Posts tagged ‘History’

2 the Point Tuesday — Lindbergh: The Tale of the Flying Mouse

Each month for my job, I write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be expanding that idea to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

LindberghTitle: Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse
Author/Illustrator: Torben Kuhlmann
Foreward by F. Robert van der Linden
Translator: Suzanne Levesque
ISBN: 9780735841673
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: NorthSouth Books Inc., c2014

Since cats guard the ships heading to America, one little mouse has to find another way to escape from the mouse traps. Inspired by bats, the intrepid and aspiring aviator works on several prototypes of machines to aid his journey, but will he be successful? Could he be the motivation for a human’s attempt to come? Take your time pouring over the primarily sepia-toned illustrations. Torben Kuhlmann’s debut tale inspires all of us, and his detailed depictions evoke the size of the project and the mouse’s world. This mouse would make a worthy companion to Despereaux or Ralph S. Mouse.

Short biographies of famous aviators supplement the text.

Truce

0-545-13049-2Title: Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting
Author: Jim Murphy
ISBN: 9780545130493
Pages: 116 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

In a matter of days, six million soldiers would find themselves facing weapons of unimaginable destructive power. Many of them would be blasted from the face of the earth, while others would be left permanently wounded in horrible ways. None of these young men realized that their leaders had lied to get them to fight in a war that did not have to happen. Nor could they know that on December 25, 1914, they would openly defy their commanding officers and meet on the battlefield in what can only be described as a Christmas miracle. (x)

Since I’ve read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan I know that World War I started when the Austrian Archduke was assassinated while visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina. I’d also previously heard about the impromptu truce that was called between troops in order to celebrate Christmas, which when the war started was when everyone thought the war would be over. Little did they know at that point it was just starting. But Jim Murphy glosses over the causes of the war and strives to put the focus on the soldiers involved in the conflict. There are copious photos of soldiers in the trenches, close-ups of the no-mans land that they could not cross, and the aftermath of the futile charges when they did attempt an attack. Soldiers from both sides are quoted extensively, with first-hand accounts taken from journals, letters home, and official correspondence. Even if you’d previously heard about the impromptu and imperfect truce, there’s new insight to be gained.

For instance, did you know that the truce was previously coordinated? Mini-truces had been organized between the troops, as they exchanged songs and sometimes supplies over the crumbling walls. Murphy relates that one area even had a shooting competition, where a target was placed in the middle and each sides shot until it was hit. But arranging the truce depended upon the individual platoons, battalions, and soldiers.

The most surprising thing was that it was frowned upon by the superior officers!

Back at headquarters, [English] General Horace Smith-Dorrien had been disturbing reports all day about strange goings-on at the front. [...] The commander of all British troops, Field Marshall John French, was just as angry. “When this [fraternization] was reported to me I issued immediate orders to prevent any recurrence of such conduct, and called the local commanders to strict account, which resulted in a good deal of trouble.
The German High Command took much the same view and issued a terse order: “Commander Second Army directs that informal understandings with enemy are to cease. Officers . . . allowing them are to be brought before a court-martial.” (82-83)

As a result, some of the opposing officers in the field met to warn their enemies that they’d be resuming their hostilities. Some soldiers initially refused to resume firing, and others warned their counterparts each time they were forced to give the impression that they were still fighting, such as when they were being inspected by higher ranking members. While most places continued to fight by the new year, soldiers stationed on both sides at Ploegsteert Wood kept the friendship until March. I laughed at some of the comments, as I’m sure the commanding generals did not, such as when one captain declared that the men waved at each other and made tea and acted “most gentlemanly” and that “this useless and annoying sniping can have no real effect on the progress of the campaign.” (88)

A truly intriguing idea that begs the perpetual and never solved “What if” question that is probably hanging over the heads of every soldier involved. “What if the fighting had stopped there?” How different would history and the world be? Especially how reluctantly some of the parties were to even get involved in the conflict, I wish the practice of listening to the troops and the people would have enacted some change. As the holidays approach and we hear about “Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men,” consider reading this book and learning about how this idea was practiced in the worst of circumstances.

This was posted in conjunction with Nonfiction Mondays, a drive around the internet to encourage reading and reviewing nonfiction titles.

We’ve Got a Job

We've Got a JobTitle: We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March
Author: Cynthia Levinson
ISBN: 9781561456277
Pages: 176 pages
Publisher/Date: Peachtree Publishers, c2012
Awards: Finalist for The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction (2013)

Though nonviolent, all of these confrontations were illegal. King reasoned that if enough protesters were arrested, they would fill the jails and overwhelm Connor’s ability to enforce segregation laws. […] Only a few hundred adults heard Bevel’s frenzied sermon that night, and just seventeen volunteered to go to jail. But kids got the message, especially when the preacher who followed Bevel proclaimed, “Some of these students say they have got to go to school, but they will get more education in five days in the City Jail than they will get in five months in a segregated school.” (48, 59)

Segregation in the 1960s was a violent time of upheaval. Most of us have heard the most familiar stories of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. But very few people may realize the effect that children and teens had in moving segregation efforts forward. During the entire month of April, 1963, the first in an effort to fill the jails and bring attention to the cause, only 123 people were arrested. But then a rallying cry and concentrated effort was made to enlist teenagers to a cause that would directly affect them. “Between Thursday, May 2, and Monday, May 6, almost 2,500 young people had been arrested.” (114) The treatment of these individuals, some as young as nine-years old, who flooded the streets brought national attention to events in the south. Ultimately, four children died in a church bombing that was the culmination of tensions between the black and white populations.

