Into the Past

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

We are all very familiar with the atrocities engineered by Adolph Hitler, but less is heard about the atrocities that occurred at the direction of Joseph Stalin.  Twenty million people were murdered under his leadership.  In the book Between the Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys gives a very compelling account of the Soviet invasion of the country of Lithuania in 1941.  Lists of people who were considered enemies of the state were compliled, and these people were removed from their homes and workplaces.  These people were often professors, teachers, writers, artists, and librarians.  The men were sent to prison and the women and children to forced labor camps--some of which were located in Siberia and the Arctic Circle.  These individuals were separated from family members and forced to live under extremely harsh conditions with none of the comforts of home.  They were not given food or medical attention.  The women and children were shoved into railroad cars and sent away without ever being told where they were going.

The main character in this book is named Lina.  She, her mother, and her younger brother are removed by force from their home and sent to Siberia.  In Siberia, which is harsh enough to begin with, they have to scrounge for anything to eat.  Even one potato becomes a luxury for the prisoners.  Beets become a treat.  The prisoners are forced to dig with shovels which have no handles, and they sleep on the freezing cold floor of a shack.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly, spans both time and social status. In the present there is Andi, a musical prodigy who is about to get kicked out of her prestigious New York City school. She’s mad at her father for the divorce and at her mother for retreating into her own private shell. But mostly she’s in pain over the death of her younger brother, for which she blames herself.

In the past there’s Alexandrine, living through the bloody days of the French Revolution. Alex is a struggling actor who serves as nanny to Louis-Charles, the lost prince of France, and an unwilling spy for Duc d’Orleans.

The King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett

The King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett

Telemachos, the son of Odysseus, must go in search of his father whom he has never met.  In the book The King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett, we join Telemachos on his journey.  He was just a baby when his father left the island of Ithaka, but lately the residents have decided that Odysseus must be dead and it is time to find a new king. They want to decide who that will be.  This would also mean that the queen Penelopeia (his mother) would have to marry that person. Telemachos decides that he will set sail to find his long-missing father. There are a few obstacles that he will have to overcome. One is that he hates the sea. The other is that he has no idea where to begin searching. In order to find the right direction to go in search of his father he must consult Daisy.  Daisy is old...really old and, oh, yeah...she has three heads.  She is also really mean, and, when you go to see her, you run the risk that she will kill you.

Telemachos has to be very careful in his approach to Daisy. He decides that he will bring an offering to Daisy in an order to appease her. He brings a basket of eggs and tiny baby rats. Despite the stench of decay, Telemachos finds Daisy and asks her counsel on how to find his father the King. Daisy tells him  to "return to the place that is not on the day that is not bearing the thing that is not." With that cryptic message, he sets sail with his best friend Brax, who is a Centaur, despite his mother's protestations that Brax will eat all the food. After having set sail for a day or so Telemachos and Brax discover that they are not alone on the ship. Hopefully, the food holds out.

12 Weeks of Hot Summer Reads: Ashes by Kathryn Lasky

This is Week 3 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

"Where they burn books, they will end by burning human beings." - Heinrich Heine

This is the opening quote in Ashes, the story of thirteen-year-old Gabrielle Schramm who is living in Berlin in 1932 during the turbulent days of Hitler's rise to power.

Hitler has not yet seized control when the story begins, but there are signs of what's to come. Sightings of Hitler's private army and his personal guard, the "SA" and the "SS," are becoming more frequent, as are attacks on Jewish neighborhoods, businesses and synagogues.

For the most part, Garbrielle is a typical thirteen-year-old girl. She goes to school, talks about movies and movie stars with her best friend Rosa, and occasionally gets in trouble at school for having her nose stuck in a book during math class. Gabrielle is a serious book lover. Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Mark Twain ... she devours them all. She's already lost two of her treasured books to her math teacher Herr Doktor Berg.