Book Review: Once by Morris Gleitzman (MG) (YA)

Book Review: Once by Morris Gleitzman 4 Stars ****

A Holocaust story from a child’s perspective. MG for language and plot complexity. YA for seriousness of subject.

Young Polish Jewish boy Felix, lives in a Catholic orphanage with other children who are being shielded from Nazi cruelty. It’s been 3 years 8 months since Felix’s parents sent him to hide in this mountainous institution run by Catholic nuns. Felix is old enough to take on some responsibilities, but young enough to believe his parents are alive and in trouble because they sold books, which in his mind is obviously something Nazis just don’t like. His superficial, naive view of events has a twofold effect: exasperation for his denial and heartache that his young mind cannot comprehend the horror that has overtaken the  people in that part of the world.

Although he is very well treated at the orphanage, Felix runs away to find his parents. It is during this journey of fear, horrors, and deprivation that the reality of the situation slowly unfolds in Felix’s consciousness. He meets up with a brave Polish Jewish man, Barney, who has made it his mission to save Jewish children from the Nazis. Felix demonstrates bravery, empathy, and responsibility when he assumes the role of caretaker for needy children and endangers his own life in helping Barney keep the other children safe and in good health.

I hate, hate, hate the ending of this story. No, actually it does not end. It stops. Just when Felix and a younger child come to a crossroads, that’s where the story stops. So, what happens to them? Felix tells us, “I don’t know what the rest of my story will be. It could end in  a few minutes, or tomorrow, or next year…However my story turns out, I’ll never forget how lucky I am. Barney said everybody deserves to have something good in their life at least once. I have. More than once.”

Come on, Morris. You couldn’t write one more chapter to give the reader a satisfactory ending?

“This story is inspired by the real Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jewish doctor and children’s author who devoted his life to caring for young people. Over many years he helped run an orphanage for two hundred Jewish children. In 1942, when the Nazis murdered these orphans, Janusz Korczak was offered his freedom but chose to die with the children rather than abandon them.”

Despite the author’s statement of idolizing Janusz Korczak, he short changes this heroic man and his main character, Felix, by not developing the story in more detail. The light-hearted, wide-eyed tone of voice detracts from the seriousness of the story. Still, it made its point. How could it not?

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Signing at St. Stephen’s, Hicksville, NY-Please Join Me!

Please Join Me!                                          

St. Stephen’s Fall Author Fair

2-5 PM

Saturday, November 3, 2018

 

Book Review: The Confidence Code For Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Book Review: The Confidence Code For Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman (MG) (YA) 5 Stars *****

By the way, I don’t see why this book wouldn’t be helpful to boys also.

What’s the message of this book? ” Taking Risks, Messing Up, & Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self!” This is a how-to book with lots of visuals—cartoons, speech bubbles, different fonts, cute little quizzes and assessments, outlines for setting goals—with input from women in a multi-generational, high achieving family with their heads on straight. Great for middle grade and high school girls who need a self-confidence boost and/ or a guide for setting and achieving goals despite negative comments and subversive actions from people who need to be ignored! A fun and helpful, user-friendly read.

“What is confidence, anyway? Confidence is what turns our thoughts into action. You can think of it like a math formula:
Thoughts + Confidence=Action.

“One big thing that confidence is NOT: It’s not about how you look. It’s about how you act, and who you are.

* Find Role Models-look for daring, incredible girls and women
* Look Out For Fakers-those who put others down to puff themselves up
* Shout It Out-praise others who show confidence by taking positive action

“Break it down, assess risks, break out of comfort zones, take small steps, get comfortable being uncomfortable, be your own coach, don’t be afraid of failure, stop trying to be perfect, set goals, ask for help, and say it like you mean it!”

That’s all? Yes, it’s as easy as that.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman (YA)

Book Review: A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman (Young Adult) 3 Stars ***

I’m always on the look-out for books that represent a different segment of the population—different countries, different problems, different solutions. Books should be relatable for the reader. All books may not touch our hearts in the same way. We might identify directly with the main character’s situation, or we might know of someone whose life is portrayed in the story. This book tells about Veda, a teenager living in India, whose avocation is dancing, but who has lost her right leg below the knee in a terrible car accident.

