What is your reading goal this year?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Unbelievable Adventures of a WWII German War Bride

Unbelievable Adventures of a WWII German War Bride: Collection of Acts of Kindness in War and Peace by Ingeborg M. Johnston

(Summary taken from the back book cover) "'Unbelievable Adventures of a WWII German War Bride' by Ingeborg M. Johnston is a gripping, heroic, and at times humorous memoir of one girl's survival in war-torn Berlin and the extraordinary life she created for herself and her family in post-war America. From nursing wounded German officers to making fools of Russian soldiers, to talking her way through situations that would have resulted in prison for many, Johnston's courage and chutzpah will leave you wide-eyed with amazement. How could one young woman break all the rules, take on Germany's top industrial leaders...and win? How does one young woman marry an American and make a life in a country that was recently the enemy...and immediately become an important part of her new community? This is the story of hope and dreams, of courage and risk-taking, of falling in love and following her heart, a bigger-than-life story that cannot be missed."

Ms. Johnston is an amazing woman! She has lived a life full of adventures and a wide variety of experiences. She is an inspiration to all. She is a good story teller and vividly brings her life to life on each page. I especially enjoyed her descriptions of what it was like growing up in Berlin and then what it was like during the war. Her tale of leaving Germany is nothing short of miraculous and I was amazed at her courage and bravery. After arriving in America her "adventures" continue. She may not have considered all of them adventures as she was living them, but she has lived her life to the fullest and has tried to find the good in everything she has experienced. I enjoyed this book, though, at times, I felt like an intruder into some intimate family details. For example, learning about her daughters and one of her daughter's divorce made me feel a little uncomfortable because it is so personal, but she must have given her permission. She also tells where her daughters live now, and that too, made me feel uncomfortable. Overall, though, I learned a lot about how to live and enjoy life, and how to make the most of bad situations. I love that she took combat training on a T-34 at age 79! What a great example she is! And I love her theme of always finding ways to perform acts of kindness.

Rating: PG-13 (Some WWII war descriptions)

Recommendation: High school and up. I think the parts of her during the war would be great to read to a high school classroom learning about WWII. I recommend this book to all who need an inspirational story and who would like to learn how to live life to the fullest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Birds Can Fly and So Can I

Birds Can Fly and So Can I: A Giraffe Soars from Dream to Reality by Noa Nimrodi

(Summary taken from the back cover) "A delightful giraffe has a lofty dream--to fly in the sky with the birds. Will her dream remain a vision, or will it--along with her other undiscovered talents--soar to reality?"

This is a fun little story with a big lesson to be learned: you can make your dreams a reality if you work hard and keep a good support group around you. This lesson is sometimes hard to teach because you don't always see an end result as quickly as you might like. Ms. Nimrodi's book allows children and adults to talk about achieving their dreams while reading together. Children can see that sometimes we may have dreams that really are impossible (like a giraffe flying), but it is still okay to dream. While dreaming we may find other talents we have and we can use those talents to help others and to make our other dreams come true.

I recommend this story to parents, children, teachers, and anyone else who has ever dreamed of doing the impossible.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Great for all ages, birth to 100+!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "Alice Liddell Hargreaves's life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she's experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. but as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only "Alice." Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year--the golden summer day she urged a grown-friend to write down one of his fanciful stories. That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice--he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice's childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. For Alice the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey."

What a clever idea for a book! To take a story we all know so well and to try and determine what happened after the book was written. I really liked the premise of the book, and I ended up really enjoying it. I was concerned at the beginning because it was so creepy. This 30 year-old man, Mr. Dodgson (his pen name was Lewis Carroll), spends way too much time with this young child. He takes her picture, and her sisters' pictures, and one afternoon he spends a whole afternoon alone with her. He has her change into this threadbare gypsy costume and takes her picture. As a mother I was completely creeped out. I would not want my children hanging out with this man at all! Then one afternoon there is an "incident" that you don't really find out about until the end. This "incident" fractures the ties between Mr. Dodgson and the Liddell family. The story then follows Alice in her early twenties and then jumps to the end of her life.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this book. First, do not let your children hang out with creepy older men. From there I learned that we should not define ourselves or anyone else by one action, especially if that action occurs as a youth. After the "incident" Alice's mother says she is ruined for the rest of her life. How sad to tell an 11 year-old that because of one action her life is over! I also learned the importance of being a good mother. Alice yearned for her mother's attention. When her mother was sick, she did give Alice that attention, but when she recovered she pushed Alice away even further. If Alice had had a good relationship with a loving mother her life may have turned out differently. Spending time with our children when they want it, not when it is most convenient for us, is another lesson I learned. I also learned the importance of a good father to children as well. Very little is said about Alice's father, except that he is busy with his job as a Dean at Oxford. He is always busy and doesn't give Alice any attention either. Maybe if she had been able to spend more time with a father who cared about her then she would not have sought love from another man. I also learned to not play favorites with my children. How sad that Alice grew up knowing that her mom thought she was a disappointment while her sister could do no wrong. The last thing I learned from this book is to not look back and live in the past. Live right now. Enjoy and love what you have right now. Alice spent years wishing she were with her first love, and consequently was not able to enjoy the time she did have with her husband. He was with her, he loved her now, and she missed a lot of love and contentment because of that choice.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much information in the book was accurate. A lot of the people and places and things that happen in the book did happen in the life of the real Alice Liddell. I did not know much about the story surrounding "Alice in Wonderland," but now I do thanks to Ms. Benjamin. I would definitely recommend this book! I love it when I can learn so much from a work of fiction.

Rating: PG-13 (I added the "13" because even though it is clean--no language or "physical intimacy" or violence, there are some adult things that happen. The whole bit with Mr. Dodgson and then later with Mr. Ruskin just isn't appropriate for younger readers. A couple of Alice's sons do die in war and that is a difficult part to read. )

Recommendation: High School and up.