Thursday, November 10, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

Ghost of Heroes Past, by Charles Reid, 168 pages.

On the night before his fourteenth birthday, Johnny Anders has an unusual dream – a dream in which he is taken back in time to meet the ghosts of some real-life Canadians who were involved in dangerous, deadly work during the two World Wars. He observes Commando Tommy Prince’s daring rescue of a small group of ambushed French Resistance fighters and Nurse Joan Fletcher’s courageous struggles to bring hundreds of wounded civilians through the dense Indonesian jungle to safety. He witnesses Bill Chong’s near-capture in his work as a British spy in World War II Hong Kong, and flies with fighter-pilot Raymond Collishaw as he brings yet another German plane to the ground. Johnny is present when a group of courageous nurses stand in front of some helpless invalids to shield them from armed Japanese soldiers invading a war hospital. He sees the vicious trench warfare of World War I, as well as boats being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.
Charles Reid’s story brings Johnny and the reader to a new interest in, and understanding of, our nation’s war heroes – heroes who were ordinary Canadians, both men and women, acting with great courage to save others even when they were very afraid. Loosely based on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (in which Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by ghosts), Ghost of Heroes Past is believable because the story is based on real people, facts and events. (In fact, London, Ontario author Charles Reid was able to interview British spy Bill Chong while conducting his research.)
The result is an intriguing book that reveals the courage, resilience and selflessness of its heroes - as well as the death and dehumanization of war.
** Recommended for ages 12 to 15 years.
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, by Susan Goldman Rubin, 40 pages.

The subject of heroism is further explored in the beautifully-illustrated, true story of Irena Sendler, a young Polish social worker who helped approximately four hundred children escape from Nazi soldiers – and almost certain death - during World War II.
When Poland surrendered on September 28, 1939, Nazi soldiers rounded up Jewish families and forced them to live in ghettos located in cities such as Warsaw. There, poor sanitation, a lack of food and overcrowding soon resulted in deadly epidemics, such as cholera. In 1942 the Nazis started to empty these ghettos, herding Jewish children and adults into cattle cars going to Treblinka, a death camp, where those who hadn’t already succumbed to sickness or starvation would be put to death.
Irena’s heart told her that despite the certain danger and risk, she had to do something – and she did.
She became a member of the Council for Aid to Jews, a new underground organization. Disguised as a nurse, Irena would enter the Warsaw Ghetto and smuggle out children in any way she could devise. With the help of other Council members, some children were smuggled out in ambulances, hidden under stretchers and floorboards. Some were concealed in fire trucks. Some were hidden in sacks, body bags or coffins, supposedly en route to the Jewish cemetery. Occasionally, some of the children escaped through the city’s sewer system in a precisely-timed, well-rehearsed operation. Sometimes, babies were even smuggled out of the ghetto in potato sacks, suitcases or toolboxes.
Parents of these children made the heart-breaking decision to let their offspring go, knowing that otherwise they would face almost certain death. Irena kept a list of the escaped children and their parents, in case they could be reunited after the war – and in a few cases, this did happen.
For the 5 ½ years of the German occupation of Warsaw, Irena continued her dangerous work, despite being arrested once by the Nazis and almost put to death.
Irena’s story is one that certainly deserves to be told and read.
It is the story of a true hero.
Recommended for ages 7 to 12 years.

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on November 10th. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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