They Went Left by Monica Hesse

A beautiful story!

Zofia returns home to Poland in hopes of finding her younger brother Abek after WWII ends. She arrives to an empty home and unwelcoming neighbors. She learns of a camp that helps survivors retrain for jobs they can do so they can move on with their lives. She’s hoping to find Abek near there. It takes a few weeks to travel to Germany but Zofia is welcomed into the camp while she searches for her brother by visiting nearby camps, writing letters and making phone calls to organizations set up to reunite family members. There, Zofia meets Josef and makes friends that show her how to overcome the trauma she’s been through. Her mind plays tricks on her and she’s unsure if some of her memories are real or skewed. A post WWII story that encompasses PTSD, perpetual hope and the importance of support in all its forms. A beautiful story, 5 stars!

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Wonderful character building!

Hanneke lives in Holland with her mother and father. She’s a young woman who has lost her boyfriend in the war, who works as the undertaker’s receptionist and also helps the undertaker with black market dealings. Her jobs support her family. On one of her deliveries, an elderly woman confides in Hanneke that she’d been hiding a Jewish teenage girl, in her home, in a secret compartment behind her pantry. The girl is missing and there’s no evidence of how she left the house. The woman pleads for Hanneke to help her find the teenage girl, Mirjam. Hanneke reluctantly agrees to help so she starts searching for any information she can find on Mirjam. As she’s searching, she inadvertently ends up at a resistance group meeting and becomes accidentally involved in a delivery of a Jewish baby, to an adoptive family, after the baby’s family had been detained by the Nazis. Hanneke learns about all of the ways that young adults around her have been helping with the resistance and she sees how selfish she was by keeping to herself and not becoming involved but that changes during her search for Mirjam. The young adults work together to find Mirjam and help everyone they can in this inspiring story of young heroism and perseverance. A wonderful character building historical fiction book, 4 stars!

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

Perseverance and Strength Shine Through Sachiko’s Story!

This nonfiction book takes us back in time to show us what life was like for Sachiko and other Japanese families during World War II. The historical facts include racism in America, Japan and Germany, information on Japanese Internment Camps, the treatment of prisoners of war by Japan’s soldiers, the reason for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan. I could only read this in bits because of the horrific results of the bombs on the citizens. Sachiko was at the site of the Nagasaki atomic bomb explosion and her family died one by one because of the short term and long term effects of the bombing. After Japan’s surrender, American soldiers became a large presence in the Japanese communities. I learned quite a lot from this book that’s just a little over one hundred pages; the stifling of information concerning the atomic bombs, propaganda after WWII, the research coalition set up to gather information about but not help the bomb survivors and the statistics of long lasting radiation sickness. Perseverance and strength shine through Sachiko’s story and I’m grateful to have read this inspiring book that teaches us to strive for peace. 5 stars!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Remember history!

Lale is transported to an Auschwitz concentration camp in a rail car with many other men. He arrives and is requested to help the camp tattoist because of his fluency in several languages. On his first days of tattooing prisoners, Lale tattoos a woman that he immediately feels a strong connection with. Her name is Gita and their relationship continues to grow. As the tattooist, Lale gets extra food rations and he befriends the camp residents that take the prisoners clothes and belongings to sort them out. They find many valuables and share with Lale so he can get supplies, such as food and medicine for needy prisoners. He comes face to face with Mengele, the infamous and horrible doctor that experiments on prisoners. His assistant is castrated by Mengele and I had no idea that he performed terrible acts like castration, which was probably tame compared to his other experiments. Years go by as prisoners, and eventually the camp, is liberated. Lale searches for Gita as soon as he possibly can. This is a true story that’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s full of historical information that the world needs to remember, 4 stars!

The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor

Alice’s grandmother leaves her a Paris apartment in her will when she passes away. So, Alice travels with her mother and father to Paris to see the tourist attractions and to visit the apartment that no one in the family knew about. Alice discovers a diary from a teen Adalyn, her grandmother’s sister that her grandmother never spoke of. The diary was written in during World War II and ends on May, 30, 1944. Alice meets Paul, a French teen, and the two of them work together to figure out her family’s secrets. Surprising discoveries open Alice’s eyes to her ancestors and to her mother’s depression. Wonderful young adult historical fiction, 5 stars!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I read a paper by a student and her analysis and description of this book drew me into the story, so much that I purchased the book right away. World War II, 1939, France is the beginning setting of the narrator’s memories.

Vianne watches her husband Antoine leave for war with a terrified heart. She recalls the state of the World War I soldiers when they returned home and she doesn’t want these men to go through the horrors of war too, as her father did. Vianne and her daughter Sophie return home. Vianne’s eighteen-year-old younger sister, Isabelle, is sent away by their father, to live with Vianne. Vianne has always been a rule follower and Isabelle has always been a rebel. When a German soldier is sent by authorities to live in their home, Vianne frustratingly complies and Isabelle can hardly contain her anger. Vianne sacrifices everything she can to keep her daughter Sophie as safe and healthy as possible. Isabelle is discovered by the resistance and decides that she will do everything in her power to help them, so she moves back to Paris and is known as The Nightingale because of her covert activities. Meanwhile, Vianne tries to help her neighbor and best friend, Rachel, to run to a safe zone. Rachel takes her sleeping baby Ari in a wheelbarrow and her daughter Sarah walks next to her with Vianne. When they reach trees by the checkpoint barrier, Vianne watches Rachel and her children walk to the queue. Almost immediately, a machine gun sprays the crowd with bullets. Rachel runs with her children back to the trees but her young daughter Sarah gets riddled with bullets across her chest. The horror of the French government turning on their Jewish people who have husbands fighting in the war and are prisoners of war is too terrible to grasp but add the slaughter of innocent children and other family members to that and it’s a completely unfathomable nightmare that truly happened less than 80 years ago! The details of the struggles, loss, torture, love and sacrifice make this book a true historical fiction classic for the ages! The Nightingale continues to tell the story of the two sisters and both of their World War II ordeals. I absolutely love this book! Great character growth and strength and the resilience of the human spirit is awe-inspiring! 5 stars!

Freheit!: The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte

Freheit!: The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte
Thanks to Plough Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.
Based on the actual White Rose group that spread leaflets against Nazi rule and actions during World War II. Several members were arrested and quite a few of them were executed by use of a guillotine. I didn’t realize that anyone in that era was executed by any means other than shooting. A highly impactful graphic novel that sums up the growth and activities of The White Rose and also includes the real writings on the original leaflets. Amazing strength, integrity and bravery sums up The White Rose members! A must for history buffs, 5 stars!

  • I received an advance reader copy of this book for volunteer review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton

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Magical historical fiction!
Cinderella is the Queen and is in possession of the dress that holds magic. Her stepsisters have married into a rival kingdom and Cinderella sends her most trusted servant on a mission to protect the dress. Time moves forward to the servant’s descendant granddaughter during World War II, Kate Allen. Kate Allen lives with her brother Floyd and their mother. Mr. Allen is in Europe, during the war, protecting art. Floyd joins up and goes to basic training and eventually over to Europe after the war is over. Their great aunt and uncle arrive at the Allen’s apartment with a mysterious trunk that holds a precious secret. I love Shonna Slayton’s writing style and how she mixes true historical facts into a fairytale story. The complicated story line brings many dynamic characters together to tell a Cinderella tale within the awesome World War II setting. I am anxious to read Cinderella’s Shoes, the sequel to this book worth a magical 5 stars!