Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto

Paul B. Janeczko’s stirring new collection of poems goes inside the walls of the notorious camp to portray the indomitable spirit of those incarcerated there. Hitler hailed Terezin (Theresienstadt) as a haven for artistic Jews, when in reality the Czech concentration camp was little more than a way station to the gas chambers. In his second book inspired by devastating history, acclaimed poet Paul B. Janeczko gives voice to this heartrending creative community: its dignity, resilience, and commitment to art and music in the face of great brutality. The many memorable characters he conjures include a child who performs in the camp’s now famed production of Brundibar, a man who lectures on bedbugs, and a boy known as “Professor,” who keeps a notebook hidden in his shoe. Accented with dramatic illustrations by the inmates, found after WW II, Janeczko’s spare and powerful poems convey Terezin’s tragic legacy on an intimate, profoundly moving scale.

The Bite of the Mango

The astounding story of one girl’s journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative.As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry.But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands.Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown.In this gripping and heartbreaking true story, Mariatu shares with readers the details of the brutal attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival in Toronto. There she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 3, Issue 4

Watching Jimmy

A novel of danger, warmth, and dark humor — about a brain-damaged young boy and the friend who knows a terrible secret.Watching Jimmy is an impossible-to-put-down novel full of danger, warmth, and dark humor. With shocking candor, young Carolyn relates the truth about what really happened to her best friend, Jimmy, when his Uncle Ted chose the perfect time to teach him a lesson he’d never forget. The truth is, Jimmy didn’t fall from a swing like Uncle Ted claims — Carolyn knows, because she saw everything. According to her, “Uncle Ted just didn’t count on me, Carolyn, [being] perched in a tree where the park and the parking lot meet.” With the dreadful secret locked away, Carolyn walks an emotional tightrope. No matter what else is happening in this post-war era, she must keep an eye on poor, brain-damaged Jimmy: making sure he behaves, keeping him clean, and keeping him safe — especially from Uncle Ted. But when Uncle Ted threatens his beleaguered family with even more abuse and the loss of their home, Carolyn must find the courage to match wits with him and to speak out, using the truth as her only weapon. But perhaps her biggest challenge will lie in finding a way to get Jimmy the expensive operation he needs to relieve the pressure on his brain, because:“As I told you, our Jimmy is not a mental defective like people say. Our Jimmy is in there. He’s in there. This I know.” Set in 1958, Watching Jimmy is a brilliant portrait of a time past, a family of strong women, and a resourceful young girl who exudes character, resilience, and, most of all, love.

Mao’s Last Dancer

Chosen from millions of children to serve in Mao’s cultural revolution by studying at the Beijing Dance Academy, Li knew ballet would be his family’s best opportunity to escape the poverty in his rural China home. From one hardship to another, Li persevered, never forgetting the family he left behind.

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.