Making Bombs for Hitler – Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Summary: Lida thought she was safe. Her neighbors wearing the yellow star were all taken away, but Lida is not Jewish. She will be fine, won’t she?

But she cannot escape the horrors of World War II.

Lida’s parents are ripped away from her and she is separated from her beloved sister, Larissa. The Nazis take Lida to a brutal work camp, where she and other Ukrainian children are forced into backbreaking labor. Starving and terrified, Lida bonds with her fellow prisoners, but none of them know if they’ll live to see tomorrow.

When Lida and her friends are assigned to make bombs for the German army, Lida cannot stand the thought of helping the enemy. Then she has an idea. What if she sabotaged the bombs… and the Nazis? Can she do so without getting caught?

And if she’s freed, will she ever find her sister again?

This pulse-pounding novel of survival, courage, and hope shows us a lesser-known piece of history — and is sure to keep readers captivated until the last page.  (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review: This was a hard read for me. I have read quite a bit of the very excellent WWII historical fiction that’s out there. There’s just so much high quality writing in this genre and I love it. A few that come to mind that we’ve reviewed recently are Someday We Will Fly and We Were the Lucky Ones and Refugee.
Some of my favorite books are actually YA Fic books in this genre. In fact, Code Name Verityand Rose Under Fire are two of my all-time favorite books. I actually even met Elizabeth Wein at a children’s book conference at a university here and it was basically the best day ever. She’s so awesome, and I love her writing and what she has contributed to the genre.
One thing I haven’t read in this genre yet is a middle grade book. I love really good middle grade books. They have such an ability to cut through the crap and just tell it like it is. Children are so easily able to accept things as they are, and I think middle grade fiction does a great job of capturing this. This book was no different in that Skrypuch just told it like it was, no beating around the bush. And people…
I couldn’t handle it.
I have read about so many books about work and concentration camps, especially Ravensbruck as many of the WWII books I’ve read are about women. But friends, I had a VERY hard time handling reading about children in work camps. There was one chapter in particular when they talked about what children were used for in the hospitals that I actually had to put the book down and walk away and didn’t read it for many more days. I don’t know how I missed what prisoner children were doing during WWII up until this point, but it was just really hard to read about it.
I try hard to be a diverse reader, and I often read things that are very hard topics for me because I think that it is part of my duty as a reader and a reviewer and a human being to read about other people’s struggles. Life isn’t always the cheery story we want it to be, right? And I think that what is happening right now in society with the protests and Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd shows that if we as readers don’t educate ourselves, and try and understand other people by reading about hard things and reading diverse authors, then we are not doing our part to be the change and foster the change in our children and in the world.
So I read on, and I read the book, and I will forever be haunted by what those children had to endure. All the evil that I’ve read about in WWII has now been exacerbated by the knowledge of children and what they were forced to go through.
I’ve tried to think about whether or not I would let my kids read this book right now. I think possibly my 14-year-old and my 12-year-old could read it, but I think they would really struggle and we’d have to talk about it. I don’t think I’d let a nine-year-old (there are characters this age in the book) read it, let alone someone any younger. It is just so shocking and I think would possibly shatter their world and the belief that they are safe. That being said, I think this is an important topic, and I am a firm believer that unless we learn about history and learn from it, we are doomed to repeat it.
I thought the story was a good one, and there were lots of good characters to learn from and relate to. My only complaint is that I didn’t really think that the protagonist had the voice of a girl as young as she was. She thought more like an adult and acted like an adult than I think a child of her age would act. I have children of this age, and they just don’t think or talk like she did. It would have felt more authentic (and frankly, more tragic) if there wasn’t a little adult marching around telling everyone how to feel and act and making very adult choices and being able to scheme like an adult. I think that there was a missed opportunity in allowing her to be a child. There is something heartbreaking about a child being a child in this situation, and I think although the story may not have gone the way it did, it would have felt more realistic.
Overall, I think this was a great book that certainly opened my eyes. It isn’t one that I suggest just handing over to your own kid without reading it first, and possibly reading it with them as well. There is just a lot of really difficult information to learn and process.
My Rating: 4 Stars
For the sensitive reader: As with all WWII books, there is violence that is very hard to read about, and this is manifested tenfold because the violence is perpetuated onto children.
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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