Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a beautifully written historical novel set in the winter of 1945.
It’s told from the perspective of four young people all being evacuated from East Prussia at the end of World War II ahead of the advancing Soviet army: Joana, a guilt-ridden Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a Prussian deserter with a secret; Emilia, a pregnant Polish girl; and Alfred, a delusional German sailor.
Joana, Florian, and Emilia join with an unlikely band of refugees on the dangerous road to the port in Gotenhafen. There, they secure passage on a German ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Just when they seem safe, though, the ship is struck by torpedoes from a Soviet submarine and begins to sink.
I have read many novels and works of non-fiction about World War II, but I had never heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in which more than 9,000 people lost their lives. One reason I like historical fiction is that it can bring to light events that might otherwise be forgotten.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is the first book I’ve ever read that’s narrated by a tree. Yes, a tree. An oak tree named Red, to be precise.
She’s lived for more than two hundred years. Many different kinds of animals have made their homes between her roots, on her limbs, and in her hollows. And many different people have tied their wishes to her branches.
Then, one day, a Muslim family moves into one of the houses Red shades. The family has a little girl who wishes for a friend. When someone carves “LEAVE” into Red’s trunk, she decides she needs to do something. But what can a tree do?
Wishtree is a beautiful, poetic, philosophical story about friendship and community. As Red herself says, “Trees can’t tell jokes. But we can certainly tell stories.”
Larrabee and I LOVED Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. I read it aloud in huge chunks during Winter Break, stopping only for the occasional coffee break to soothe my tired throat.
Almost-eleven-year-old Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. For her whole life, she’s been blamed for everything from fire damage to spoiled marmalade. Worse yet, she’s doomed to die on Eventide.
But then she gets a second chance at life. Jupiter North arrives just ahead of the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow and sneaks her into the magical city of Nevermoor. There’s she’s introduced to the Brolly Rail, a Magnificat, and a hotel room that adapts to her wishes. She also learns that she’s a candidate for entry to the Wundrous Society. The only trouble is that she must compete against more than five hundred other children in four difficult trials. And just nine will be selected.
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow combines engaging characters, a delightful setting, and fast-paced action. It’s the first book in a planned series, and Larrabee and I are eagerly awaiting the next installment.
January is a month for new resolutions and fresh starts, so it’s the perfect time to read Restart by Gordon Korman.
This book asks an intriguing “what if.” What if a middle school bully fell on his head and couldn’t remember anything from before the accident? Would he necessarily still be the same person, or could he change? And if he wanted to be different, could he change the way other people see him?
Chase Ambrose is a popular 8th grader, the captain and star of the football team. Or so everyone tells him. He doesn’t even remember his own name.
As he navigates both family dynamics and the middle school social dynamics, he starts to piece together clues about who he was before the accident. Through other people’s reactions, he learns that he was a hero to some but hated or feared by many others. He was the kind of kid who was sentenced to community service at a nursing home. He always ate lunch with the football team, and he never set foot in the school’s video club. He doesn’t feel like the old Chase any longer, the Chase that both old friends and old enemies expect him to be. But it’s hard to figure out how to be a new Chase.
This story is told through multiple points of view, so we see Chase’s journey through his eyes and the eyes of some of his classmates.
Larrabee read this book first and recommended it to me. I’m glad he did.
I could tell that Larrabee liked The Loser’s Club by Andrew Clements because he couldn’t put it down. When he finished, though, he gave it a compliment I wasn’t expecting: “It would make a good movie.”
See, The Loser’s Club is contemporary realistic fiction (in other words, no magic, no dragons, no sword fights). In fact, it’s about a 6th grader who starts an after-school quiet reading club.
Naturally, I had to read it next.
I’m glad I did. And I agree with Larrabee. Not every book (or movie) needs a sword fight. This one features a cast of interesting kid characters and a lot of great books.
It’s a book that will appeal to any bookworm.