The children of World War II

I brought home a stack of books this weekend and in it I found two books about World War II.

Rose Blanche is about a little German girl’s life during World War II. She describes the men going away to fight and the constant lines of trucks going through their town.

One day she sees a truck break down and a young boy jumps out of the back. He is stopped from escaping by the town’s mayor and put back into the truck. Rose Blanche decides to follow the truck to see where the boy is being taken. What she finds is terrible.

Rose Blanche begins making daily trips to give food to the children behind the razor wire, even as she herself is going hungry.

The story then tells of the evacuation of Rose Blanche’s town. She is selfless and runs to check on her friends in the camp.

She finds the woods full of soldiers and the camp in ruins. The story never outright tells us what happens to Rose Blanche, but it says there is a shot from a soldier and that Rose Blanche’s mother waited for her for a long time.

I don’t know for sure, but I inferred from the story that Rose Blanche was killed by a soldier who mistook her for the enemy.

It seems easy to think of the German people as complacent and willing to ignore the concentration camps, but it’s isn’t possible that everyone chose to ignore them. I believe most people will help others without thinking twice, especially children.

The second book, One Thousand Tracings, is a story like Boxes For Katje. The little girl telling the story is American and she and her mother decided to help a German family after the war. Helping that family led to helping thousands of others. 

The tracings are of feet, and it is a big job to find shoes for so many. They also made socks and toys and sent food supplies.

The story is true, it came from a dusty box found in the attic of the author’s Grandmother’s house. The author’s mother remembers helping with this relief effort.

I’m thinking of putting up a display of World War II books this week. I’ve been inspired by all these fabulous stories.

Dr. White

We’ve all heard of the miraculous ways animals can help sick people get well, but I was surprised to find I had a book about it at school. I was doubly surprised to see that it was written by Jane Goodall, the Jane Goodall we all know as a chimpanzee researcher.

Dr. White is the name of a little dog who goes ever day to the Children’s Hospital in London. After his breakfast he heads up to visit his young patients. He entertains the kids who are recovering and pays extra special attention to the very ill.  

He curls up next to the bedridden, licking their hands or thumping his tail from time to time to reassure them of his presence. He has helped so many children that it’s a devastating blow when a health inspector forbids the hospital from allowing him back inside.

Dr. White keeps coming back and sadly sitting outside the hospital. Then one day, the health inspector’s own daughter falls gravely ill and no one seems to be able to help. The nurse makes a decision to allow Dr. White back in and he helps the little girl. 

This is just one story of many from Dr. White’s “career”. I don’t understand how animals know the things they do, but thank goodness Dr. White was persistent and waited to be allowed to see the children again.

My students love stories that are based on real events, I think they will love this.

What to expect when your mom’s expecting.

The cutest book came in to the library this week!

First and foremost: this book is for kids — not my kids, though — and it manages to be informative, funny and easy to understand all at the same time.


Anna and Oliver e Plain their mom’s pregnancy and the new baby in a realistic manner. Their mom tells them about the baby but then they have to wait, and wait, and wait. Things get exciting when the baby starts to kick. 

After the baby comes, she isn’t the perfect little thing they expected. She has a cone head, Her skin in wrinkly and squishy and she has red bumps on her face.  Also, she makes lots of noises! The kids don’t shy away from topics like baby farts and poopie diapers either. 

They explain how to hold a baby, how to entertain a baby and how to help Mom and Dad. I wish this book had been around when I was expecting my second daughter!

I sent this book home with a teacher friend who is expecting later this month. I asked her to share it with her kids, a 2nd grader and a preschooler, and let me know what they think. I think they’ll love it.

Birdsong

My current project at work is to scam each picture book and check the cataloging. There was a time when the books were not entered correctly, making it hard to do searches. I did not expect to find any books that were not in the system at all, but I found one and it’s a gem!

Birdsong by Gail E. Haley, has a copyright from 1984. I had to catalog it by from scratch, and when I opened it, the illustrations had me hooked.

