YA – Walls

Elliott, Laura, and Megan Behm. Walls. Algonquin, 2021. 978-1-643-75024-8. $19.95. 352 p. Grades 7-12.

It is 1960, and Drew MacMahon and his family have recently relocated to West Germany. Drew’s mother is thrilled, since her family emigrated to the United States in 1934, and she is eager to reconnect with the great aunt, sister, and nephew that still live behind the “Iron Curtain” on the East Berlin side of the city. Drew has more reserved feelings about his family’s move; he is nervous about starting a new school and meeting his estranged extended East German family. Although he finds his cousin and aunts difficult to understand at first, he develops a tremendous amount of empathy for them and the harshness of life under Communist rule. Over the course of one tumultuous year, Drew tries to navigate his complicated new family members, the tensions of living so close to the border between East and West Germany, and problems of his new schoolmates.  At the end of the story, he and his cousin must make a terrifying decision that will change all their lives forever.

THOUGHTS: The family dynamics between Drew, his parents, his sisters, and his East German family are realistic and poignant in this book. Watching Drew’s character and sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and efforts to understand the motivations of his friends at school and the people on both sides of the Cold War was fascinating. The detailed photographs and captions at the beginning of each chapter help the reader gain much-needed context and a greater understanding of the cultural and political climate in the early 1960’s for this important historical novel.

Historical Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

Understanding the Holocaust…series NF from Reference Point Press

holocaust

Understanding the Holocaust (series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2016. 80p. $28.95 ea. Gr. 8-12.

Allen, John. Hitler’s Final Solution. 978-1-60152-840-7.

Allen, John. Holocaust Survivors. 978-1-60152-848-3.

Blohm, Craig E. Holocaust Camps and Killing Centers. 978-1-60152-842-1.

Blohm, Craig E. Holocaust Rescue and Liberation. 978-1-60152-844-5.

Blohm, Craig E. Holocaust Resistance. 978-1-60152-846-9.

MacKay, Jenny. Children of the Holocaust. 978-1-60152-838-4.

Nardo, Don. Nazi War Criminals. 978-1-60152-850-6.

Each title in Understanding the Holocaust, Reference Point Press’ new seven-book series for teen researchers, explores a different aspect of the Holocaust in depth. Children of the Holocaust by Jenny MacKay, for example, covers children in hiding, children in captivity, the killing of children, liberation, and growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust. Each book opens with a useful timeline of important dates in Holocaust history, which contextualizes the events described in the following chapters. These extremely well-written, well-organized books incorporate quotes from survivors and eyewitnesses, photographs, and sidebars on pertinent topics such as “Starvation’s Lifelong Victims.” The various authors cover these subjects in a manner that is both respectful of the Holocaust’s victims and appropriate to the intended audience. Nonetheless, some of the text and photographs are inevitably disturbing, particularly in Holocaust Camps and Killing Centers and Hitler’s Final Solution, and these particular volumes may not be the best options for introductory research on the topic. THOUGHTS: While countless resources on the Holocaust exist, because these are some of the most heavily used items in many high school libraries, there is always room on library shelves for a strong new series such as this one.

940.53; Holocaust            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School