My Mother’s Secret

From Ginny Pisciotta
Author:  J.L. Witterick
Title:  My Mother’s Secret 
My mother’s secret is a gripping story of a Polish woman and her daughter during the Nazi invasion of Poland.  Franciszka and her daughter, Helena, live in a tiny 2 room house but somehow manage to simultaneously hide 2 Jewish families, and a defecting German soldier. One family is hidden in the loft above the pigsty,the other  in a makeshift cellar,and the soldier in a tiny attic where he must lay down to fit.  Franciszka and Helena need to be extremely careful and clever to outsmart their neighbors and the Germans. One mistake or misfortune would cost all of them their lives.

The writing is simple and concise. The chapters are very short. The story is  told from 4 perspectives – Helena’s, one of the Jewish fathers, one of the Jewish sons, and the defecting soldier.  The account was both horrifying because of the circumstances and the cruelty of some people, and heartwarming because of the kindness and bravery of others.

This novel is based on a true story.

The smartest kids in the world : and how they got that way

From Andrea Kalinowski
Author:  Amanda  Ripley
Title:  The smartest kids in the world : and how they got that way
The smartest kids in the world: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley is an informative read. The journalist, Amanda Ripley, admits in her prologue to the work that, “for most of my career at Time and other magazines, I worked hard to avoid education stories. If my editors asked me to write about schools or tests, I countered with an idea about terrorism, plane crashes, or a pandemic flu. That usually worked.” For all of the author’s reluctance, I thoroughly enjoyed her exploration of Finland, Korea, and Poland’s restructuring of their school systems. Finland recognized the path their school system was on and did a massive revision of the system. They included, in their overhaul, the education of Finland’s teachers. They pared down the acceptance of students by making the standards more rigorous. Korea has always been a rigorous nation but one or two things that really caught my interest were the fact that the students are in charge of cleaning the schools and that one man, Andrew Kim, was known as a “rock-star teacher.”  He earned $4 million dollars in 2010. He teaches at a hagwon or private tutoring academy, where the students did most of their real learning. This book provides a fascinating glimpse into what can be done with the educational system.

Once

From Max, Teen Book Reviewer
author: Gleitzman, Morris
Once
This book is about a young boy named Felix whose parents are Jewish booksellers. This book takes place during the time of the Nazis, so to protect Felix, his parents leave him in a Christian orphanage. Felix’s first encounter with the Nazis was at the orphanage. He saw them burning Jewish books outside the orphanage. He thinks that all the Nazis are doing is burning books, which is very serious to him. He later escapes from the orphanage and goes on a quest to find and warn his parents about the Nazis. On the way he matures; saves a girl from a burning house, finds out what the Nazis are actually doing, and gets caught. During the journey one of the only things keeping Felix going are his exaggerated stories about his parents, which help him believe that they’re still out there. Throughout the whole journey he has to use his creativity to get out of bad situations. This book is definitely worth reading.

Briar Rose

From Rosalia Millan
author: Yolen, Jane
Briar Rose
Becca is Gemma’s youngest granddaughter and on Gemma’s death bead she makes Becca promise to find Briar Rose’s castle because it is all she has to leave her.  While Becca and her three sisters were growing up Gemma had always told them the story of Briar Rose and even went so far as to claim to be Briar Rose herself.  This book interweaves Gemma’s retelling of the Briar Rose tale with Becca’s search for the past in an interesting way.  Readers get to experience both Becca’s childhood through the retelling, her adulthood search into Gemma’s past and eventually follow Becca to Poland where she learns Gemma’s history which is beautifully adapted into a dark modern Sleeping Beauty tale, much closer to the Brothers Grimm’s dark original then the modern sanitized version that people usually remember.