Jorinella is an old woman who sells birds in the marketplace, but she is not doing well. One day she discovers a nameless orphan girl who can charm the birds with her pipe playing. She adopts the girl and names her Birdsong. She gives Birdsong a magic feather that allows her to understand the songs of the birds, but then tricks Birdsong into helping her capture them. Birdsong is kind, though, and finds a way to free the birds. In return the birds take her to a secret kingdom where birds can safely go to sing and be heard.

I just loved this story! It has all the trappings of s great fairytale while still being very unique. I’m so glad I found it.

One old book!

On April 25, 1719–198 years and 1 day ago–Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe.

I’m guilty of skipping this classic until now. Yesterday, when I saw the day’s “This Day In History” calendar, I decided it was time to read the book. Since my library is only K-4, I don’t have the original version. I do, however, have the Great Illustrated Classics version. I was able to read it in a couple of hours.

Maybe it was because of the condensed version, but I felt like the story skipped ahead very quickly and I’m confused why he waited so long to do some major things, like exploring the island?!?

I was also disappointed in the way that Friday came into the story. I love that Robinson rescued him but the idea that Friday would immediately swear himself to life-long slavery just grates against my nerves. Why didn’t he tell Robinson his given name? And what kind of egomaniac longs for a companion, finds one, and then teaches him to call him “Master”?

I get that Defoe was a product of a very different time but I struggle with the storyline. I’ve read other Great Illustrated Classics and they were some of the best books I’ve ever read. As a kid I read Swiss Family Robinson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds Sherlock Holmes and Journey To the Center of the Earth. I’ve read the complete version of many of these as an adult and as no complaint with how the condensing was done. That makes me think that my complaint is with Defoe, not Great Illustrated Classics.

Before you write me off as a the worst book nerd ever, I want you to know I’ve read Defoe before. I really enjoyed Moll Flanders. That poor girl was a hot mess. She’s got a great story though. So for my money, I’d recommend Moll over Robinson any day.

Boxes For Katje

I brought home a random stack of picture books today; it’s getting to be my favorite hobby. In the stack I found Boxes For Katje by Candace Fleming.

Boxes For Katje is about the war relief efforts after World War II left Europe bombed, starving, and freezing. Katje is a Danish girl who receives a box from America. Inside are soap, wool socks and chocolate. Katje is so thankful for this gift that she writes back to her new American friend, Rosie.

Rosie continues to gather food and supplies with the help of friends and neighbors. Their gifts help Katie’s town make it through the winter. As a thank you, Katie’s village send tulip bulbs to Rosie’s town. 

It’s a wonderful story, and what makes it even better is the author’s mother was Rosie, and she really did send boxes to Katje.

Every time I learn about this little piece of history, I’m astounded by the outpouring of kindness that Americans showed to Europeans. It’s a bright spot in our history and it’s woven into the fabric of who we are. Sometimes I wish we were a smidge more welcoming and tolerant today, but you can’t have it all.

I would just like to point out the similarities to the story Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot. 

I think I’ve shared about this story before. It’s another great story about the power of kindness.

Blackout!

My local readers will see the humor in my choice of books today:

Today at about 8:40 am the power went out all over town. We didn’t get power back until 10:15 or so. John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor book, Blackout was just begging to be read and shared. In the story the boy is bummed because everyone is too busy to play a board game with him. But when the power goes out, the family rediscovers the joys of being together and with their neighbors.


The only other book on my shelves on this topic is Megan McDonald’s The Big, Bad Blackout.


I haven’t read it, but Judy and Stink are always fabulous!

I am proud to say that we survived the blackout by sharing our brightest space — the library. We had multiple reading groups and physical therapy with room to spare.

Crazy Cat Lady

I am, by my own admission, a Crazy Cat Lady. I love my cats (I even consider them my kids) and I love other people’s cats. So it really isn’t much of a stretch to say I love books about cats. One of my favorites is My Cat, the Silliest Cat In the World by Gilles Bachelet.

Okay, I can see you are confused.  Bachelet is French, and cats look different in France, obviously. They act just like the cats at my house though.

There is a second book about Bachelet’s cat, but I have yet to get my hands on it.

