Monday, April 28, 2008

Challenge Wrap-Up

Well I finished my challenge and had great fun. I'm glad so many people joined me for it. I fully intend to hold it again come Hanukkah.

Books I read:

Even Higher by Richard Ungar
Hanukkah by Roni Schotter
Hanukkah Lights, Hanukkah Nights by Leslie Kimmelman
The Channukah Tree by Eric A. Kimmel
The Channukah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel
I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum
The Christmas Revolution by Barbara Cohen
The Rabbi's Girls by Johanna Hurwitz
Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman
Emil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn
Hooray it's Passover by Leslie Kimmelman
A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua

You can find all my review here.

My favourite novel was Emil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn and my favourite picture book was The Channukah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel.

A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua

Stars: ****

This is a very interesting novel by a Jewish author. It’s written differently than most books I’ve read. It’s written from a third person point of view and makes me feel like I’m listening to a narrator.

What’s really interesting is every so often throughout the book is a small italicized paragraph or two that shows what is thought from the point of view of someone not important to the story; for example a neighbour or guard. I found this extremely interesting and a great idea.

The actual storyline is quite different. The title makes you think the book is about a woman who lives in Jerusalem when in fact, the beginning of the book, the woman is dead and the whole book takes place after that. This is quite a unique perspective. To the average person, when someone dies, a funeral is held and they are buried and that is that. If it’s not someone you knew personally, than the details don’t concern you at all. This book gives a glimpse of how things work after someone dies from identification to finding next of kin to making arrangements for funeral and burial. It’s not extremely depressing though like you may think it is.

I also liked that the main character’s dreams are described in detail. It shows how our minds take things in our lives and jumble them up to make our dreams. This is why our dreams often don’t make sense, because they are a bunch of stories jumbled up into one. It’s like taking the pages of a short story book and rearranging them completely.All in all this was a very interesting book

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Becky's Completed List

Callista is hosting a new challenge, the Jewish Literature Challenge. It does have its own blog. I'm assuming she'll invite participants so they can post their as well as on their own blogs.

Golden Dreydl by Ellen Kushner
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman
The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo
The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender
Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
I Have Lived A Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson
My Bridges of Hope by Livia Bitton-Jackson

3M's Challenge Wrap-up

I read six books for this challenge:

I highly, highly recommend the first four books on my list, especially Maus I and II. I really enjoyed this challenge. Thanks for hosting, Callista!

Maus I and II

maus11.JPGBrilliant. Powerful. Poignant. Intensely personal. In graphic novel format and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize Special Award in 1992, Maus is Vladek Spiegelman's story of his survival of Auschwitz during World War II. It is also a story of the father-son relationship between Vladek and Art. In this first book, Art interviews his father about his intense past. Each nationality is represented as a different animal. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats, and the Poles are pigs. We not only see the absolute horrors of Auschwitz from a survivor's viewpoint, we also see one survivor's son deal with the guilt of just being the son of a survivor.

I first heard about this book through Dewey for the graphic novel challenge. Thanks so much, Dewey, for introducing me to this astounding work.

Highly recommended to all.

1986, 161 pp.
Rating: stars5.gif

maus2.JPGThe continuation of Maus, and subtitled And Here My Troubles Began (From Mauschwitz to the Catskills and Beyond), Maus II is every bit as astounding as Maus, and the two books really should be read together. In this book we learn more about the end of Vladek's life, and one of the questions that is posed from the book is:
They were survivors, but did they really and truly survive?

Art's struggles with his father's personality -- made so because of the war -- are clearly shown. He is very honest in his portrayal, even to the point of demonstrating his father's own prejudices -- something you would think would be non-existent in someone who had been persecuted himself.

Again, I highly recommend both books to all.

Serialized from 1973 to 1991, 127 pp.
Rating: stars5.gif

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Bridges of Hope

Bitton-Jackson, Livia. 1999. My Bridges of Hope.

