Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published: August 28, 2018
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
Chaya Lindner is a teenager living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Simply being Jewish places her in danger of being killed or sent to the camps. After her little sister is taken away, her younger brother disappears, and her parents all but give up hope, Chaya is determined to make a difference. Using forged papers and her fair features, Chaya becomes a courier and travels between the Jewish ghettos of Poland, smuggling food, papers, and even people.
Soon Chaya joins a resistance cell that runs raids on the Nazis’ supplies. But after a mission goes terribly wrong, Chaya’s network shatters. She is alone and unsure of where to go, until Esther, a member of her cell, finds her and delivers a message that chills Chaya to her core, and sends her on a journey toward an even larger uprising in the works — in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Though the Jewish resistance never had much of a chance against the Nazis, they were determined to save as many lives as possible, and to live — or die — with honor.
This book blew my socks off! I’ve read Nielsen before and enjoyed her books, but this one takes the cake and the icing and the candles and all the presents too! I’ve been reading a lot of Holocaust fiction lately and I had my eye on this book for a while. It was released just last month and I picked it up almost as soon as Amazon delivered it.
At first, I was nervous that I wasn’t going to like Chaya. She seemed to have an air of superiority about her that didn’t suit her. She was quick to acknowledge her own service and sacrifice. That did get much better the further into the book I got. She became believable and realistic with her fear and courage. Esther was more pitiful than anything but it was nice to see her grow and mature throughout the story. The resistance network in Poland was impressive and even though I knew the history and what happened, I found myself hoping that just this once, things would turn out differently. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, that something like that would never happen in America because our mindset is completely different from Europeans. I am by no means victim-shaming, I’m simply pointing out that Americans, with our guns and natural rebelliousness, would have put up far more of a fight. This book showed that there were many people who showed that “not all sheep go like lambs to the slaughter.” I loved seeing how people refused to be cowed and exterminated without resisting.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, though technically a failure, is shown to be such a heroic effort in this book. I’ve never studied it in detail, but the people involved in the Uprising were people of courage and hope and I was so inspired by their sacrifices. I also appreciated how Nielsen showed the impact of young people in the resistance. In the face of such evil and the slaughter of their people, even teens took up arms and were willing to sacrifice themselves to save the lives of people they didn’t know. This is another book that every single middle and high school history teacher should have on his or her shelf as required reading. I found myself tearing up at the end and then wanting reread it all over again! I cannot say enough good about this book and I recommend it to everyone, especially any teen!
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.