Author: Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Published: June 14, 2016
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell . . . ?
Inspired by true events described in the author’s fascinating note, The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers will love.
This is another book with an amazingly beautiful cover! Plus, the story was pretty good too. It was simpler than I was expecting. By the time it was over, I felt like not a whole lot had happened, but it was more a lack of crazy plot twists and turns. The plot was uncomplicated and smooth, with very few bells and whistles. Martha is a spunky Irish girl who is too curious for her own good; I really liked her. She’s intuitive and doesn’t miss much. Considering the timeline is relatively short, Martha seems to grow up quite a bit throughout the story. Fitzgerald did a great job of taking a mysterious historical event and weaving in fiction to fill in the details. I feel bad for not saying more, but there’s just not much else to say without giving away more of the plot. Overall, this was great historical fiction and good for just about anybody!
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
Author: Jim Fergus
Published: February 15, 1999
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
May Dodd, born to wealth in Chicago in 1850, left home in her teens and through a family disgrace is imprisoned in a monstrous lunatic asylum. In 1875 Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation, comes to Washington to seal a treaty with President Ulysses S. Grant and suggests that peace between Whites and Cheyenne could be established if the Cheyenne were given white women as wives, and that the tribe would agree to raise the children from such unions. Grant secretly recruits 1,000 women from jails, penitentiaries, debtors’ prisons, and mental institutions offering full pardons or unconditional release. May, who jumps at the chance, embarks upon the adventure of her lifetime, along with a colorful assembly of pioneer women. She keeps the fictional journal we read, marries Little Wolf, lives in a crowded tipi with his two other wives and their children and lives the life of a Cheyenne squaw.
This book was very surprising to me. I found the subject matter to be intriguing and of course, I saw the word “asylum” and was all over it. But when I read the author’s note, and he said that his readers refuse to accept that this book is a work of fiction, then I really was fascinated. So, I started reading. I will admit that it was slow going; the journal formatting made me think more as I read. And this is NOT a feminist friendly book . . . at all!! Women being traded for horses, to be used as the solution to the conflict between whites and Indians, yeah, I can guarantee they wouldn’t like it! LOL (I know that’s not proper grammar, but it fit in really well right there!)
Although the idea of trading women for horses does indeed seem sexist, I still understood the thinking and rationale behind Little Wolf’s suggestion. An Indian child joins his mother’s tribe, but is still able to walk freely amongst his father’s tribe. So, having Indians and whites joined together, creating children who could fit in in both cultures makes a lot of sense. Too bad the concept is flawed because neither culture accepts half breeds as easily as Little Wolf thought. I liked May Dodd, she was a strong woman who, although I disagreed with some of her morals, I respected because of her bravery and maturity. She understood her mission, and she decided to give 100%.
I also liked how Fergus delved into the nitty gritty of the daily lives of the Cheyenne and their way of thinking. I really felt like I was indeed reading a true historical account of the Brides for Indians program. In fact, after reading this book, I want to do some research to see if the program actually existed, if there are any primary sources from the women, who were they, what happened to them, etc. I enjoyed getting to know each of the brides and hear their stories. I was a little nervous when the one Southern lady was portrayed badly, but by the end of the book, I ended up liking her as well. Even though there was a former slave amongst the ladies, Phemie, there was no South bashing. This was not a judgement against Southern culture at all; in fact, I don’t think this book was meant to be a judgement against any culture. Fergus did a great job of giving a simple historical account. Yes, May gave her opinions and her feelings, but she was also honest enough to see the bad on both sides, just as she saw the good on both sides. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for historical fiction, or for anyone looking for a unique story.
Author: John Boyne
Published: September 12, 2006
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
This is one of those books that will rip your heart out and stomp on it . . . and what makes it different is that you don’t know your heart will be ripped out until it happens!!
However, before I even start talking about the book, I will say that this is one of those rare occasions that I suggest watching the movie before the book. Yes, there are differences, but I actually had a better experience reading the book since I knew a little more about what was going on. And to be fair, I gave John Boyne some grief last year when I read The Boy at the Top of the Mountain last year. But what he got wrong in that book, he didn’t in this one. Boyne has a knack for showing the other side of the story. He writes about the Holocaust from the perspective, not just of the Nazis involved, but of the children of those Nazis, affected by their parents’ actions.
Bruno shows such a purity and innocence that we have a hard time attributing to Germans during WW2. And where it seemed that passes were given in The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, and some explanation given in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, there seems to be far more consequences in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
The Holocaust is condemned very clearly by the ending of this book and any “justification” offered by any of the characters is therefore rendered void. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is such an emotional book and I think a new and different perspective on some very difficult subjects. I absolutely recommend this book for anybody 12 years old and older. I believe this book should be required reading at one point for every student in order to graduate high school. Emotional and poignant and insightful.