My Bridges of Hope is the sequel to I Have Lived A Thousand Years. It is the middle book in a trilogy of the author's memoirs. (Though each book can and does stand alone just fine.) The book opens with Elli Friedmann and her mother and brother returning to their home town of Samorin after they were liberated by the Russian soldiers. Unlike some of the other returning Jews, they did find their home relatively intact. Stripped of furniture, yes, but still standing. The neighbors are shocked, extremely shocked to see them again. Shocked that they're living skeletons. But most of their closest neighbors are helpful. They give what they can, do what they can to make the Friedmann's home habitable again. This doesn't mean that every neighbor is this nice. And it doesn't mean that the family's possessions are returned from the neighbors who took them for safekeeping at the beginning of the war. But a few are ethical enough to return and restore.

"Out of Samorin's more than five hundred Jewis citizens, only thirty-six returned, mostly young men and women. Those who did not--our children, parents, grandparents, siblings, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and lovers--have been replaced by an abyss." (18)

Imagine that if you will. Really think about it. My Bridges of Hope tells the stories of those in between years. Those years between 1945 and 1951 when Elli was growing up in such a strange and foreign environment. It looked a bit like her old home, her old town. But so many people missing, so many new people in their place, so many strangers--the Russians, the Communists coming to town and taking over. Nothing is ever the same, nothing could ever be the same.

In these years, Elli dreams of going to Israel. At the beginning of the book, it isn't even a state or nation yet. But the dreams, the Zionist dreams, are there both in Elli and in her friends. But it is decided that America will be their destination, if they can get in.

These are years of waiting and years of growing. A turbulent time of changing for Elli as she matures from a fourteen year old girl into a young woman of nineteen or twenty. The book records her hopes, her dreams, her loves, her losses, her disappointments.

Hanna's Suitcase, by Karen Levine

Hana's Suitcase, by Karen Levine, published in 2007, is the true story of a young Czech girl named Hana Brady, who was taken away by the Nazis along with her older brother George, and that of her suitcase, which through a chain of events ended up in Japan. It is also the story of a Japanese woman's efforts to find out about Hana- who she was and what happened to her. The book is incredibly moving. Illustrated with photographs of Hana and her family as well as the Holocaust center in Japan where her suitcase is found, Levine tells Hana's story in parallel with the story of the efforts to learn about her. This structure sets up two crushing waves of emotion that left me in tears by the end. It's bittersweet tragedy, told with beauty and sensitivity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

Another review from Natasha of Maw Books.

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

Another review from Natasha of Maw Books.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Another review from Natasha at Maw Books.

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Another review from Natasha of Maw Books.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A review from Natasha of Maw Books.

Lost in America by Marilyn Sachs

Another review from Mandy.

Daniel's Story by Carol Matas

Another review from Mandy.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Another review from Mandy.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

A review from Mandy.

Old Men at Midnight by Chaim Potok

A review from Mandy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Schocken Guide to Jewish Books

Since this is my last post in the challenge, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about The Schocken Guide to Jewish Books. The Schocken Guide is the book lover's passport into the world of Jewish books- basically it's an extended bibliography of Judaica in a range of subject areas, fully annotated and illustrated with photos and drawings. I found it on one of my trips into my local used book store; it caught my eye because I work in a synagogue library right now and was browsing the Judaica section for something that might be either a good addition to the collection or a useful tool for me. This book turned out to be both.

Schocken Books is a publishing company speicalizing in Judaica since it was founded in Germany in 1931. In 1987 it became a division of Random House but continues to publish popular Judaica in a broad range of subject area, and publishes authors like Anita Diamant and Aharon Applefield. See the official About Schocken page at Random House or the entry on Wikipedia for more information. In other words the company is an expert source when it comes to Jewish books.

Every chapter of The Schocken Guide is written by a different expert, mostly rabbis and college professors representing every stream of Judaism. The chapter on the Jewish Middle Ages, for example, is written by Ivan Marcus, a professor of history specializing in medieval Europe at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The chapter on immigration and Jews in America is written by Brandeis University professor of American Jewish History Jonathan D. Sarna. So it's not just one guy rattling off a list of his favorite books but scholars giving a gloss on the most useful volumes in his or her specialty.

The recommendations include all genres of writing- fiction, nonfiction, etc. And each section mixes genres so for example the chapter on the Holocaust includes Holocaust fiction as well as history and memoirs. This feature is useful for someone learning about a given topic because you can find all the information you need in one place. The well-researched chapters cover mostly scholarly topics like Jewish mysticism, Israel and Zionism, women, as well as separate chapters covering Hebrew and Yiddish literature as well as American Jewish novels.

