The other side of the Second World War

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson

This is an amazing older children or young adult book about Berlin after the end of the Second World War. Now, previously my history on that subject is a little dicey. As I recall it went something like “And then the Allies won the war and divided up Berlin with a wall, which was eventually torn down but we’ll cover that later in the semester”. We didn’t.

Gerta’s Papa and brother cross the into West Berlin one night to see if there’s a job for Papa there, away from the censorship and depression of East Berlin. That night, the Soviets  put up a fence, cutting Gerta off from half her family. Slowly over the next few years it turns from a fence to a wall to a manned wall and an overbearing state presence that controls every part of her life. One day she sees her father watching from the other side of the wall and he’s trying to tell her something, a way to bring them all back together. But it will mean becoming an enemy of the state and risking not just her life, but her family and friends as well.

This story is an incredibly moving depiction of a young person dreaming in a world that crushes dreams. Obviously the subject matter is a little complicated and if you’re not reading it with your child or your class you should still be prepared to have a talk with your young person about the historical context and the effects of war more broadly. This is a serious story, with only the lightest touch of humour in it  but a really moving and genuine, particularly focusing on the strength of relationships between people in hard times and that keeps it from being totally depressing. Also, the writing is very on point – if you’re not feeling nervous for the whole last half, I’m not sure you’re a human.

I strongly recommend this book (seriously) and I would recommend it even if it didn’t seem quite timely, given the current political climate. In today’s context, I think it’s even more important as a study in empathy, sympathy and for its unwavering conviction that people who do bad things are not always bad people but desperate ones and that people will defend their families no matter what the risk. This power shouldn’t be underestimated.

Last movie I watched: I have no idea. It might have been Home. It might not have been.

Last TV episode I watched: Smallville. I missed the season finale for this season (8 I think). I have to say, it’s very edge of your seat excitementy.

 

 

Tiny Owly

Owly: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton

This is basically a baby chapter book (seriously, I watched a baby try to read it this morning). I’ve previously reviewed Owly and I don’t have a lot more to add to it. Owly is great for earlier readers because it’s basically a graphic novel but instead of text it’s got pictographs of sorts – mostly punctuation and the occasional picture image so it really helps teach early literacy skills to children with very little letter knowledge. There’s lots of opportunity for decoding, literacy skills like page orientation and narrative understanding without getting the frustration of letter knowledge and phonetics. Obviously it’s a stepping stone book, and your kid should grow out of it, but particularly for struggling readers, Owly is a great place to gain confidence and prepare for their future of prolific reading when at present, things are a little challenging.

Last movie I watched: Home I think. Very sweet although apparently no one’s favourite Pixar. I loved it though.

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. One of the things I love most about this show is how many women are on it (no tokenism here) and that they are friends with each other, not rivals (or even if they are, they’re still friends), not enemies but friends.

My first ever Korman

On the Run: Chasing the Falconers by Gordon Korman

The On the Run series is the stories of two children who’s parents were arrested for treason and they were sent to a detention farm but they know they have to escape to find a way to prove their parents are innocent. So they’re forced to become fugitives and head out on a quest, without an adult.

It’s a really short, easy read, clearly a step into chapter books kind of story. But it’s fast paced, fun and almost certainly a good choice for kids who like adventure and are looking for the chapter books that will help them move to reading at a higher level.

Lucky for them there are like 800 million Korman books, so if this makes a good impression, your kid is set for reading material until high school.

Last movie I watched:

Might have been Die Hard 2. Also might not have been.

Last TV show I watched:

A bit of the Crown. It’s really slow, but somehow completely captivating.

7 Evil Ex Boyfriends

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This is another one that I read months ago. I really liked it and understood how it became such a classic. It probably won’t  be my classic, but that’s okay. I support other people’s classics too.

Also, I feel really sorry for Knives the whole time.

Last movie I watched:

Die Hard 2. Not genius but fun!

Last TV show I watched:

The first episode of the Crown. Love it.

How to start a family

Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family by Natalie D. Meisner

This thin little novel is a rare piece of nonfiction for me. It’s the true story of a lesbian couple in Canada who decide they want to have a baby, and then a baby each and then because their doctors advise them that they’re too old to wait a baby each at the same time. Thus begins their quest to find a sperm donor, successfully inseminate, get through two pregnancies and survive two labours.  It is a love story and a relationship story and an LGBTQ story and parenting story and overall a great read.

Being a true story, Meisner doesn’t hide the dirtier truths about relationships, hurt feelings, miscarriages, grief, broken promises, uncomfortable situations and generally being directionless in your adult life and that makes the book striking and interesting. I also like how comforting it is to read stories about people who are like you – struggling with where they want to be but determined to fulfill their goals, in love but vulnerable and afraid sometimes and facing the unique challenges of being a lesbian couple.

The language is beautiful, particularly Meisner’s description of her wife and their children, both born and unborn.

All around loved it.

Last movie I watched:

The end of Star Trek Beyond. It didn’t get better. I’m disappointed.

Last TV episode I watched:

One of the final ones in Supernatural season 11. So they killed God I guess?

Cainsville book number 3 (keep it together, don’t squee, you don’t have to squee)

Deception by Kelley Armstrong

This is another short blog post. I’m way behind. There was this vacation and then that got me behind and suddenly it was Christmas and that got me even more behind and now I’ve only got a few thoughts about anything because it was months ago that I read it and the list of books I’ve finished is as long as my arm.

I know, I know, why don’t I just skip a few?

Because they were wonderful books and I don’t want to forget them.

I loved this book. There. That’s my thought.

Last movie I watched: The start of Star Trek Beyond. I’m a little disappointed but maybe it’ll pick up shortly.

Last TV episode I watched: Supernatural. One of the tail end of season 11. God’s back, so that’s neat.

A very long hiatus

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

My life has been really busy and I haven’t blogged in ages. You may have noticed. Anyway, this blog post is just in here so I don’t forget I read this book and enjoyed it.

One reason Chamber of Secrets is not my favourite Harry Potter:

The lack of wonderful, supportive and fun adults and other mentor figures and the feeling of inter generational overlap. In this one there’s no grown up person to help Harry and co, even passively. I really enjoy mentor characters and they were all missing from this book.

One reason Chamber of Secrets could be my favourite Harry Potter:

The kids really do solve this one on their own and that’s pretty epic. Most of the other ones they have someone on their side but not for Chamber. These plucky kids do it all their own and that’s unique in the series.

Last movie I watched: Noel. Weird Christmas movie. I don’t feel like I get it.

Last TV episode I watched: Supernatual. Castiel! What’s happened to you?