Tag Archives: Communism

BOOK REVIEW: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

betweenshadesofgrayRating: 5/5 Stars

Recommended Audience: Middle school to adult

I read this book back in February of 2013. For some reason, I never got around to reviewing it until today. This is an outstanding historical fiction book that covers a topic that is often missing in literature and history classrooms in American education.

Much young adult historical fiction from World War II is focused on America, Hitler, and the Holocaust. All pertinent and important topics, but I was really excited to see a story that focus on the atrocities committed by Stalin and the Russians. For whatever reason, the story of the evils of communism and the Soviets is rarely told to young adults.

Between Shades of Gray tells the story of fifteen-year-old Lina and her Lithuanian family’s forced deportation from their homes to a Siberian prison camp by Stalin and the Russians.

The story is at times heartbreaking as the evil acts of the Russian military officers remind the reader of the evils of German military officers during WWII. The Lithuanians were forcibly removed from their homes, herded into rail cars with little food or water, and sent thousands of miles to the Siberian prison camps. Along the way the reader is shown the worst of human nature as the Lithuanians are treated like human chattel by the Soviet military.

This is Septys first novel to be published. She wrote the book because her grandfather was a Lithuanian military officer. Many of his family was deported and imprisoned. This is an outstanding first attempt for this author. I loved the characters, and thought Sepetys did an excellent job with the first-person voice of Lina.

The novel focuses more on the human element and experiences of the Lithuanians. There is not an extensive amount of background on Stalin, the Russians, and communism in the book. Part of me wishes there was a little more on the topic, but I do think that the book does a great job of sparking a young adult’s interest in this part of the story of WWII. We need more books in young adult literature that tells this story. Throughout American history, and especially in post-secondary education, we have seen so many dupes that buy the nonsense that communism is benign and is and always was nothing to worry about.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Middle Level Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

BOOK REVIEW: Bomb: The Race to Build-And Steal-The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb

by Andrew Palmer

While I do enjoy reading a great fiction book, I would much rather curl up with non-fiction book and learn something. I realize that not all readers are like that, and young adult readers are often very reluctant to read non-fiction texts. If more writers wrote non-fiction books like this one, more of you would want to join me, and more of our teens would be interested in history.

In the biography in the back of this book, it says that Steve Sheinkin “has dedicated his life to making up for his previous crimes by crafting gripping narratives of American history.” On the surface this is a humorous quip, the reality is this is a sad truth about American history textbooks. Frankly, most of them suck. They do not engage students in any meaningful way, and they never inspire kids to investigate more. Add in an uninspiring history teacher, and it is no wonder you have a society that is apathetic and knows very little about its own history. Sheinkin has another book out that has been fairly popular with some of my students, it is called The Notorious Benedict ArnoldBenedictArnold

In Bomb, Sheinkin takes three different story lines surrounding the development and building of the world’s most dangerous weapon and weaves them together. The first is the Americans trying to build the atomic bomb. The second is the Soviets and their attempts to steal the bomb through spies. I was fascinated with this part of the book. I was excited to see this written into a book for young adults. Sheinkin also includes a little information on the reality of who Stalin was. Young adults need to hear the truth on who the Soviets really were. Finally, the third story line was the Allies attempts to sabotage the German bomb program. This was really interesting, too. The details of these missions are sure to impress any reader.

Bomb is written in narrative non-fiction. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a genre that takes a historical event and tells it like a narrative story. It is such a valuable genre for getting readers to be interested in history. Those of us that are passionate about history know that it is best told in a story format. I wish more authors would write books in this manner for the young adult book market.

Bomb was a 2013 National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book for 2013, a winner of the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award from YALSA-ALA, and it won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for best informational text. Sheinkin should be applauded for his work in this text.

Sheinkin

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AN INTERVIEW WITH YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR ANDREW KLAVAN

andrewklavanPopular, young-adult author, Andrew Klavan, took time out of his busy schedule Monday night to answer a few questions. Conservatives must understand that we can no longer ignore popular culture. We can not continue to sit around and talk about just policy and expect people to “get it”. I have read Mr. Klavan’s The Last Thing I RememberIt is an outstanding book! Pro-American, pro-freedom, and positive values all packaged in a fun, easy-to-read fictional book.tlir

Tell me a little bit about the new book that just came out If We Survive?