It's been fifteen years since The Schocken Guide was published in 1993; I would love to see an updated version covering newer publishers like Jewish Lights and Gefen Books, and newer trends in Jewish publishing, like the recent spate of self help books. I think it would also be helpful to include some chapters on less-scholarly topics. At my library, the single most popular category of books for adults is cookbooks and it would be great to have an expert along the lines of Joan Nathan or Susie Fishbein tell me about the must-haves. It would also be helpful to include a directory of publishers and other resources in Jewish literature, like the National Yiddish Book Center or the Association of Jewish Libraries. But it is still incredibly useful for evaluating collections made up largely of older books and for anyone looking for a good read in Jewish religion, history, and literature.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Passover

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Passover. Hope you are all having fun with this challenge. There are only 6 days left. Happy reading!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Challenge Wrap-Up

Happy Passover!

I prepared this post in advance, since I will be spending all day Saturday in the kitchen cooking up our Seder meal!

Well, at least I can say I've finished one challenge this year, since I'm not doing so well on the others.

Books Read:

1. Living a Jewish Life: Jewish traditions, customs, and values for today's family - Anita Diamant (non-fiction) (finished 22 January 2008)
2. Moishe's Miracle: A Hanukkah Story - Laura Krauss Melmud (children's)
3. Hanukkah at Valley Forge - Stephen Krensky (children's)
4. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (fiction) (finished 25 February 2008)
5. The Castle on Hester Street - Linda Heller (children's) (finished 7 February 2008)

The best book: They were all good in their own way. If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Moishe's Miracle, although I also really loved The Book Thief.
What book could I have done without: None, I liked them all.
Any new authors: All except Anita Diamant.

Thanks, Callista for hosting this challenge!

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

I'm really not sure how many folks are familiar with Corrie ten Boom and her fascinating story, The Hiding Place. She was a Dutch Christian who, with her father and sister, hid Dutch Jews in their Haarlem house during World War II and Hitler's terrifying reign.

Corrie lost her father during their time in prison, and then her sister Betsie passed away while they were in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Corrie lived until 1983.

I really love this story. I saw the film "The Hiding Place" when I was growing up, and I subsequently read the book. After also reading Anne Frank's diary, I became fascinated with Jewish culture (which makes me a bit of an oddity as a Christian minister's wife, actually) and the sadness of the Holocaust, which is the most horrible crime against humanity in the 20th century.

I recomend this book, because it is a personal story. It shows that that well-meaning Christians died to help save Jews. And it shows the love of God.

Hold the Cream Cheese, Kill the Lox by Sharon Kahn

I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery by Sharon Kahn. Hold the Cream Cheese, Kill the Lox is the fourth book in Kahn's "Ruby the Rabbi's Wife" mysteries. Ruby, a rabbi's widow, seems to find herself in the middle of a mystery that will take you from Alaska to New York from a small town in Texas.

I have become a fan of cozy mysteries in 2008, and this book turned out to be a great cozy. I really enjoyed it. I feel this is a book that would be enjoyed by everyone, not only those familiar with Jewish culture.

I also learned how lox is made. :-)

Pattie's Picks/Wrap-Up

**Wrap-Up at the end**

Hi, I'm Pattie the Fresh-Brewed Writer, and I'm happy to be joining this challenge! I decided to go ahead and finalize my list, giving myself two alternates in case I change my mind. I have this thing about not finishing challenges, so if I give myself room to change, maybe it won't be so difficult to complete.

Well, Shalom! I'm gonna get down with my bad Baptist self and join a Jewish Lit challenge!

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (also a Something About Me challenge book)
The Hidden Life of Otto Frank by Carol Ann Lee (Dad gave me his copy)
[x] How Nancy Drew Saved My Life by Lauren Baratz-Logsyed (I have this book)
[x] Hold the Cream Cheese, Kill the Lox by Sharon Kahn (I have this book)
Suite française by Irène Némirovsky (I think I have this book somewhere)

Alternate selections (in case I can't finish the above books, or decide differently):

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak (will have to find this one)
[x] The Hiding Place by Corrie tenBoom

**April 19: I don't think I am going to be able to finish this challenge. I only read three of the required five books. However, I do intend to finish my list at some point. Thanks for the opportunity to participate, and l'chaim to everyone!**

May 4: I did not finish, but these books that are not finished are still in Mt. eventually I'll read them! No book leaves my home unread unless it's a duplicate or immensely boring.

