Flashback December 2005

I’m flashing back to reviews from years past. Here is what I was reviewing in December 2005.

The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble. From my review: “Abigail Faulkner is ten years old, living in Andover, Mass. The year is 1692. She’s high spirited and speaks her mind, sometimes a bit too much, especially since she lives in a Puritan colony, and her grandfather Dane is also Reverend Dane. Things seem boring — and then she and her sister, Dorothy, hear about a bunch of Salem girls who are accusing people of being witches. Witches! In Massachusetts! It stops being exciting when the Salem girls are invited to Andover to find witches and the accusations start to fly. It starts being scary when Abigail and Dorothy are accused as witches and taken to jail. There are three options: proclaim your innocence yet be unable to prove it so hang; admit to being a witch to escape the hangman’s noose yet still be in jail; or accuse another and free yourself. As history tells us, Abigail and Dorothy accuse another. Their mother.”

Daniel Half Human: And The Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz translated from the German by Doris Orgel. From my review: “A wonderful portrait of the “why didn’t people just leave Germany” time period. Because Daniel is initially unaware of his [Jewish] heritage, Daniel is seduced by the Hitler Youth and the Nazis, giving understanding to why and how Hitler obtained power. Daniel, [his best friend] Armin, and the other characters are fully drawn. The book is interspersed with the adult Daniel returning to Hamburg as an US Army interpreter in 1945, so the reader knows, Daniel will live. But there are no guarantees for his father, his mother, his uncle, his cousin, and the reader continues the book with increasing fear: who lives? why? how? Armin, despite joining the Hitler Youth, is sympathetically drawn, also. Chotjewitz goes beyond stock “good” and “bad” people, instead showing people with weaknesses and frailties. He also shows how we become the sum of our choices, good and bad, sometimes without realizing the impact of those decisions.”

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane: Book Two in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne CollinsFrom my review: “Eleven year old Gregor and his toddler sister, Boots, are readjusting to life back home in New York City, the “Overland,” after their adventures and misadventures in the “Underland,” the world of tunnels that is miles under the “Overland”, and is populated by people and giant talking cockroaches, bats, rats, and spiders. Gregor thinks he has left that scary place behind him; but then his sister Boots is kidnapped by giant cockroaches and Gregor finds himself pulled back into the Underland, to save not only his sister but the entire Underland.”

John Lennon: All I Want Is The Truth by Elizabeth Partridge. From my review: “John Lennon was both a myth and a man. As a man, he was very human, with contradictions, times of brilliance, weaknesses, strengths. He wasn’t perfect. For one son, he was an absentee father; for another, a stay at home father. He championed feminism in song and reality; yet he treated his first wife horribly. As myth, tho, he is sometimes presented as perfect: JOHNLENNON, a seer, a saint, a martyr. Partridge gets behind the myth, and shows how he came to represent the times in which he lived : peace, activism, politics, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, drugs, art, music, parenthood. I’ve always preferred biographies that include the feet of clay.. It makes the subjects more real. When a book is about someone who achieved such great things as Lennon did, I think including the bad with the good help readers realize that if that person, with flaws, can do it — I can do it, also.”

Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear by Matt Dray. From my review: “Dougal isn’t one of the little girl’s shiny new toys. So after getting left out in the rain, he gets tossed in the bin and taken to the garbage dump. What will happen to this shy bear with a heart of gold?”

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. From my review: “Liz, 15, is killed in a hit and run and discovers that life after death is “Elsewhere.” In Elsewhere, people age backwards; when they become babies, they return to Earth and are reborn. While in Elsewhere, people work at an avocation — basically, their dream job — which may or may not be their Earth job. Their are holidays, cars, homes — it’s very similar to Earth. Liz is very pissed that by aging backwards she’ll never get her driver’s license, go to Prom, or fall in love. Of course, Liz learns that life (even if one is dead) is short, so live it. But Liz also learns about choice. At one point, as she’s sulking in the afterlife, another character tells her she has a choice. It wasn’t my choice to die, Liz replies. But that’s not the choices that are important here: instead, it’s the day to day choices, including the choice to be happy, even when you’re dead and all your dreams are gone — because you need to be alive for those dreams. It’s not so much about making lemonade out of lemons, as realizing sometimes, to be happy, you have to change your dream.”

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