2015 Big Book Summer Challenge: Revolution by Deborah Wiles & East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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Big Book Summer Challenge is a challenge hosted by Sue at Book by Book. The inspiration behind the challenge is to push the bigger books to the top of the TBR pile during summer time.

The Details:

  • Anything over 400 pages qualifies as a big book.
  • The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend (starting May 22 this year) through Labor Day weekend (Labor Day is September 7 this year).
  • Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal.  Wait, did you get that?  You only need to read 1 book with over 400 pages this summer to participate! (Though you are welcome to read more, if you want.)
  • Choose from what’s on your shelves already or a big book you’ve been meaning to read for ages or anything that catches your eye in the library – whatever peaks your interest!
  • Sign up on Book by Book.
  • Write a post to kick things off – you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to Book by Book.
  • Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.
  • You can write progress posts if you want to and/or reviews of the big books you’ve read…but you don’t have to!  There is a separate links list below for big book review posts.

Today, we are combining the last three bullet points–we both have finished our big books!

Kellee

revolution

Revolution
Author: Deborah Wiles
Published May 27th, 2014 by Scholastic Press
538 pages

Goodreads Summary: It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded.  Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They’re calling it Freedom Summer.

Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.

As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel Countdown, award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place — and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right.

*A 2014 National Book Award Finalist

Kellee’s Thoughts: What is so amazing about this book is that it doesn’t feel like a big book. Well, it FEELS like a big book because it is heavy and thick, but when you are done reading, it doesn’t feel like you had to trudge through anything. Not once did I feel like there were too many pages. Wiles does an amazing job filling each and every page with important information for the historical context, characterization, or plot development.

Revolution is a perfectly-crafted look at one of the toughest times in American history. What Wiles does is truly delve into the emotions felt during the Freedom Summer and some of the smaller actions that may not have made the history books. One of my favorite things about Wiles’s Sixties Trilogy books is that she includes historical resources throughout the book that truly puts the story in context. The primary sources/stories and other embedded pieces of history really show that the narrative she has created is not truly a work of fiction. It may include fictional characters, but the setting, the feelings, the conflict, the time period, the history–those are all fact.

Revolution couldn’t work without the Sunny and her cast of characters though. This book could have gone terribly wrong if the voice, thoughts, and feelings of our protagonist were not so believable since Wiles was having us learn about such a tumultuous time through the eyes of a child. However, no need to worry about that because Sunny is perfect. She is easy to connect to and seems true. My favorite characters are those around her that push her and help change her: Annabelle, Jo Ellen, and Ray. Annabelle is so patient, truly loves Sunny, and has some of the best lines in the book; Jo Ellen is so head-strong, forward-thinking, and intelligent; and Ray is just crazy but also overwhelmingly brave.

I am part of an informal Twitter book club, and our June read was Revolution. Deborah Wiles even stopped by to chat with us! If you are interested in reading it, I archived it here. Warning: There may be spoilers if you haven’t read the book. Some of my favorite quotes from the chat that truly show the impact of the book are:

“What a brilliant idea Deborah Wiles had with these books–to embed all of the history.” -Carrie Gelson

“Sunny’s story hit my heart.” -Michele Knott

Countdown and Revolution are like…seeing beyond the headlines.” -Cheriee Weichel

“So hard to read how something you think people could do (register) but couldn’t because of effects (lose job, name in paper, etc.)” -Michele Knott

“It took Sunny witnessing the civil unrest to grow up and realize how to accept her own life.” -Kellee Moye

“There is so much about the Civil Rights Movement that seems like it should be easy, but ignorance stops it.” Kellee Moye

“Immerse as much as possible.” -Deborah Wiles, referencing part of her research process

Favorite quote from the book: “Everything is connected. Every choice matters.Every person is vital, valuable, and worthy of respect.” pg. 361

Recommended For: 

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Ricki

I also plan to tackle Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, as well, but I am not sure if I will make it by the end of the summer. East of Eden was quite an epic read!

east of eden

East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
Published in 1952
601 pages

Goodreads Summary: Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

Ricki’s Thoughts: I’ve had this book on my to-be-read list for several years. In fact, I realized I own three identical copies of it, so I have considered reading it for quite some time. I love Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. In fact, I love the six or so Steinbeck books I’ve read. I’d heard this book was related to the Cain/Abel story, so I never got around to reading it because I thought I knew the ending. As an aside, I didn’t, but even if all of my predictions were accurate, it still would have been well worth the read.