Thanks for letting me join the blog, and if we do this again, count me in!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Out of Line: Growing Up Soviet, by Tina Grimberg

Out of Line: Growing Up Soviet, by Tina Grimberg, is a vivid, affecting memoir of a childhood and adolescence spent in Ukraine under the Soviet regime. Grimberg, now a rabbi in Canada, lived in the former Soviet Union until she was 15 and emigrated with her family to Indiana. The book is a memoir about growing up in a world that doesn't exist anymore.

Grimberg's narrative jumps back and forth through the years, from early childhood to her emigration. Grimberg frames her narrative in terms of a young girl and her family doing what they needed to do to survive- queueing up in long lines, working connections for that extra little luxury that made life bearable and worthwhile. The reader gets to know her parents, deeply in love with each other and devoted to their two children, Tina and her older sister Natasha; we meet her grandparents, especially Inna (always "Babushka Inna"), who changed her name from the Jewish Ginda to the more ethnically indeterminate Inna to fit in, and a small cast of friends and some family members who passed away before Grimberg was born.

Throughout the book the tone is warm and affectionate but not really sentimental; Grimberg depicts a loving family struggling to survive and is open about the trials of life as a Jewish family under the anti-Semitic, anti-religious Soviet regime, as well as her own lapses and failings. One of the most touching, albeit sad, anecdotes in the entirety of this slim volume is when Grimberg tells us the time she rode on the bus with Babushka Inna and heard Inna speaking Yiddish with another Jewish woman. After a brief altercation with another passenger they got off the bus; then little Tina told her grandmother never to speak Yiddish in public again, so ashamed was she of the attention it attracted. She speaks then of the heavy, loaded silence and shame that lived between her and Babushka Inna for the rest of the day, even as Babushka lovingly laid out Tina's nightclothes and put her to bed. I have Russian Jewish friends who escaped like Grimberg's family did and most of the time they don't like to talk about their more painful experiences, or only do in general terms, but this anecdote in particular brought something home to me about the damage done to families and to people by the Soviet system.

We also see some other aspects of Soviet life. Through her grandparents' story we see the terrible price the Soviet people paid for World War II, with nearly every family missing that entire generation of men; we see the role played by that generation of women, including Babushka Inna, as essential childrearers and neighborhood watchdogs. We see privations and little victories, such as when Grimberg is able to buy flowers for her mother for Women's Day even after the florist has sold out.

Grimberg draws herself as a basically happy, normal little girl and although her circumstances were grim, we have to remember that the story has a happy ending for the Grimberg family, however unlikely it may have seemed to them even up to the very moment they boarded the train for western Europe. I'm grateful for them that they made it, and grateful for being able to read this sweet, moving book. Out of Line gives some great insights into everyday life in a time and place that shaped a lot of people and is definitely worth checking out. Aimed at young adults, I think it would be a great read for teens (or anyone) interested in the former Soviet Union, in Jewish life there, and in the world that was swept away with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Have Lived A Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson

Bitton-Jackson, Livia. 1997. I Have Lived A Thousand Years.

I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust is the memoir of Elli L. Friedmann. Born in Czechoslovakia, Elli along with her family were taken to Auschwitz when the ghettos were liquidated in 1944. The book covers the years 1944-1945, although it hints at what came before and what comes after. The book concludes with Elli and her remaining family members arriving in America in 1951.

Her prose is concise and powerful. As a child, she loved to write poems. And this is evident in her memoir. The imagery is strong; there is power in her words. The emotions resonate. When our story opens she is around the age of 13. Here is her description of when the Nazis came and her school was closed, "I weep and weep. I weep for my classroom, which is no longer my classroom. For the school that will never be my school again. I weep for my life, which will never be the same." A bit further on we read her description of what it was like to be shown where the family's treasure was buried. The unspoken words being that she may be the only one to survive. "I don't want to know the spot! I don't want to be the one to survive! I don't want to survive alone! Alone, I don't want to live. Oh God, I don't want to live if you don't! I don't want to know about anything! I don't want to know!"

