Monday, March 21, 2016

Bravo! Bravo!

Your Fate Is Not Yet Sealed.
Even In The Darkest Night, A Star Will Shine,
A Bell Will Chime, A Path Will Be Revealed.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a wonderful story within a story within a story. (phew)

The book begins with Otto and Mathilde playing hide-and-seek. It moves to three sisters, a kindhearted midwife, and a selfish witch. And then there is the harmonica and twelve-year-old Friedrich, eleven-year-old Mike Flannery, and fifth grader Ivy Lopez. The harmonica travels across years and continents and wars.

Echo is almost 600 pages of historical fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, magic! Even with its hefty size, Echo is a book you will want to read more than once.

The story contains a magical element around the power of music, and an audio version of the book is highly recommended. Hearing the musical pieces that Ms. Ryan uses in the book adds an extra emotional element to the narrative - as the characters get carried away by the music, so too can the listener.

Brahms' Lullaby, America The Beautiful, Auld Lang Syne, Some Enchanted Evening

Tonight, there was a brilliance in the hall, a communion of spirits, as if ... everyone were one, breathing in and out to the same tempo, feeling one another's strength and vision, filling with beauty and light, glowing beneath the same stars...... and connected by the same silken thread.

"Let me say it!" said Frankie. "We will stand up and clap and yell, 'Bravo! Bravo!'"

Get this book; read it once or twice, then listen to the audiobook. And every night as you lay in your bed, wondering what joy tomorrow might bring, yet knowing how precarious life can be, repeat the words:

Your Fate Is Not Yet Sealed.
Even In The Darkest Night, A Star Will Shine,
A Bell Will Chime, A Path Will Be Revealed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


"About one in twenty-eight school-aged children in the United States has a parent in prison."

All Rise For The Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor is the story of a boy raised in a minimum security correctional facility. The story embraces "what home means". It explores second chances, forgiveness, and win-win.
"Win-Win. That's Big Ed's other motto for being a successful resident. The first "win" means you count all small good things that happen to you everyday... The second "win" means you do things that bring victories to others. I've heard Big Ed say it at least a hundred times. 'No matter where you live, you have a community of some kind. And you can be a contributor.'"

If you want young readers to contemplate commuting overly long sentences for nonviolent offenders, get them the book, All Rise For The Honorable Perry T. Cook

Thursday, March 10, 2016

protesting its very existence

"When I want the west to scream, I squeeze on Berlin."
- Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Union premier, 1958-1964

Have you read, A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen yet? It is a wonderful book, filled with historical references and teachable moments.

We have been reading a lot of books based on World War II. A Night Divided is an historical fiction novel that continues the timeline to what happens in Germany after the war.

This is the story of twelve-year-old Gerta and her family who are separated by the Berlin Wall. Greta's father and brother are in West Berlin when the wall goes up overnight in East Berlin, and now they can't return.

It was Sunday, August 13, 1961, a day I would remember for the rest of my life. When a prison had been built around us as we slept.

If you know readers who is interested in the Berlin Wall... on why it went up, who put it up, who guarded it, and what it all meant for the citizens of Berlin... this is the book for them. 

Young readers will love this book as it reads like a dystopian novel. We had many thoughtful conversations on walls past and present. As well as discussions on border police and secret police.

Lines of Grenzers - our nickname for the border police, the Grenztruppen - stood guard along a fence of thorny wire, in some places higher than their heads, and for as far as my eyes could see. They stood like iron statues with stern expressions and long rifles in their hands. It was obvious that anyone who tried to cross would get far worse than a rip in their clothes. Because the Grenzers didn't face the westerners on the other side of the fence. They watched us.

Read this book with the young people you know. Discuss how a wall separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989* and how its demolition began June 13, 1990. With the wall being such recent history, what do you remember of its demolition and the reunification of Germany? This book will inspire so many wonderful conversations on emigration, defection, the Iron Curtain, and the Cold War.

Some of my favorite parts...

It didn't take long for the government to realize that they couldn't guard the fence so heavily forever. Even with the fence and armed soldiers, people were still finding ways out. If things were bad in our city before, they would only get worse now. We all knew that.

Mama once said the most wonderful thing about being young is our ability to make things normal. That whatever life does to us, no matter how strange, it isn't long before insanity seems ordinary, as if upside down is the way things should be.

My eyes drifted to the Berlin Wall, the side of it we had never seen before in the east. It was covered in graffiti and signs protesting its very existence. The sight of it startled me, that people would dare to express themselves so boldly, so publicly.

*Did you know that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was a young physicist in East Berlin on November 9, 1989 during the fall of the Berlin Wall?