The book consists of several interwoven stories and families. Two good friends (who aren’t avid readers) listened to this book in the car, and they continually urged me to read it. When I finally started, they kept saying, “We know which character you will love.” Sam Hamilton is a good man–a salt of the Earth kind of man. He reminds me of Slim for Of Mice and Men. Essentially, he teaches us what it means to be good to the very hollows of our souls. Another character who will stick with me forever is Cathy. Phew. She is quite a complex character—a sociopath, I would say—and her evilness makes my skin crawl. She is unlike any other character I’ve ever read. I could continue forward and describe more characters, but it feels as if I won’t do them justice.

The story does meander at times, but anyone who appreciates Steinbeck’s work knows that this is, in fact, a positive quality. His stories feel very true to life. We don’t follow plot diagrams. I will never forget reading this book. The story and its characters will stay with me forever. I highly recommend it.

A few great quotes that depict the beauty of Steinbeck’s words:

“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.”

“All great and precious things are lonely.”

“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

“There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.”

Recommended For: 

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Thank you to Sue for hosting the challenge and pushing us! 

What big books do you have planned for the summer? You should join in the challenge too!

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X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

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X
Authors: Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Published: January 6, 2015 by Candlewick Press

GoodReads Summary: Cowritten by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.

They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

Review: If you’ve been reading the blog the past few weeks, my love for this book may feel repetitive (and I am not sorry!). Some books just stick to our bones and by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon will remain with me forever. It kept me awake late at night, and I was floored by the captivating writing. This is a very special book and well worth the hype it has received. I plan to use it in my future Methods classes because there are so many themes and topics for discussion. Most texts are written about Malcolm Little’s later life, but this book encapsulates his early years—this restless young man is dissatisfied with his circumstances and attempts to make a name for himself. He does not always make the best choices, but he learns from his many mistakes, and his spirit will inspire readers. I highly recommend this book for all readers. Malcolm has a lot to teach us.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book made me want to sign out Malcolm X’s autobiography from the library. I wondered what else I could learn about him. Teachers might ask students to research Malcolm X’s life. They might explore the ways Malcolm inspired troubled youth and why he made connections with them. Based on this text and others, it seems that many of Malcolm X’s actions may be misrepresented, so it might be wise for teachers to discuss his life, mission, and actions with students. This would allow students to form their own understandings of his later life.

Discussion Questions: If you could change one decision Malcolm made, what would it be? What do you think he should have done differently?; Malcolm may inspire us, but who inspired Malcolm?; How is Malcolm different from his family members? How does this impact him?

We Flagged: “I did what I had to. Didn’t see anything wrong with it. Not a thing” (p. 36).

Read This If You Loved: The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Recommended For:

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How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

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How It Went Down
Author: Kekla Magoon
Published: October 21, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Ricki’s Review: In light of the recent protests, this is an incredibly insightful book that is very important. The point-of-view shifts every 2-3 pages, which was very thought-provoking. Too often, books depict stereotypical portrayals of members of cultures, and the gamut of characters within this text felt very realistic. For some, this book may be too gritty and too uncomfortable. There is nothing comfortable about discussions regarding inequities and privilege in society. But if you walk down the halls of my high school, there is nothing in the book that is not a concern in schools. This is not a feel-good read, but it made me think. And thinking…is a very good thing.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: There is much to discuss in this book. Teachers could use it to start conversations about power and privilege. There are a lot of discrepancies between the characters’ perceptions of the shootings, and I imagine students would disagree about what happened. Teachers might elect to hold a verbal or silent debate. Also, I would love to discuss the structure of the text. The creativity in the form is purposeful, and it would be interesting for students to investigate why Magoon structured it in the way she did.

