Hidden Children

24 Jul

When I watched the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, I was surprised by the visit to the Anne Frank House; I’d forgotten about that part. I visited the museum in 1983, when I was an exchange student in Denmark. I was sort of distracted during the movie because the entrance has changed significantly since I was there 31 years ago. The annex itself was the same, and is a sobering place to visit.

Anne wasn’t the only Jewish child to hide during the war, but her story has certainly captured the hearts of those who have read her diary. In 2011, Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis published  Ondergedoken als Anne Frank, which was published in English this year as  Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival.


As I read this, I was thinking about all the dystopian novels I’ve read and that have been written. These kids were certainly living their own dystopian nightmare.

This is a collection of 14 personal memories. Not all have happy endings. Not all were treated well. No two stories are alike, and each has its own message, giving glimpses in to the various ways people survived the war. The book also has a website that gives more, factual information bout each child’s story. For readers not yet ready to tackle the entirety of Anne’s diary, this book provides an excellent alternative.

The book opens with the story of Marcel Prins’ own mother Rita Degen, who went into hiding in 1942 when she was only 6 ears old. It was his mother’s story that led Prins, an award-winning Dutch filmmaker and cameraman, to tell the stories of other children.

Some of these stories are hard and you might not want to read it all in one sitting, but I highly recommend that you read it.

The Power of a Story

23 Jul


The cover looked scary, so I almost rejected The Night Gardener  by Jonathan Auxier without opening it. When I did, I looked at the subject headings:

1. Ghosts – Fiction

2. Household employees – Fiction

3. Brothers and sisters  - Fiction

4, Orphans  - Fiction

5. Storytelling  - Fiction

6. Blessing and cursing  - Fiction

7. Dwellings  - Fiction

8. Horror stories

Number eight was worrisome because, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have an aversion to scary stories. I have learned over time, however, many are not as scary as I fear. If you think of this list as you would an ingredients list on a food package, horror is only the 8th ingredient. Ghosts are first, but the things in between are not so bad.

So, I decided to give it a try, and like Mikey, I liked it. Do you remember Mikey?

Back to  The Night Gardener.

Molly and Kip, unaccompanied minors are driving their fish cart, pulled by their horse, Galileo, to a house everyone warns them not to go to. They feel they have no option. They are alone, unskilled, in a foreign country, and are willing to work for room and board. Molly does possess a very useful soil, aside from her willingness to work hard. She is a story-teller. The house they arrive isn’t what it seems. Something mysterious is happening and the family seems to be wasting away. The children encounter a mysterious stranger and an ancient curse. along the way, Molly tells stories and Kip wonders how a story differs from a lie. Molly thinks, “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” As the story unfolds, and Molly and Kip realize that they must end the curse and save the family, she elaborates:“A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.”

I had a little trouble getting into the story at first. The drama unfolds slowly, but it is worth persevering. By the middle of the book, I was hooked and wanted to see how it would end. I don;t think this is a book I would read aloud in class, but I’d definitely recommend it to some of my students who love middle grade fiction. The book feels as old as a fairy tale and is very well written, aside from the Irish Brogue, which I think Auxier could have left out.


Oregon Basset Hound Games 2014

22 Jul

I needed two naps yesterday to recover from the fun I had at the 2014 Oregon Basset Hound Games.

After a week of HOT weather, the morning dawned with clouds and RAIN. It was raining almost the entire 45 minute drive to Woodburn, OR. It was misting while we set up the canopies, maze, ring and registration table. Registration opened at 8:30 and a few regulars were there at that time. People slowly trickled in. By 9:45 the rain had stopped but we didn’t have many people. But they came eventually. I think they were waiting to see if the rain was really over. We started the Games off with the LIMBO contest and by the time it was over, we had a full house.

There were tricks. Bassets are always cooperative, so the fact that any of them do anything on command, is always fun.



The maze, which includes a water feature, is a challenge to some, but a joy to others.

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The costume contest is always a delight. Little Bo Peep showed up, as did the chain gang.

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And a real live circus complete with a lion.

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Lots of butterflies appeared, some more willingly than others.

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About halfway through we release biodegradable memorial balloons. I got a little teary eyed.


Although sleeping is one of a basset’s best skills, the Napping contest was over quickly.

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Have you ever noticed how some people look like their dogs?


There was a puppy dash and a Senior Prom, a race for dogs over 10. As always we ended with synchronized swimming.  Bassets don’t like water, so the owner has to run with their dog up to a kiddie pool and convince them to get into the pool with all four feet, then get out the other side and run across the finish line. The crowd roars with laughter watching people trying to convince their dog to get in the pool. They use snacks, chess and even two-legged siblings,


All in all it was a great time. Basset owners are a special breed and love their dogs.