I am thinking of just ordering them for myself from Thriftbooks.com. I think Bachelet must be a syndicated cartoonist in France because his cat is all over the Internet, sometimes hanging out with Elmer the Elephant. It’s nice to see interspecies friendships.

As for the babies at my house, you knew I was going to show them off to you, didn’t you?

Bloo, 10 years old in September of this year.

Jack, 7 years old in June of this year.

Stitch, will be 1 year old this week.

I hope you have a wonderful fur-baby in your life, even if it isn’t a cat. We are so blessed by the unconditional love of our pets.

A house is not a home without books or cats.

🦍 !Gorilla! 🦍 

I like gorillas. If there is any creature more amazing that actually exists (sadly I have yet to meet a real unicorn…) then I haven’t seen it.

I’ve read some great gorilla books in the past few years:

Koko’s story is sweet and sad. She had been taught American Sign Language and told her caretakers that she wanted a baby of her own. Her kitten filled that need perfectly.

While Newberry Award winning The One and Only Ivan is based on a real gotilla, Katherine Applegate fictionalized his story and added other great characters like Ruby. I’m so glad we know now that Ivan didn’t belong alone in a shopping mall. This is a great book for kids who need to try thicker books but are reluctant. It’s not a high reading level, and because Ivan is telling the story the pages don’t tend to be full. They get hooked quickly and are pleasantly surprised when they realize they’ve finished this ‘big’ book.

I like to recommend this as a companion to the novel. Ivan: the remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla tells us Ivan’s story in a nonfiction format. The kids find it terribly sad and are outraged, but it gives me hope for how our future generations will care for wild animals.

Little Gorilla is a cute story about how all the animals love Little Gorilla even when he’s not little anymore. This one has cute pictures.

Someone in the zoo is a bit naughty. Gorilla follows the night guard around the zoo and lets all the animals out. The animals follow the guard home and climb into bed with he and his wife. Imagine her surprise!

Anthony Browne’s Gorilla is about a little girl who loves gorillas and her daddy. Daddy is always too busy to spend time with her, but gives hera toy gorilla for her birthday. At first she is disappointed, but the gorilla is magical and takes her to the zoo. This book had the best illustrations! 

Just Plain Fancy–Patricia Polacco part 7

I haven’t shared about Patricia Polacco’s books in awhile–not because I’ve given up on them, but because I just haven’t brought any home for awhile. I had my big book bag ready to go for the long Easter weekend and forgot all about it! Today I brought it home and I found four of her fabulous books.

Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece is a story from Patricia’s own childhood. It’s the story of how she overcame her fear of public speaking, saved a school play and became a masterpiece.

Just Plain Fancy was a sweet story about an Amish girl, Naomi, who wishes for just one fancy thing in her life. Providence smiles on her and a strange egg appears in their farmyard. The chick who hatches is just plain fancy. Naomi finds out though that the Amish people do not like fancy things and she is scared of losing her new pet–it’s her fault he’s fancy. Thankfully, the elders don’t see it that way and are enchanted by Fancy.

Naomi and her sister never learn where Fancy came from but observative readers will know.

I liked this story a lot. It made me think of the family down the street from my childhood home who raised peafowl, guinea chickens and other exotics. They were always fun to go see but sooo noisy!

The Lemonade Club is based on a story from Polacco’s daughter’s childhood. Friendship and love helped Polacco’s daughter’s best friend get through chemotherapy for leukemia. Little did the girls know they were also helping their teacher who had breast cancer.

Something About Hensley’s is a story about a fabulous store down the street from Polacco’s current home. It’s the kind of store that always has exactly what you need. Old John, the owner seems to be magical the way he can give you just what you need. He’s also very kind and saves a struggling single parent family.

So there you have it, a few more titles ticked off the list, I’m inspired to read everything by other authors now:

  • Jan Brett
  • Eve Bunting
  • Kevin Henkes (complete)
  • Trudy Ludwig (complete)
  • Deborah Hopkinson
  • Patricia McKissack
  • William Steig (complete)

This is just the start of a list. I’m sure there are many many more.