Discussion Questions: Why does Magoon structure the novel with alternating voices? How is the novel structured as a whole?; Does this story serve as a counter-narrative? If so, how? If not, why not?; Did Tariq have a gun in his hand? Why do/don’t you think so?; How does the story evolve as time passes?

We Flagged: “As a black man, you have to keep your head down. You have to keep yourself steady. You have to follow every rule that’s ever been written, plus a few that have always remained unspoken.”

Read This If You Loved: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, On the Run by Alice Goffman, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees, Autobiography of my Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers

Recommended For:

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On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman

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On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City
Author: Alice Goffman
Published: May 1, 2014 by University Of Chicago Press

Summary: Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives—family, relationships, jobs—into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences.

Alice Goffman spent six years living in one such neighborhood in Philadelphia, and her close observations and often harrowing stories reveal the pernicious effects of this pervasive policing. Goffman introduces us to an unforgettable cast of young African American men who are caught up in this web of warrants and surveillance—some of them small-time drug dealers, others just ordinary guys dealing with limited choices. All find the web of presumed criminality, built as it is on the very associations and friendships that make up a life, nearly impossible to escape. We watch as the pleasures of summer-evening stoop-sitting are shattered by the arrival of a carful of cops looking to serve a warrant; we watch—and can’t help but be shocked—as teenagers teach their younger siblings and cousins how to run from the police (and, crucially, to keep away from friends and family so they can stay hidden); and we see, over and over, the relentless toll that the presumption of criminality takes on families—and futures.

While not denying the problems of the drug trade, and the violence that often accompanies it, through her gripping accounts of daily life in the forgotten neighborhoods of America’s cities, Goffman makes it impossible for us to ignore the very real human costs of our failed response—the blighting of entire neighborhoods, and the needless sacrifice of whole generations.

Review: Inspired by a college course in her sophomore year, Alice Goffman seeks an ethnographic experience in inner-city Philadelphia. She gets a part-time job tutoring an African American girl, Aisha, and soon befriends the boys of 6th Street (pseudonym). Mike adopts her as a younger sister, and she comes to live with these boys—studying their every move. This quality piece of ethnographic research is a page turner. While it reads a bit more like a book than a scholarly publication, readers can glean her methodological approach through the footnotes. Goffman’s mission is clear. She wants readers to understand the inequities these African American boys of 6th Street face, and she shows how the criminal justice system (both law enforcement and the justice/prison system) are not working. I was ashamed at the actions of the police, specifically, and think this is very educational to readers of all ages, particularly in the wake of the racially based crimes that we consistently see in the news.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is written for adults, but I think it would be very educational for high school students. I would use excerpts of this text to show students the realities of life on 6th Street in Philadelphia. It could be used to better understand crimes in the news, to teach inequity, to examine class issues, to understand the drug trade, and to fight racism. It would be eye-opening for students. While teaching this, I would also consider pairing it with Malcolm Gladwell’s review.

Discussion Questions: What can we do to stop the injustice of the court system? How is it flawed?; What role does race play in this text?; Was Goffman too close to the subjects of her ethnography? Do you think this affected her portrayal of 6th Street? What are the positives and negatives of this approach of qualitative study?

We Flagged: “To be on the run is a strange phrase for legally compromised people, because to be on the run is also to be at a standstill.”

“Thus, the great paradox of a highly punitive approach to crime control is that it winds up criminalizing so much of daily life as to foster widespread illegality as people work to circumvent it. Intensive policing and the crime it intends to control become mutually reinforcing. The extent to which crime elicits harsh policing, or policing itself contributes to a climate of violence and illegality, becomes impossible to sort out.”

