Tag Archives: survival

Going Wild

3 Jun

In 2014, Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, saw a tiger shedding his civilized clothing and dainty manners to GO WILD!


In his first novel for middle readers, The Wild Robot, the opposite occurs.


A robot is washed ashore on an island, after a cargo ship is wrecked. Accidentally activated by sea otters, Roz, the robot, begins exploring her environment where she is seen as a monster.  After an accident in which she kills a mother goose, she adopts the  gosling she has orphaned. In her efforts to be a good caregiver to the gosling she names Brightbill, she begins to make inroads into the animal community. Roz learns skills from the animals she encounters: care of goslings from a mother goose, house building from a beaver. In turn, she learns to love and becomes a vital member of the island community that she considers her home.

The book seems simple, but it really speaks to the heart of what it means to be human. Roz doesn’t fit in at first. She begins as “other”  but becomes an integral member of society because of the connections she makes with the island’s inhabitants. It reminds me of the fox from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince who wants to be tamed.

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

And later the fox says,

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox.

So it is with Roz and the animals on the island. Ties are established and the “monster” is tamed.

Alas, the idyll is violently disrupted when robots come to the island, seeking the cargo that was lost at sea. The ending is more realistic than happily ever after, but I think it makes this story more powerful. As Mr. Spock once philosophized


Live long and prosper, Roz!




25 Oct

I had a discussion with my class about abridged vs unabridged versions of books. I thought about this as I read the Young Adult adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.


I have to admit, I was a little worried as I began reading. The sentences in the first chapter seemed awfully short to me. As I made my way throughout the book, it got better, and I wondered, was this Hillenbrand’s strategy to help young readers build background knowledge so they could access more difficult and complicated ideas later? I did a little research and found this interesting New York Times article addressing the issue of YA adaptations.

All that said, I really enjoyed this book and I think kids will, too.

Publisher’s Summary: On a May afternoon in 1943, an American military plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary sagas of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. As a boy, he had been a clever delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and stealing. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a supreme talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war came, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a sinking raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would respond to desperation with ingenuity, suffering with hope and humor, brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would hang on the fraying wire of his will.

In this captivating young adult edition of her award-winning #1 New York Timesbestseller, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of a man’s breathtaking odyssey and the courage, cunning, and fortitude he found to endure and overcome. Lavishly illustrated with more than one hundred photographs and featuring an exclusive interview with Zamperini, Unbroken will introduce a new generation to one of history’s most thrilling survival epics.

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.

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