Her descriptions are so powerful, so real. The way they are written, so straight-forward, so concise, instantly put me in her shoes. The people aren't just numbers, aren't just statistics, aren't just nameless, faceless strangers. They're real; they matter; their stories, their lives count.

This was a very powerful book for me. Elli's determination to survive, to ensure her mother's survival is so courageous, so incredible. The fact that hope and strength and courage and dignity can survive in the midst of such horror is amazing to me. Wonderfully amazing to me.

This book is definitely a must read.

The title of the book comes from the liberation scene. Elli and her brother and mother are all together. They are trying to survive until they can be liberated. Freedom is within their grasp, yet there is still danger and fear on the prowl. When they are liberated, Elli is taken for an old woman. They think she is a woman who is in her sixties, they're flabbergasted to learn that she is just fourteen years old. She says, "I am fourteen years old, and I have lived a thousand years." What great imagery.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hooray, It’s Passover by Leslie Kimmelman

Stars: ****

It's very straightforward about what happens during the holiday but is still told in a fun way with adorable illustrations by John Himmelman. Definitely recommend to teach your child what to expect during the Passover holidays or to teach non-Jewish children what Passover is all about.

Emil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn

Stars: *****
Unlike most books about the Holocaust, this one was written before WW II even started. It was originally written in Yiddish and was translated by Jeffrey Shandler into English which is how I read it.
Something else that makes this book different from all the others is that it was written for children in Jewish School in America to learn more about what was happening to kid’s their age in Europe. The author did a good job of putting in just the right amount of detail about the horrid things that happened to Jews. Enough to make it clear how things were but not too much so that the kids would go home scared and have nightmares. Written from a 3rd person point of view so that you get to hear what the thoughts are from both boys. I think this was a good choice.

Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein (Cookbook)

I'm not counting this for this challenge since I'm not sure if a cookbook is literature but I just wanted to link to my review since I figured some people doing this challenge might be interested in this book.

So here is my review.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

A review from pussreboots here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Detective Story by Imre Kertesz

detectivestory.JPGWritten in 1977 but published in the US for the first time this January, Detective Story by Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz tells the story of a group of men who, while working for an unnamed Latin American country's government, go too far to stop their political enemies. While I thought Kaddish for a Child Not Born by Kertesz was brilliant, I must admit I didn't get into this one too much. I'm willing to confess the fault might lie with the reader rather than the writer, however. Luckily, this one was short, but it didn't pack the same punch for me that Kaddish did.

1977 [2008 for the English translation], 112 pp.
Rating: 3/5

Kaddish for a Child Not Born by Imre Kertesz

kaddish2.gifDefinition: Mourner's Kaddish expresses love of God and acceptance of God's will, even while the mourner is feeling sorrow over the death of a loved one. [See the actual English translation at the end of this review.]

Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz, survivor of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, is a brilliant writer. As I was reading this short work, I found that I wanted to quote almost the entire book for this review. In the story, a man at a writer's conference explains to a colleague why he refused his ex-wife a child because he doesn't want to bring a child into a world where an Auschwitz is allowed to occur. In fact the very first word of the novel is "No," a reference to a question on whether or not he has children. He then expounds on his reasons for that decision, and on his childhood, his marriage, and his survival experiences.
"No!" something screamed, howled within me, immediately and forthwith, and it was only gradually, after many, many years had quieted it down, that my cramp gave way to a quiet but persistent pain, until slowly and maliciously, like a malignant sickness, a question began to take distinct shape with me: "Were you to be a dark-eyed little girl? With pale spots of scattered freckles around your little nose? Or a stubborn boy? With cheerful, hard eyes like blue-gray pebbbles?" Yes, my existence in the context of your potentiality.

I've had family members also question the wisdom of bringing children into the world, and the first time it was put to me, I didn't understand the reasoning behind this stance at all. Perhaps I was too naive then, though, because I do understand it now. I am a mother; I'm grateful to be a mother; but, unfortunately, there is much evil in this world, and while not my choice, I understand why people would question whether to subject their potential children to it.