Read This If You Loved: Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios; The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander 

Recommended For:

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Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles (Ricki’s Review)

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Freedom Summer
Author: Deborah Wiles; Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue
Published: January 1, 2005 by Aladdin

Summary: 

John Henry swims better than anyone I know.
He crawls like a catfish,
blows bubbles like a swamp monster,
but he doesn’t swim in the town pool with me.
He’s not allowed. 

Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black, and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation and opens the town pool to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other there…only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.

Review: I rarely review picture books or texts that weren’t published recently. For me, the blog is a place for me to highlight newer books (whenever possible). I love picture books, but Kellee often reviews them, and I love young adult literature, so those are often the titles I review. After I read this book, I couldn’t wait to blog about it because it is easily one of the best picture books I have ever read and is worthy of the praise it receives. Set in the 1960s South, this moving, lyrical text depicts the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of a child who just wants to adventure with his friend. The messages are powerful, and I plan to purchase it to read again and again with my son. After we read this as a family, my husband and I wondered if it was a work of nonfiction because it felt so very real to us. 

You can view Kellee’s review of Freedom Summer here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The most obvious choice would be to use this text to teach about diversity, discrimination or the Civil Rights Movement. I would also love to pair this with The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. Students would find great value in comparing and contrasting the imagery and messages of these two texts. I could also see it being paired with texts like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. More than anything, this is a book about the power of friendship.

Discussion Questions: How do these boys view their world differently from the adults around them?; Why might the author have chosen to end the text the way she does? What message does it send?; How do the illustrations support the readers’ understanding of the text?

We Flagged: 

“John Henry’s skin is the color of

browned butter.

He smells like pine needles after a

good rain.

My skin is the color of the pale

moths that dance around the porch

light at night.

John Henry says I smell like a just-washed sock.

‘This means war!’ I shout.”

Read This If You Loved: The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack

Recommended For:

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brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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brown girl dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published: August 28, 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. 
 
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
 
Praise for Jacqueline Woodson:
Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review

Ricki’s Review: This beautifully poignant book in verse captured my heart. I was swept away in the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical memories. This is a book that will embrace readers, wrapping them in Woodson’s childhood in the stormy 1960s. I couldn’t help but read and reread portions of the text–for every few pages that I read, I needed to flip back and relive the beauty of the previous verses. I will cherish this book, reading it again and again, for every word feels intentional and every memory vivid. brown girl dreaming is timeless, and it is universal. Above all, this book will give readers insight–unfolding the experiences of a “brown” child living during the heat of the civil rights movement; a young girl growing up in a house that identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses; and a young writer, struggling to find the perfect words to reveal the truth. It will touch the hearts of readers of all backgrounds and ages in its messages of family, friendship, strength, and hope.

Kellee’s Review: Wow. I often worry about reading a book that has a lot of hype around it because I fear that I will not love it as much as others do. I should not have been worried about this book. It is beautiful. As Ricki said, I found myself rereading portions of the text just because of how well the verse flowed. By the end of this book, you will wish that you were Woodson’s friend and that you you could write as well as she does. The stories she tells are so true and heartfelt that you live her life along with her through the pages. You experience with her the hardship of growing up in the 1960s and 70s during the Civil Rights movement; the challenge of religion and finding the truth in it; the loss, addition, and conflict of family and everything that comes with these changes; and trying to find an identity as a person, sister, daughter, student and a writer. It is only a truly powerful, well-written book that can make you feel all of these elements.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Writers will feel inspired by Woodson’s verse, and it would make an excellent mentor text for students to learn more about themselves and their own childhoods. We would suggest pairing passages with “I Am From” poems for students to be inspired to write verse memoirs of their own experiences. The figurative language and detail of this text make it a phenomenal resource for teachers, and we would find great value in close readings of Woodson’s intentional use of words and phrasing.

Discussion Questions: How does Jacqueline Woodson come to find herself? What are the strongest influences on her identity?; In what ways does Woodson show the power of family? How do Woodson’s siblings impact her decisions?; What role does history play in this book?; In what ways does Woodson manipulate words, phrasing, and white space? How does this influence your reading?

