Sunday, November 24, 2013

World War I by Simon Adams (2001)

I have never really understood World War I and am now listening to a Fall of Giants by Ken Follett a long novel on the war. But I needed to visualize some of the things I was hearing, so I went to the children's book section and found this - Eyewitness Books are great. This one helped me understand this war by actually seeing the trenches, the equipment, the different players - both individuals and nations and groups within nations, the war on the various fronts. With a combination of short texts, photographs, artifacts, illustrations, it gave an overview where I could fill in details from Follett's novel. It still boggles my mind on what minor reasons the war was started and how it pulled in so many countries around the world. Follett's extensive book only covers in detail Britain, Germany, Russia and the U.S., and much of it happens in France, but the war involved so many more. I find the losses in lives just beyond comprehension - over 16 million dead, and over 20 million injured! I think I saw a recent number for US losses at about 400,000, and they got in the war at the very end. I will discuss it more when I describe Follett's book, but for now I am thankful for this insight.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)

A book suggested by my goddaughter as a popular book for young adults. I can see why. It tackles all those heavy questions about life in an entertaining story. Miles has no friends in his high school, so he is ready for something different when he goes to Culver Creek Boarding School, and ends up rooming with the Colonel, who doesn't care that Miles - nicknamed "Pudge" - is a nerd. Alaska is this crazy girl into smoking and drinking and doing crazy things, but it makes Miles come to life. They ask many of the deep questions we have in our youth, and if we don't get too busy with everything, we continue asking throughout our lives. Author Green uses the religion class to insert Islamic, Christian and Buddhist ideas about some of these questions. The story is mostly about the group of students getting through a year together, making mischief where they can. There are two parts to the story, the Before and After part, and instead of chapter numbers, each chapter begins with the number of days before or after the breaking event. I enjoyed the way this book tackled a big issue I have seen students around me dealing with. No wonder it got an American Library Association award.