1990, [1999 for English trans.], 95 pp.
Rating: 4.5/5

English Translation of the Mourner's Kaddish
May His illustrious name become increasingly great and holy
In the world that He created according to His will,
and may He establish His kingdom
In your lifetime and in your days
and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel
Speedily and soon. And let us say amen.

May His illustrious name be blessed always and forever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled
Honoured, raised up and acclaimed
be the name of the Holy one blessed be He
beyond every blessing hymn, praise and consolation
that is uttered in the world. And let us say amen.
May abundant peace from heaven, and life
Be upon us and upon all Israel.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kanada by Eva Wiseman

kanada.JPG This is the story of 14 year-old Jutka's life before, during, and after World War II, with the three sections of the book dealing with those periods being titled Limbo, Hell, and Paradiso.

The story is heart-wrenching. We see how her friends and neighbors turn from loving her family to despising them. We see the horrors of the ghetto, Auschwitz, and the DP camps. Then we see Jutka and her friends struggle to find a new home for themselves when nothing is left of their old ones. While most want to relocate to Israel, Jutka dreams of being with her relatives in Canada.

The story is compelling, but I did find the writing to be a bit simplistic and choppy, thus the lower rating.

Kanada's author, Eva Wiseman, was born in Hungary and has based this book on her parents' and other friends' experiences during the war. She now lives in Winnipeg.

2006, 241 pp.
Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Always Remember Me

Russo, Marisabina. Always Remember Me.

It is hard to find books--particularly picture books--about the Holocaust and World War II that are appropriate for young audiences. ALWAYS REMEMBER ME: HOW ONE FAMILY SURVIVED WORLD WAR II is a great find indeed!

ALWAYS REMEMBER ME is a story within a story. Oma is sharing her family history with her young granddaughter, Rachel, as the two look through two photo albums. One photo album contains pictures of her life in Poland and Germany. These photos contain pictures that evoke happy memories of the grandmother's life (her childhood, her marriage, her motherhood)...but some of the later pictures in the book evoke sad memories of what happened when the Nazis took control of Germany. Fortunately, Oma and two of her daughters survive concentration camp (her oldest daughter had immigrated to America). The second photo album contains pictures of the family once they have moved to America to start their new lives.

The endpapers are designed as a scrapbook/photo album. Black and white photos (also sepia-toned photos) line the endpapers with white cursive captions identifying the people, places, and ages of the photographic subjects.

There is a five word glossary identifying Yiddish and German words used in the picture book, and there is a two-page afterward summarizing briefly Hitler's rise to power and the Holocaust.

In addition to being a great story/introduction to the Holocaust, I enjoy the celebration of family that ALWAYS REMEMBER ME embodies. It is a great story about how important it is to pass down family stories and keepsakes. I love the bond between Rachel and her grandmother.

The Diary of A Young Girl

Frank, Anne. 1952. The Diary of A Young Girl.

"You're reading that again?" That's what my mother said as she caught me reading Anne Frank. Like I haven't read anything but this one book in all these years. She's right. I have read Anne Frank's Diary of A Young Girl before. But some things are worth repeating. Diary of A Young Girl is one of them. The first time I read this book, I would have been in high school. Close enough to Anne's age to feel it--the drama of adolescence on top of extreme political and social upheaval. The Diary of A Young Girl captures both. The war. The threat of death. The threat of captivity. The threat of starvation and disease. But it also captures youth. What it means to be young, to be at that ever-awkward stage in life, in development. Always a me-in-the-making, never quite done finding out who you are and what you believe and what you want out of life. Anne could be any girl in any place and time. But because she was born a Jew. Because Hitler came to power. Her life--her perfectly ordinary life--was cut short.

The book begins in June of 1942. The last entry is in August of 1944. In these two years, these two turbulent years, Anne and her family and several other people as well all go into hiding in the Secret Annexe. Mr. and Mrs. Frank. Margot, the older sister. Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan. Their son Peter. And Mr. Dussel. Eight people. Cramped living conditions. This isn't reality tv. This is life and death. Yes, every person gets super-cranky and super-sensitive. But wouldn't you?

