a child...but books were already a window.

My thoughts, part one: This one is a [young adult] graphic novel adaptation of an award-winning novel. I have read both the original novel and the graphic novel. 

Premise/plot: Though it is a work of fiction, The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on a true story: the story of a super-small library and its young librarian, Dita. Block 31 is different, special, almost miraculous and too good to be true. Here Jewish children come together every day while their parents labor under the watchful eyes of their guards. School is forbidden; learning is forbidden. But. A school it is. There are teachers and teenage helpers. Dita is one of the helpers or assistants. She's also the librarian. For what is a school without a library? This library collection, like the school, is completely forbidden. It consists of EIGHT books plus additional living books. Dita's job is risky, but important. Block 31 exists for one reason only: to fool the world in case someone comes looking for answers. The Germans mistreat Jews? You've got to be kidding. Just look! Here's a camp of families. We even see that the children are taken care of during the day and laugh and play and sing. The prisoners are not fooled for a minute, but, the children are fortunate in some ways.

My thoughts, part two: THE graphic novel condenses the story considerably. The illustrations may add something to the story for some readers. Graphic novels aren't exactly my favorite and best. I read a few per year. I can find them incredibly engaging at times.

Having read both the graphic novel and the original novel it is based on, I prefer the original. But I can appreciate why this one was adapted to a new format to potentially reach different readers.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

163. The Great Halifax Explosion

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism. John U. Bacon. 2017. 418 pages. [Source: Library] 

First sentence: On Thursday, December 1, 2016, the people of Boston slogged through a drizzly day with temperatures in the 40s--neither fall nor winter, the kind of cold that gets deep in your bones and stays there.

Premise/plot: Narrative nonfiction covering the Halifax Disaster of December 1917. The book provides context, context, more context. But there does seem to be a point--not details for the sake of details. For example, it provides several chapters on the history of Halifax--including Halifax's complex relationship with the United States. There's also context about the First World War (aka the War to End all Wars or The Great War). The book chronicles the disaster through the eyes of a dozen or so people. 

My thoughts: I definitely appreciated this one more than the first book I read on this topic. The first book I read, Shattered City, was a bit dry at times and the book wasn't always great at connecting the dots and showing the relevance or significance of the facts it was sharing. 

I don't know exactly why this topic/subject has become of interest to me. It was in a fiction book--Christian fiction--book I read earlier this year. I then came across a movie on Tubi. I'll probably read more on the subject--fiction or nonfiction. 

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

162. Zeus

Zeus: Water Rescue (Dogs with Purpose #1) W. Bruce Cameron. 2023. [August] 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Something was happening to my puppy family. 

Premise/plot: Zeus is chosen as a puppy to be trained for water rescue. He bonds with the son (Kimo) of the man who chose him to train. When his initial training fails to thrive--he doesn't seem to understand basic commands--Kimo takes over his training "secretly." He doesn't want Zeus to be sold. But he does want Zeus to succeed as a water rescue dog (and/or search and rescue). 

The book is set, I believe, in Hawaii. Zeus will have an opportunity to prove himself by the end of the novel.

My thoughts: I had a hard time connecting with this one. I'm not sure if this is because a) my expectations were so high b) my attention span was malfunctioning when I sat down to read it c) I wasn't expecting it to be for a slightly older audience. 

I like it well enough to do a general recommendation. It is not 'cutesy' like some of his earlier dog books--like the Lily series. It is more serious-minded than cutesy.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, September 25, 2023

161. Dogtown

Dogtown (A Dogtown Book #1) Katherine Applegate and Gennifer Choldenko. 2023. [September] 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Animal fantasy; J Fiction; MG Fiction]

First sentence: I know what you're thinking: That poor dog only has three legs. But don't go there. It's not that bad, okay? So, I'm not American Kennel Club material. Big deal. My eyes are sharp, my nose is wet, my coat puppy soft, and the white patch over my eye? It's a charmer, I don't mind saying. My name is Chance. I'm pleased to meet you.

