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Thursday, 7 February 2019

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster ~ Jonathan Auxier

(5)   Juvenile Fiction (epukapuka)
Blurb:  For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on "climbing boys"—orphans owned by chimney sweeps—to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived—and a girl. With her wits and will, she's managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.

Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life—saving one another in the process.  By one of today's most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.

If I had younger children I would be sharing this with them as a read-aloud!  A clever, beautiful, poignant story about love and loss,  which was woven amongst the dark tapestry of chimney sweeps lives in Victorian London. 
The historical aspect of this book is good,  laying out the divide between the social classes, especially for the children,  and the struggle the Jewish immigrant had in Victorian Britian.   I loved Auxier’s soot golem, Charlie – he’s so loveable, and the inclusion of the Jewish history surrounding a golem.  The background of some of the Jewish observance (religious/celebration) days is also included for those not familiar with the history concerning them.  It's nice to see Auxier give William Blake's poetry (including The Chimney Sweeper) an airing too.
Don’t be tempted to skip the endnotes, they add an extra layer to this work of art by Jonathan Auxier.

Possible triggers for those with sensitive young readers: the death of parents, and, a child,  another child is sold by his parents to a sweep, sacrificial love (giving one’s life to save/protect a loved one) – Auxier touts it as, paraphrasing,  by saving others we save ourselves.)

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Cranford ~ Elizabeth Gaskell

narrated by Nadia May  (4.5)  Classic. 

Lovely book.  It took me some dogged attempts to stay with this book initially.  I’m glad I did as it evolved into a story I really came to enjoy.  Miss Matty is a gentle-spirited darling and Gaskell gifted her with a character that was easy to love – the happy ending in this read surrounds others love for her and not because of any direct event that happens to her or others.  
If you like clean, gentle reads and haven’t read this charming, gentle, domestic tale yet, which showcases life in a small village for some “ageing” women and their associates,  I recommend you do.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Two Owls at Eaton ~ Jonathan Franklin (narrated by the author)

(4.5)  N/F Memoir  pub 1960
A charming memoir about  Jonathan’s life with two rescued owls, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.  I love real life stories about owls and this one strikes all the right notes;  it’s an informative read about two engaging birds and their often humorous interactions with humans.  My family would have loved this as a read aloud during the children’s younger years especially since Owls in the Family ~ Farley Mowat became such an enjoyed read.

http://www.jonathanfranklin.name/two_owls_at_eton.htm

Friday, 25 January 2019

Irena’s Children ~ Tilar J. Mazzeo

(5)  pub 2016  N/F      Mazzeo does not try to paint Irena as a spotless saint but shows her as a woman with very real faults and foibles raising to the challenge and choosing to act with courage and focus, despite the great risk to herself,  to save lives in Warsaw during WWII.  With her husband taken by the Nazi war machine Irena  "lives in adultery" with her, also married, Jewish lover, Adam.  The fact that she is not married to Adam saves her from being sent to the ghetto and he is a deciding factor that initially draws her there.  So many seemingly ordinary Jewish and Polish people acted with absolute bravery to effect rescues of Jews and Poles during this dark portion of history.  I’ve seen the movie, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, but appreciated this audio so much more once I got past the first few chapters and became used to the narrator – she’s actually very good – this no holds barred biography is rich with good storytelling detail and is one I’d totally recommend to my IRL associates who also ‘like’ reading WWII non-fiction.

The number beside each book is my personal rating for the book, or audiobook, at the time of reading with the range being:

(1) = would not recommend,

(2) = some interesting aspects but not one of my recommended reads,

(3) = would recommend.

(4) = Really good, enjoyable, (or worthy) read, would definitely recommend

(5) = Excellent book, highly recommend