The book is about four kids who go down to a Central American country on a mercy mission to rebuild a school. Just as they are about to leave there is a violent Communist revolution. Suddenly the whole country is overrun by guys looking to kill Americans. Now faced with danger, these four kids have to find their way back to the border.

I noticed on Amazon.com that the book is listed as part of the Homelanders series. Is this right?

No,  If We Survive is a complete stand alone book. For some reason Amazon has it listed that way. I have tried to get them to fix it, but I have not had any luck. ifwesurvive

I saw on your website that there is a chance of a Homelanders movie in the works, any update?

I went back and visited the producers that are doing the movie and they have a draft of the script. The script has been sent into the studio. This project is taking a longer time because there has been some unexpected delays. The writer that is working on this project has been called away to work on another movie that is currently in production. There is no idea on a release date for the film as of yet.

Will there be multiple movies that match up to each book in the series?

There may be multiple movies of the Homelanders. The plan right now appears to be to merge the first three books into one script and leave the fourth book in the series open for a sequel.

Where did your first spark or interest in writing come from?  How were you encouraged and what helped you develop as a writer?  Was it a particular class, teacher, author, parents?

My spark in writing came from the fact that I was a real daydreamer as a kid. I had a strange habit, probably a little different from most kids, I wanted my daydreams to actually make sense. As a result I ended up working on them very hard. Writing was always something I wanted to do. To be honest, I didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home. It was really just a burning passion within myself that kept me at it. When I look back on it I feel like I must have been out of my mind because this is such a tough business to break into.

Tell me some books and authors, other than yourself and your books, that you would recommend for today’s youth.

I wouldn’t want to say the top three books because I think there are is an excellent variety of good books to read. A book that really meant a lot to me when I was a kid was the western Shane by Jack Schaefer. That book was just a really good story about being a boy and the rules of manhood that you look for as you grow up. I was very impressed with the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. She really did an excellent job with those. I think she has an excellent imagination which I think is very rare among today’s writers. There are also a lot of great adventure novels that are great reads that many people have forgotten about. Books like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope that have absolutely outstanding stories. Modern books have gotten a little soft in some respects. Another modern series that I think kids would enjoy is the Rick Riordan series. Oh, and one other book that comes to mind is Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

In your opinion what does it mean to “be a conservative”?

Interestingly enough, I think in America it has a unique meaning because what we are trying to conserve is a revolutionary spirit which is kind of a contradiction in terms. In England when you are a conservative you are really trying to preserve ancient rites of nobleman and an elite class of people. You know, that’s just not true in America. In America, you are trying to preserve this spark of this revolutionary moment. It sort of declared that people have the right to decide their lives for themselves. This is the thing that is so hard to argue especially when you have a media that is on the other side.

Government can do a lot of good things for people, but it can’t do anything for people without compromising their freedom and their property. What you want is a world where nobody falls through the cracks, but you want to make sure that ultimately you can keep the sweat of your brow and you can make your own decisions. So when government starts to tell people what is good for them, they may be doing them a favor, but they are taking away more than they give. So for me, being a conservative in America means to preserve the right of the guy who disagrees with me. I think this is very difficult thing because humans have this instinct to tell one another what to do. A conservatives goal in America should be to “judge not, lest you be judged.”

Have you always been a conservative? If not, what caused the conversion?

No! I grew up in a very liberal household. My brother still doesn’t know what happened to me. The thing that really caused me to change was when the Berlin Wall came down. Only Ronald Reagan said that it would and had predicted that it would. His policies turned the economy around when everybody said they would not. He was constantly derided as a stupid man and a war mongerer. When it turned out that so much of what he said came true I started to reevaluate my positions. I was always a disgruntled liberal, but I didn’t really realize that the people I was taught were evil could actually have a point of view that made sense.

Why do you think conservatives struggle so much with popular culture?

Part of it may be built into our nature. Art tends to be wild and can go off into dark places that offends. Conservatives tend to draw back from that. I think the real truth is that conservatives have been kept out of the arts, almost blacklisted. When you go to the movies and find that your point of view has been derided and denigrated it tends to put you off. You start to think that the movies are not for me, and the books are not to me. So instead you would rather play a videogame or watch a football game.

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The Socialist Revolution via Education

Interesting video…

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