Veda is fitted with a prosthetic device that enables her to dance again after much struggle and determination. Veda has a love interest. She receives negative attention and taunts from strangers and school mates respectively. The problem for me is the author does a lot of telling, and not enough showing. While I intellectually felt bad for Veda, my heart was not touched by her story. The story lacks heart and emotional involvement.

The story is written in verse, but not consistently good verse. Instead of paragraphs, the author uses line breaks. There is little rhythm, pattern, or reason here. To me, it’s disjointed and choppy, and not a technique to be imitated unless the student knows to use it sparingly, at poignant moments, and not as a narrative device. When used appropriately, it’s an effective imagistic device. When used throughout to move the story along, it tends to pretend events are far more important than what they are. I believe a combination of narrative and verse would have made a more effective book.

Examples of successful verse showing Veda’s strength of character:

At the beginning of the story, “Veda tells us,
” I’m a palm tree swaying in a storm wind.”

Immediately after a successful performance, Veda says,
” I can dance beauty into my body.”

After her terrible car accident Veda says,”
“I want to tell the nurses no scale can measure
the pain of my dreams
dancing beyond reach.”

After an outstanding performance with the help of her prosthetic device Veda tells the reader,
“Music
fills and lifts
me.

My body feels small as a speck of silvered dust
swirling upward in a cone of moonlight.

I dance
dance
dance.

Beyond
movement
for one long moment:
shared
stillness.”

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Please Borrow My Books From the Public Libraries!

Great news! Printed copies of my books can now be borrowed from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County Libraries in New York. Request an inter-library loan!

Queens Libraries—Bay Terrace, Central(Jamaica), and Whitestone 

Nassau Libraries—Manhasset, Port Washington

Suffolk Libraries— East Hampton Library

The digital copies are available in Queens Public Library and may be available in other library systems throughout the country. If your library cannot provide access to these books, please ask them to purchase in digital or paperback formats to add to their collection.

The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Happy reading! If you do decide to borrow my books from the library, please remember to write a review on the library website.

Thanks,

Elaine

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict 3 Stars ***

Let’s start off by saying this is a work of fiction although it is based on a very real Andrew Carnegie—philanthropist, industrialist, business mogul. Our main character, Clara Kelly, leaves poverty behind in her native Dublin, Ireland as she crosses the Atlantic en route to what she hopes is a better life in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Desperate for work and opportunity, Clara assumes the identity of a young woman with the same name who has died during the voyage. Clara accepts a position  as a lady’s maid to the mother of Andrew Carnegie, which was meant for the deceased woman. Clara, beautiful, intelligent, and determined, pulls off this charade but fears repercussions from two women who very well might blow her cover.

The poor, struggling Carnegie family emigrated from Scotland to America where Andrew, the older son, gradually works his way up the ladder to become the richest man in the world. Andrew, always a gentleman, is enthralled by his mother’s personal maid, and seeks out her company. Clara makes suggestions and comments that help Andrew increase his fortune. (Hard to believe.) Having come from poverty, he identifies with Clara’s struggles and does not approach her with snobbery and contempt for the position in which she finds herself.

There’s no Cinderella story here. After several years, Mrs. Carnegie discovers Clara’s true circumstances, realizes her son’s intentions of marriage, and orders Clara out of the house. They each go on with their lives, never to see each other again.

Andrew Carnegie surprised all who knew him with his sudden philanthropic donations, giving away most of his vast fortune to benefit struggling immigrants. He established free libraries for the common person, and donated large sums for education, technology, culture, and science .

The author’s family, also struggling Irish immigrants, directly benefitted from Andrew Carnegie’s generosity because (they) “deprived  of schooling and opportunities, used the first Carnegie library in Pittsburg to educate themselves and their families.”

Why is Andrew Carnegie a man to be admired? The author tells us, “I became intrigued by his metamorphosis from success-focused industrialist. After all, his transformation led directly to the transformation of my own family.”

This book is an easy read and kept my attention throughout. I would have like to see more development of characters and events. Some story lines were left unfinished and unresolved. The last chapter does not offer a satisfactory closing to Clara’s story. It’s years later, and Clara is in another place in her life, all the details missing, leaving the reader wondering about too much. Basically, the story stopped, it didn’t end.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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