ETA: I first reviewed Dogtown in July 2023. Yes, it's only been a few months. Barely two months. But I loved it so much. The first time I read a review copy. The second time I checked it out from the library. I loved it just as much--if not more. 

Premise/plot: Dogtown is an animal shelter (dog shelter). It features dog-dogs and robot-dogs. (Presumably, this animal fantasy is futuristic animal fantasy). It stars Chance, our LOVABLE, adorable, super-kind hero. He's long been a resident at Dogtown. This is the story of his friendships at Dogtown. In particular, how he made [close] friendships with two unlikely residents: a mouse (named Mouse) and a robot dog, Metal Head. The book contains their adventures/misadventures.  

My thoughts: Does this one feature a dog in peril? Yes and no. No, in that it isn't just one dog in peril. It is DOGS (plural) in peril. Though this one doesn't feature direct-direct sads, it features plenty of potential peril. Does it have heart and substance? A thousand times yes. I loved, loved, loved, loved this one so much. I LOVE the emotional journey of this one. Very feel-good. Very warm-and-cozy. Yet not instant. Do I see myself rereading it? YES. I already want to reread it. I could reread it a million times and still be moved by how awesome it is.

I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved EVERYTHING. 

My favorite, favorite, favorite element of this one is the inclusion of the BOOK BUDDY program. Pairing school-age children with shelter-dogs for reading time. These scenes were HEART-MELTING. 


I learned something important that day: Never say something about a dog that you wouldn't want him to hear. "I like the moniker," Metel Head said. I didn't know if he'd burned out his bulbs or somebody had adjusted his settings, but the blue flashing had stopped. I could look at him without getting a headache. "Why do you want to escape?" I asked. "I want to go home," he said.

Here's another thing humans are sadly misguided about: Luck is not a winnin ghand of cards. Luck is making a new friend.

It wasn't the way it was supposed to be, with the kid reading and the dog listening. But one look at Metal Head and Quinn, scooted up close to each other, and  it was pretty clear something had happened. Something big.

"What about your humans, Chance? Don't you want to go home?" This was not the kind of question Dogtown dogs asked each other. If a dog wanted to talk about how she ended up at Dogtown, that was fine. But you didn't ask a question that broke a dog's heart to answer. How do you explain kindness to a a machine with a hunk of metal where his heart should've been? I really didn't know.

"Your heart is a muscle," I told Mouse at dinner that night. "It grows stronger the more you use it." 

I can't say that Metal Head was a friend, then,. He was more of a friend of a friend. Quinn liked him and I liked Quinn. But yeah, I did want to see if everything worked out for him. But wasn't the real reason I said yes. The real reason was something I didn't want to admit...there were a lot of phone poles up ahead. And maybe they had signs, too.

The smell of cheese is simply divine. The taste of it is even better.

Once hope gets inside you, you want your wishes to come true so badly, you just can't imagine that they won't.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

160. A Papa Like Everyone Else

A Papa Like Everyone Else. Sydney Taylor. 1966. 176 pages. [Source: Library] [mg historical fiction; j historical fiction; children's classic]

First sentence: Gisella sat very still, her pale green eyes round with wonder. Again the miracle was happening! She had seen it many times before, but always her pulse quickened with the mystery of it. 

Premise/plot: A Papa Like Everyone Else is set in Czechoslovakia circa 1918/1919. Szerena and Gisella long for a 'papa like everyone else' since their papa is far away in America. He went a year before the war started to find a job, to get established, to earn enough to bring his family over. The world war changed plans significantly. But now the war is over and the family hopes to be reunited soon. Meanwhile, life on the farm in the farm village continues on. This is a 'slice of life' glimpse at a rural Jewish family from the time period. There isn't "action" or major plot points so much as it is just capturing the 'old world' life as experienced by one Jewish family. (There is at least one chapter with some excitement. But mostly just flavor of life, normal, ordinary, routine.) 

My thoughts: I didn't enjoy this one as much as All of A Kind Family. But I liked it well enough. I am very glad I was able to read it. I've always wanted to read more Sydney Taylor. 

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews