Dewey and Sarah’s Key

October 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm (Uncategorized)

I read these two, one right after the other, in two days. They both hard to put down! What’s funny though, is one is light and has laugh out loud moments, the other was darker and made me want to cry instead. With that said…

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Dewey is one lucky cat. He was stuffed into a library book drop box on the coldest night of the year. He’s lucky because for the next two decades almost, he finds a wonderful home in the Spencer Library. Unlike most cats that remain aloof, deeming you unworthy of their royal attention, Dewey is exactly the opposite. He greets patrons at the door, likes to be held over a person’s left shoulder, and will take naps in laps.

Spencer is a town down on it’s luck for economic reasons, and the library wasn’t that great of a spot to go to. Dewey’s arrival helped to usher in some changes for the town and its residents. Word got out that the library has a kitten in residence, and the folks were compelled to check it out. Dewey won almost all of them over. I remember there was an instance where one particular woman kept threatening to parade her cow in the town if the cat wasn’t removed. He never left, and she never made an appearance with her cow.

Throughout the book, Vicki explains the trials that she, Dewey, and the town faced, and how Dewey, in one way or another, helped. He helped bring in more patrons, which in turn helped convince the higher ups to renovate the library. He provided friendly competition, by deciding which lap to plop himself on. He helped one mentally disabled child come out of her shell a bit, and he’s patient with the little ones. And of course, he provided hours of entertainment. He napped in boxes too small to fit his entire body, he played hide and seek, and climbed overhead light fixtures.

It’s a charming book, and it shows how something so small can make such a huge impact.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This was such a sad book! Sarah and her family are French Jews during the WWII. It’s told in two ways : through Sarah herself, and through a reporter, Julia, covering an article of the 60th anniversary of the event, the Vel’ d’Hiv’.

It takes place during the Holocaust, in France. Sarah is a French born Jew, and she’s only 10 years old. French police have been arresting Jewish men, so there’s fear among the Jews, causing the men to leave, or hide at night. One night, the police come to Sarah’s home, but this time they come for the entire family. Sarah, unknowing of what’s really going on, ferrets her 4 year old brother into a secret compartment and locks it, promising to let him out soon. She thinks they will return for breakfast and all will be normal. So begins the horrific event that still shames France.

All of the Jewish families gathered that night are brought to the Vel’ d’Hiv’. They are crammed in their like cattle, with no food or water, for days. When Sarah’s father realizes what she did with her brother, he knows what you, the reader know – the child will die. After a few days of starvation, they are herded onto trains and taken to the idyllic countryside, to a holding camp. The men are the first to go, almost immediately. Shortly after, the children are taken, despite the screaming of the women, and their heads are shaved. By this time, Sarah is desperate to get back to her brother.

She manages to escape, and with the help of an elderly couple, she makes her way back home to hoorifying results.

Julia is married to a chauvinistic French man. He’s rude and uncouth, but always apologetic and great in bed. After learning of her article, he tells her to forget it, it’s old news. Like a good reporter, she starts doing research into the event, and seeks out witnesses and survivors. After a strange conversation with her grandmother-in-law, she starts to realize that her in-laws may have a story to tell about that time period. They just don’t want to discuss it. After some digging around, she comes across information about Sarah’s family, and she starts to unfold the events that transpired after Sarah’s discovery.

The story doesn’t get any better. It remains just as sad. It’s a well written book, and to answer one of the reading group questions in the back, I preferred Sarah’s voice. Hearing the events from a 10 year old makes it even more powerful. An adult knows what’s going on, and they will try to protect the children from it. For the children, there is only fear. They get ripped from the familiar, forced to endure the hardships of starvation and pitiful living conditions. They are forcibly separated from their parents, their rock and anchor, forced to become orphans and fend for their selves. It’s a lot more depressing and shameful.

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We Bought a Zoo, Tethered, The Heretic Queen

October 13, 2008 at 9:50 pm (Uncategorized)

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee

As the title implies, it’s a true story of how one family managed to buy a real zoo. I had expected this book to share the trials of obtaining a zoo, caring for the animals, and how they managed to get it all to work. Also expected it to have some humorous moments, and I was not let down in any aspect.

The family never planned to buy a zoo, but when an opportunity presented itself, they figured “why not?” and made a bid for it. When the deal fell through, oh well, it was cool to have tried. In a twist of fate, the original winner decided not to go through with it, and the family tried again, and this time they were successful.

It was hardly a state of the art zoo to begin with. It was in disrepair, facilities were outdated, and some of the animals needed some real looking after. So began the parks rejuvenation. Not everything was perfect though. They had financial struggles – zoos aren’t cheap to maintain and feed after all. They also had a very personal struggle. The authors wife, Katherine, lost her battle to a terminal cancer, and passed away.

They’ve dealt with escaped animals, and also gave them some necessary treatment, like dental work, after they renovated their veterinary area. Benjamin, the author, has a thing for brambles, it seems. After a close encounter with a porcupine, and being startled by the lions (I think, can’t remember at the moment, sorry!) he falls right into them.

They battle the evil banks and debtors. They do everything possible to get their license to open the zoo. In the end, it was all worth it. The zoo opened successfully, and everybody enjoyed themselves.

If I ever make it across the Atlantic, it’s a place I’d like to go to. It may not be super fancy big, but it’d still be cool, since I’ve read all about it. Dartmoor Zoological Park.

Tethered by Amy Mackinnon

First thing I gotta say is.. ever since Trecie’s character was introduced in the story.. she’s had an ethereal feeling about her. I couldn’t help but feel that something wasn’t right about her, that she wasn’t quite real.

The story as a whole was sad. The character I mentioned before, Trecie, is the core focus. She’s a little girl that seems to pop in and slip away without anyone noticing. Strange thing is though, she’s only seen at a funeral home, and only by one person. Through it all, in the unseen background, is the tragic story of Precious Doe.

Clara Marsh is the undertaker for a funeral home. The director, Linus, and his wife, Alma, consider Clara to be their adopted daughter, even though she tries to keep her distance. One thing I liked about her, is she always gives the deceased a small bundle of flowers to match their personalities. It’s an even more personal touch when you find out they come from the greenhouse behind her cottage, which happens to be tucked away behind the funeral home, all hidden from view.

It is after she finishes a body one day that first meets Trecie, whom she realizes needs her help later on. While collecting some bodies later on, she learns some startling things. One had a stash of child pornography, where she swears she recognizes Trecie as one of the children. At another, she believes she sees a child that looks a lot like Trecie, a sister perhaps, holding the dog she believes came from the body formerly mentioned.

Through it all, she tries to assist Mike, a detective investigating this newfound child pornography case and its connection to Trecie. We learn some heartbreaking things toward the end, and make a startling discovery that I quite honestly didn’t expect. I’m just glad to have found that a sneaking suspicion about one of the characters turned out to be right, though I didn’t expect him to have done what they did either. It goes to show you that no one is truly untouchable.

It’s a haunting mystery that reflects the very real issue of child abuse. There’s nothing really light or humorous about it, given it’s subject. It’s a sad book that put me in a mellow mood, so make sure it’s not read on a rainy day, or you might get depressed!

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

I’ll confess, as fascinating as I find Egyptian mythology and history to be.. I don’t know all too much about it! This was a great book though. It was really difficult to put it down, and when I was done, I couldn’t help but wish I had known about, and had, her previous book, Nefertiti.

Nefertari is an Egyptian princess. She’s smart as a whip and best friends with two boys – Asha, and Ramesses, future Pharaoh. Her only problem, besides being unladylike, is she’s the niece of Nefertiti, the famous heretic queen. Because they share the same blood, Egypt believes she will amount to nothing, that she can never have a true position of power, lest Egypt sees another Nefertiti. So when Ramesses announces his engagement to the ditzy Iset, she’s hurt and disappointed. She makes the decision that if she’s going to be his future wife, and Queen of Egypt, she’ll have to leave for a year and train as a priestess.

When she returns and gets her wish with her own marriage to Ramesses, she now travels the delicate road that is the royal court and state affairs. She sets out to be a good and proper wife, as well as a useful wife, with all her knowledge and linguistic skills.

By the end of the book, we see her through a war, a battle against pirates and the birth of her children. We see her become accepted by Egypt and accepted as the favorite wife. It is a great story, and one I am so glad to have been able to read, after a few failed attempts of getting a copy. I will have to track down her previous book, Nefertiti, and keep an eye on her for her future works.

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