The reader gets a glimpse into the lives of real people through the eyes of one very young sometimes-mature, sometimes-immature girl. Anne Frank. Very famous now because of her diary. But just then--at the moment--one very ordinary girl with a natural desire to write a diary. I think most kids (or teens) at one time or another try their hand at keeping journals. Though perhaps now, blogging has replaced all that. Diaries are intimate, personal, private. Each entry is a snapshot into that one day, that one hour, that one moment. When you're young, (and even when you're older and supposedly all grown up) your mood, your outlook changes moment by moment, day by day. Happy one minute, miserable the next. Such is the case with Anne. Personally, I'm surprised that Anne had as many happy moments, contented moments, grateful moment in the Annexe as she did. I think it would only be natural to be unhappy, scared, miserable, depressed. Living in cramped quarters with people you dislike, people you disagree with, not being able to go outside, to go anywhere you want. Not having the freedom to move, to make noise when you want. To always be on alert. To always worry about the threat of discovery, the threat of capture, the threat of bombs blowing you to bits. High stress. Very high stress.

But this isn't just a book about war, about being Jewish, about being a victim. This book is so much more than that. It's a book about growing up. A book about changing from a girl into a young woman with hopes and dreams and fears and desires. It's a book about being that age. That extremely awkward stage of life. My mom thought all people of that age should be shipped off to junior high island until they grew out of it. That moody, I-hate-you, you-don't-understand-me stage. Anne was a work-in-progress. There's no doubt about it. When we first meet her, she's entering that phase of life. She doesn't get along with her mother. At all. She feels completely disconnected from her. Misunderstood. Unloved. Unwanted. Unappreciated. And her relationship with her father is better, but not perfect. Sometimes she feels the disconnect with him too. And her sister. She feels that her parents love her sister more. That her sister gets all the praise, the love, the positive attention. And she feels that she gets attacked, bombarded with negative attention--lectures, lectures, more lectures. Everyone is always out-to-get-her. But though this does seem to be Anne's story, Anne's predicament, by the second half of the book, Anne is growing, changing, maturing. She looks back over past entries and realizes that things are different, things have changed. And she realizes that most of the changes were in her. She is beginning to build, to establish a better relationship with her family. She is beginning to get comfortable in her own skin.

Anne is someone I think we all can relate to in a way. Anne was just a girl. A girl with interests and hobbies. Likes and dislikes. She could be anybody.

The Diary of A Young Girl was originally published in Holland in 1947. It was soon translated into other languages, including English, and printed in the United States. 1952 is the first publication date for the United States. Almost from the very beginning, it was recognized as a good book, a powerful book, a book worthy of time and attention and respect. But it's not without its enemies.

Though I'll never in a million years understand the mindset of those that challenge books, I'll never ever ever understand why Diary of A Young Girl is one of their targets. I just don't understand it. Can't understand it. One challenge brought against the book stated that it was pornographic. How??? Why??? Fortunately, the challenge failed, and the book stayed on the shelves. I suppose pornography is subjective. But a young girl writing about her period is so not pornographic! A young girl writing about her breasts developing? Not pornographic. A young girl writing about her first kiss? Not pornographic. There is no talk, no hint of sex in the book. Though Anne spends the last part of the book making out with Peter, the son of the Van Daans. But it's not pornographic in the slightest. Not unless it's the mention of Anne reading a book where there is mention of a woman selling her body. Or perhaps it is the conversation about the cat's male organs that is so offensive to folks? Whether the cat is a tom cat.

I could go on for hours about all the suffering the war has brought, but then I would only make myself more dejected. There is nothing we can do but wait as calmly as we can till the misery comes to an end. Jews and Christians wait, the whole earth waits, and there are many who wait for death. (64)

I see the eight of us with our "Secret Annexe" as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds. The round, clearly defined spot where we stand is still safe, but the clouds gather more closely about us and the circle which separates us from the approaching danger closes more and more tightly. (115)

But seriously, it would seem quite funny ten years after the war if we Jews were to tell how we lived and what we ate and talked about here. Although I tell you [the diary] a lot, still even so, you only know very little of our lives. (192)

And if I haven't any talent for writing books or newspaper articles, well, then I can always write for myself. . . I want to go on living after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much. (197)