We Flagged: 

“Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.” (p. 99)

“Sometimes, she pulls a chair to the window, looks
down over the yard.

The promise of glittering sidewalks feels a long time
behind us now, no diamonds anywhere to be found.

But some days, just after snow falls,
the sun comes out, shines down on the promise
of that tree from back home joining us here.

Shines down over the bright white ground.

And on those days, so much light and warmth fills
the room
that it’s hard not to believe
in a  little bit

of everything.”  (p. 285)

Please Note: The above excerpts are from advanced reader copies. The wording and punctuation may be different in the published text. Our blog interface does not allow us to accurately capture the indentions, but we wanted you to see the beauty of Woodson’s language.

Read This If You Loved: Other books by Jacqueline Woodson, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, Gaither Sisters (series) by Rita Williams- Garcia, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Silence of our Friends by Mark Long

Recommended For:

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Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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Title: Rose under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Expected Publication: September 10th, 2013 by Miramax (Disney)

Summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Review: Out of the thousands of books I’ve read, this one is going to sit among my all-time favorites. There is a phenomenal balance of history and narrative that will engage readers while offering harrowing lessons in history. I am not an air and space girl. My husband loves planes, and he was giddy when we went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. As much as I want to love planes, I don’t find them to be interesting. This book changed my outlook.

Rose under Fire has many similarities with Wein’s Code Name Verity. They are both written in an epistolary format, involve pilots/airplanes, and are set during World War II. Both offer wonderfully complex themes about friendship, loyalty, and the strength of women. However, Rose under Fire focuses more on concentration camps, while Code Name Verity dealt more with the interrogation techniques used during World War II. Neither of these two elements drove the novels, but they are two plot features that make the texts quite different from one other. I found CNV to be a bit slow in the beginning (which isn’t the case with all readers), but I was hooked to Rose under Fire from the very first page. Wein writes characters so vividly that I still feel their presence in my life, long after I finish the books. I recommend this book to everyone. It will appeal to readers of all ages, backgrounds, genders, and interest levels.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers, this is a MUST-HAVE book. It is phenomenally written and shows the truly complexity of young adult literature. It can be used to teach elements like setting, character, dialogue, the epistolary format, imagery, voice, and theme. Students might write letters back to Rose, or they could analyze one of the many well-developed characters in this story. It would also make for a great research unit of topics like the Nuremberg Trials, female WWII pilots, flying bombs, or the experimentation on Holocaust prisoners. History teachers will also find this text to be invaluable.

Discussion Questions: What loyalties did the Holocaust prisoners have for each other? What are some examples of incidents that showed this loyalty?; Why were the Rabbits so important to the concentration camp? What did they add to the story as a whole?; How does Maddie’s friendship with Rose differ from her friendship with Julie?; Why was Nick’s character important throughout the story? How does his level of importance change, and why?; Rose has very different friendships with many of the characters. Describe how three of these friendships differ from one another.; Does the novel end in a hopeful way? Why or why not?

We Flagged: I marked so many passages that it is hard to choose just a few, so I selected two longer quotes that show the quality of Wein’s writing.

Incredible Imagery:

“…and the reason everyone in there was trying to get out in the rain was because they were dying of thirst.

Really dying of it, I think.

Hands and arms and heads stuck out anywhere there was a gap—cupped hands collecting rainwater, some holding bowls or even just a piece of cloth to collect moisture—I saw one woman lying on her back with her hair in the black cinder mud at the tent’s edge, her mouth open, letting a rivulet of water stream down the canvas and into her mouth.”

And Beautiful Figurative Language:

“Hope—you think of hope as a bright thing, a strong thing, sustaining. But it’s not. It’s the opposite. It’s simply this: lumps of stale bread stuck down your shirt. Stale gray bread eked out with ground fish bones, which you won’t eat because you’re going to give it away, and maybe you’ll get a message through to your friend. That’s all you need.

God, I was hungry.”

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page or chapter numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb, Night by Elie Wiesel

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Thank you to NetGalley and Disney for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!