Cynthia Levinson spent four years tracking down and interviewing these participants and researching how history played out almost 50 years ago. Including a map, a timeline, an index, pictures of those interviewed and an assortment of notes, this book is an amazing glimpse into a time that changed America. Levinson does a thorough job of bringing to life the actions of the teenagers but also those of the adults involved. Readers finish the book with a solid understanding of how divided not only the community was on the issue of segregation, but also how disorganized the leadership was in achieving their goals. The government endorsed and encouraged the police’s prejudices against these protesters and it is hard to come to terms with their behavior based on today’s laws prohibiting such actions. At one point, government officials notified the Ku Klux Klan that they would be given 15 minutes to confront Freedom Riders, and the perpetrators who were caught after those violent fifteen minutes were given a minimal sentence.

Pair this book with The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, which is set a few years earlier or The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, which are both set a few years later. Especially in this unsteady time when unrest is reigning and emotions are high with so many political issues, including gay rights, immigration, and gun control, teens might take notes about nonviolent actions that they can use to affect change in today’s society.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Anastasia Suen’s blog.

This book in particular was read as I participate in YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge which challenges readers to finish 25 books by June 22nd from a list of 83 titles that were recognized and published over the last year.

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster

Titanic Voices From the DisasterTitle: Titanic: Voices From the Disaster
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
ISBN: 9780545116749
Pages: 289 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2012.

[...]On Thursday morning at around 11:30 a.m., the Titanic lowered her anchor two miles off Cobh harbor, at the Irish port of Queenstown (no w called Cobh), to pick up more passengers. It would be the ship’s last stop before heading out onto open seas — and to the New World. [...]
Years later, Frank (of Father Frank Browne) recounted that at dinner the first night on board he was befriended by a rich American couple, who offered to pay his way for the entire voyage — all the way to New York. But when he wired his religious order for permission to go, it was denied. The message read: “Get off that ship.”
So Frank left the ship — along with his precious photographic plates.
And that’s how it happened that today, thanks to Frank Browne and his uncle Robert’s generosity, we have his rare, heartbreaking photographs of those first hours of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. (21)

It’s stories of the near misses of people who survived the Titanic‘s sinking that strike readers so poignantly. Frank Browne received a two-day ticket as a gift, and departed the vessel before it reached open seas. Joe Mulholland decided not to sign up for work because he saw the ship’s cat carrying her kittens off the boat and took it as a bad omen. Violet Jessop, who at just 24 was working as a stewardess and who later would survive the sister-ship Britannica’s sinking during the war. But it’s also the story of the losses, like Alfred Rush who turned 16 on the boat just the day before and refused to get in a lifeboat because he was a man and not a child. Drawing extensively from first hand accounts of the disaster along with the work of historians, scientists, and researchers from today, Deborah Hopkinson puts the sinking of the Titanic into perspective and brings it to life.

I was a little skeptical of this book when I first heard about it, being published during the year of the 100th anniversary of its sinking. But I was pleasantly surprised by its quality and the emotions that it wrings out of readers. Covering the stories of children and adults, passengers and crew, Hopkinson presents a well-rounded look of the events of that night. Drawing heavily from previous works, her over 60 pages of source notes, photo credits, facts, glossary, timelines, and index due credit to the research profession, proving to readers the right way to cite your sources and providing an amazing wealth of resources. People interested in the disaster should check it out simply for the works cited, as it details the works of some of the survivors and provides resources to hear their accounts. I didn’t fully realize that since the event was 100 years ago, we no longer have any survivors alive today. Millvina Dean was the last survivor alive, passing away in 2009, but she was just nine weeks old at its sinking so I don’t know how much she could fully remember.

The source that everyone who is intrigued by the sinking should check out is http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org. This site is an absolute wealth of information about the survivors, the victims, the crew and passengers, even going so far as to document the description of the bodies recovered from the wreckage. The BBC also has some recordings of survivors telling their stories, which is fascinating to consider that we have that information available to us. Even if you don’t consult their additional sources, Hopkinson adds depth to the events by putting the crash into historical context with information that has come to light over the years. For instance, it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge that the Californian, a liner that was just ten to twenty miles away from the Titanic, shut off their radio just minutes before the collision occurred and could have helped if they’d only recognized the flares in the sky as a distress call.

All in all, you know that this is going to be a heartbreaking account, and still I encourage readers to take a look at this in-depth record. It’s not dry (pardon the pun) nonfiction but a well written compilation of accounts, superbly strung together while relating the story from setting off to sinking down,  drawing you in and making you feel as if you were there.

This is the first in a series of posts as part of YALSA’s challenge to read all the Nonfiction Award and Morris Debut Award Finalists before the winners are announced on January 28th. You can find the list of five finalists for each award on YALSA’s blog The Hub (Morris Award Finalists can be found here), along with information about the challenge.

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