01 March 2007

Surviving Hitler

Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren
I.L. 7-8
137 pages

I. Synopsis- Jack Mandelbaum was a young Jewish boy living in Gdynia, Poland. He lived with his father, mother, sister and brother. At the outbreak of WWII, Jack’s father, Max, instructs them to go live with Jack’s grandfather in a small town. One day, the Germans marched into the town in which they are staying. Jack watches the Germans from a balcony as they march past. One of Jack’s aunts in a near-by town is expecting a baby and asks if his older sister can come to help take care of it when it is born. Jack’s mother agrees yet, soon after the sister leaves, the Germans put up a block separating the towns. After losing her husband and her daughter to the Nazis, Jack’s mother leaves the grandfather’s house and goes to her brother’s. While living there, Jack, to make money to make ends meet, starts to work. While he is working the Germans gather the Jews in the town and place them in a ghetto. After living there for a bit, one day, the Germans gather everyone up and start to split them up. Jack gets separated from his mother and brother. He gets sent to Blechhammer, a concentration camp in Germany. Now, he must fight to live to see his family again.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature- The theme came across very well. One item that helps the them along is the many quotes that are given at the beginning. They speak of how the Germans started killing off the Jews and no one cared enough to get involved until it was too late. She enforces the theme throughout the book by inserting quotes from Jack Mendelbaum talking about how it was, what he felt towards the Germans, and by describing how the Germans treated the Jews lower then animals.

III. Personal Comments- This book is very good for introducing the horrors of the Holocaust to young readers, yet not too graphic. Yet, I like the pictures that they put in for they too exemplified the horrors of the Jew’s plight.


Deathwatch by Robb White
I.L. 9-12
228 pages

I. Synopsis- The book opens up with a city man, Madec, hunting bighorns in the desert. He has hired a young high school graduate, Ben, to guide him through the desert to show him where the bighorns roam. They start arguing when Ben tells Madec to wait to shoot until he has seen the horns again. Yet, Madec shoots anyways and the result is an old prospector is shot and killed. Madec offers Ben a lot of money if he won’t report the accident. Ben refuses and Madec forces him, at gunpoint, to strip down to just his trousers and to run. They are, at the least distance, forty-five miles from the highway. Now, Ben must try to outwit Madec just to survive in the desert, yet Madec is always one stop ahead of him.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature- The point of view was good, yet if the author wanted teens to identify with Ben more, then he should have written it in first person instead of limited omniscient. Yet, I did enjoy that it was limited so one was held in suspense about what Madec was up to and how many steps ahead of Ben he was. Also, such a point of view was good for the end of the book so that you know Ben feels, yet you have to rely on everyone’s reactions and words to know what they’re thinking.

III. Personal Comments- Overall, I thought that this was a good book, but some of the action scenes, which there are a good number of, were confusing at time. There is too much in too few a time span which causes the reader to become quickly confused. Also, I don’t think that it shows it very realistically in one major manor: how would a city man, who needs a guide showing him where to hunt the bighorns know everything he does about the desert? Such as where the old prospector’s cave? Some of that just blew me away for if I was in Madec’s position, I wouldn’t a clue as to what to do.

A Summer to Die

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
Bantam Books
Realistic Fiction
I.L. 5 and up
120 pages

I. Synopsis- Molly and Meg’s father needs to finish his book. Because he is a professor at a college, he rarely gets any peace and quiet to finish it in. So, to the shock of Molly and Meg, they move to the country where Molly and Meg must share a room. Before this, they have never shared a room. Molly is one of the popular types and thus she makes friends quickly at the new school while Meg is the odd one out. She befriends Will Banks, the owner of the land and houses. He is an elderly man whose wife died some years before. He and Meg become close friends and after he finds out that she is a great photographer he makes a deal with her to teach him how to take pictures. Things seem to be going well for awhile until Meg wakes up in the middle of the night. She calls out to Molly who answers in an odd voice. She tells Meg to go get their parents. When they come in, they find Molly bleeding profusely from the nose. After many tests and “experiments”, Meg finds out that her sister has acute myelogenous leukemia. On top of that, the family living in the house behind them is expecting a baby and they are going to deliver it themselves and have asked that Meg be there for the delivery. Molly is really looking forward to the baby, yet, at the time of the labor, Molly is back in the hospital, which her parents say that she’ll never leave. Meg takes pictures of the delivery.

II. Evaluation of the Work as Literature- I think young adults would be able to easily buy into this, for similar situations such as the one that is presented in this book are all across the Untied States. Because diseases are attacking children younger and younger, this book is very real and relevant to young adults nowadays.

III. Personal Comments- This book was a very good book. Yet, at the same time it wasn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read. The ending seemed to have quite a bit of plot manipulation to sugar-coat things. That was the main part that really didn’t make the book for me.

The Killer's Cousin

The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Delacorte Press
I.L. 10-12
229 pages.

I. Synopsis- David Bernard Yaffe was accused of killing his girlfriend. It was a huge trial and now, because of all the media hype surrounding it, David is living with his Uncle Vic and Aunt Julia. His parents decided that staying with them would be best since they have gone through a time of grief when their eldest daughter, Kathy, committed suicide. Now, David must deal with his Aunt Julia, who doesn’t like him for his Jewish heritage. Lily, the remaining daughter, has issues, so it appears to David, but not to her parents. She appears to try to ruin David’s life and succeeds in making it a living hell. David begins to think that he is the one going crazy for he begins to see and hear things. All the while Lily convinces her parents that David is crazy and has had sex with the tenant downstairs in front of her. Thus, they kick David out of their house, but his troubles with Lily doesn’t end there.

II. Evaluation of Work as Literature- The point of view in this book is very good. It is told in first person which is very good in this story for you get everything from David’s perspective. It also helps when he has flashbacks to the trial and when he killed Emily, his girlfriend. Also, when he starts to suspect that he’s seeing the ghost of Kathy, one can experience the fear that he’s feeling as well as his doubts of his sanity.

III. Personal Comments- This book had me hooked until the very end. It held me in suspense and I wasn’t sure what was coming next. For one thing, you never really find out all about the trial and what happened as David never reflects on it very long and you only get short episodes. One thing that I did have a problem with was the character of Lily, David’s younger cousin. I understand that she had mental problems and the like, but one thing she said took me completely by surprise and I didn’t really see how it fit into her character all that well.