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Thanks to everyone who came out to support us. This is OBHR”s big fundraising event of the year and we thank everyone who supports us. If you are on Facebook, you can see more pictures on the Oregon Basset Hound Games page. Just type “Oregon Basset Hound Games” in the search bar. That site also has videos.

Madness & Wickedness

21 Jul

As much as I love historical fiction, I am glad I didn’t live when girls had few options. I was reminded of this fact while reading A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller .


It is the first decade of the 20th century and all Victoria Darling wants to be is an artist. But London society of 1909 is no place for a young woman who wants to do something other than follow the proscribed path for a girl of her socio-economic status. She is expected to marry well. When it is discovered that Vicky posed nude while secretly studying art, she is given an ultimatum: marry a young man of her parents’ choosing or be banished to live with an ancient aunt.

Thinking the marriage will be a means for her to apply to the Royal College of Art, Vicky agrees to the marriage. As he plan progresses, we watch Vicky bloom from a naive girl into an independent young woman. Some of her decisions along the way seem foolish and self-centered, but which of us didn’t make some poor decisions growing up? In her quest for independence, Vicky encounters the world of women’s suffrage and realizes her quest for the  freedom to make decisions on her own behalf is part of a larger quest for women’s rights.

I really enjoyed this book, and was especially pleased that Sharon Biggs Waller managed to include so much infer nation about the women;s suffrage movement in such a compelling way. It is an excellent example of “show not tell”.

Fans of historical fiction will love this book!

Loss of innocence

18 Jul

By the time I got to the University of Toronto, in 1984, Yonge Street had been cleaned up a bit. There were still skanky places, but, for the most part, the sex shops and  “massage parlors” had moved away. My friends and I felt safe enough walking up and down Yonge on  a friday night, just to watch all the people out for a night on the town.

In 1977, things were seedier and our summer was shattered by the murder of Emanuel Jaques, a 12-year old shoe shine boy from a Portuguese family. It brought to light the dark side of “Toronto the Good”. I was also 12 that summer my eyes were opened to a world from which my sheltered small town life had protected me.


In Kicking the Sky, Anthony De Sa takes us back to the summer of 1977 and shows us how the events affected the Portuguese community of Toronto and how another boy, Antonio Rebelo, had his eyes opened as he tries to make sense of Emanuel’s death while navigating the complicated road to manhood.

I listened to this story on CDs provided by Audiobook Jukebox. The eight CDs (9.75 hours)  are narrated by Tomas Marsh, who does a much better  job capturing the fragility of a boy on the cusp of adolescence that the narrator of the trailer does. His intonation manages to create a world of Portuguese immigrants in a culturally sensitive manner.

The story unfolds slowly, like a hot summer day, the tension building. The story does a great job balancing Antonio’s innocence against the backdrop of lies, danger, secrets and cruelty that surround him in the adult world.  Ultimately, this is a coming of age story. It is a difficult, sad, beautiful story, and yet, remains hopeful.




A medical mystery

17 Jul


Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

At the turn of the 20th century, a disease was creeping through the impoverished South. Victims developed a patterned red rash, intestinal distress, dementia, and eventually death. It had been a scourge in Europe for hundreds of years, but, suddenly, it arrived in North America. It turns out that this disease had a simple solution, but it took a dedicated physician and epidemiologist, Joseph Goldberger, to realize that pellagra was caused by extreme nutritional deficiencies.

There are many reasons to praise this book. First, it is an excellent narrative. Gail Jarrow peppers her prose with real life stories of people afflicted by the disease. The black & white photos give enough of a hint of the horrors of pellagra, without being too graphic. The story is presented as a medical mystery and Jarrow shows how Goldberger follow the scientific method to solve the mystery. There are twists, turns and rd herrings. even after Goldberger solved the mystery, doctors refused to believe him. Fortunately, over time, people came to realize he was right. In fact, we are still living with the consequences of his discover: foods enriched with vitamins.

Pair this with one or more of these works of fiction

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A little “Recess” break

16 Jul

What do you get when you ask a group of graphic novelists to collaborate?


Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dav Pilkey, Dan Santat, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight and Gene Yang all contribute short pieces on the theme of every kid’s favorite subject: recess. They all come at it from a different able, but they are all really fun to read.

Some stories involve favorite characters like Babymouse and the Lunch Lady. Others are complete originals, but they are all wonderful. These are perfect for the end of July: light, graphic and brief, in case, like me, you feel the need for a nap along the way.

Short book. Short review. Now, enjoy the trailer.

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