Sunday, July 1, 2012

Code Name Verity - Historical fiction at its finest

Although summer is a great time for escapist reading, it's also an opportunity to catch up on some wonderful historical fiction that complements facts learned in the social studies classroom.  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein tells the tale of Verity, a secret agent captured in enemy territory during WW II, who trades an intricately woven confession to her Nazi captors in hopes of prolonging her life.  In flashbacks she tells the story of her friendship with Maddie, a pilot who is her best friend, whom she believes died in the wrecked fuselage of their downed plane. Life: An Exploding Diagram by Mal Peet chronicles the story of Clem Ackroyd, a boy from the English working class, who begins an ill fated love affair with Frankie Mortimer, the daughter of a wealthy land owner, just as the Cuban Missile Crisis heats up. In The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Max Schmeling, a real life champion boxer and German national hero, offers to give Karl, a Jewish teen in Nazi Germany, boxing lessons. Karl, the victim of bullying, sees it as a chance to learn to defend himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl relates his newfound skills and relationship with Max in his drawings which illustrate the book.

An experienced pilot, Elizabeth Wein creates a realistic potrayal of the relationship between Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot during WW II and her best friend Queenie, a wireless operator and spy  in Code Name Verity. In part one Queenie, code named Verity, has been captured by the Nazis and is trading a hand written confession including what she knows about the British war effort, in order to postpone her inevitable execution. Assuming that Maddie died in the crash of their plane over France, Queenie primarily writes about the development of their friendship. (Spoiler alert) Part two is Maddie's "accident report." Unbeknownst to Queenie, Maddie survives the crash and spends the last part of the book attempting to rescue Queenie from her captors.

Mal Peet, the Carnegie award winning author of Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal, creates a coming-of-age tale during the Cuban Missle Crisis in his new book Life: An Exploding Diagram. The book, which spans three generations, focuses on a childhood affair between two British teens. Because Clem Ackroyd's father works for Frankie Mortimer's dad, they must meet secretly to explore their mutual attraction.  As these star-crossed lovers try to find ways to see each other, world leaders attempt to avoid WWIII.  A catastrophic event which tears the lovers apart, forever colors their futures.

Robert Sharenow is the award winning author of My Mother the Cheerleader, a story about school integration in New Orleans in 1960. He is also an Emmy Award-winning television producer and serves as executive vice president of programming for Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network. In his new book The Berlin Boxing Club, he tackles the topic of Aryan superiority in the WW II story of a young Jewish boy who develops a relationship with his father's friend, the real life boxer Max Schmeling. VOYA's review says, "This beautifully written coming-of-age story puts a human face on both the victims and the tormentors during the holocaust while revealing on a national level the political importance and implications of the historic match between black boxer Joe Louis and German hero Max Schmeling.”

All three books are carefully researched and beautifully written.  If you are like me, and like your history dished up on a fictional plate, you will love the latest historical novels by these award winning authors.

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