Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific


image from Junior Library Guild

Farrell, Mary Cronk. Pure Grit:  How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. ill. Nonfiction. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2014. 160 p. $24.95, 978-1-4917-1028-5. Outstanding. Grades 7-11.

From the striking cover to the harrowing stories inside, Pure Grit is a story that commands attention.  Farrell tells the story of the hundred nurses that were stationed in the Philippines during World War II.  Since most of the action of World War II had been in Europe, the nurses thought they were going to a safe place primarily to attend to the needs of military personnel and their families in peace time.

The nurses’ life in the Philippines was relaxed at first.  They played card games and attended dances.  This casual lifestyle ended abruptly when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and began bombing the Philippines the following day.  In a day, their lives went from serene to chaotic.  Almost none of the nurses had worked in a combat zone, so the shock of attending injured men, maimed, and dying men took its toll on these women.  The sound of bombs exploding was a constant.  As the war raged on, food became scarce, and many people, nurses included, became malnourished.  Diseases such as beriberi, dysentery, malaria, and leprosy spread.  When the nurses were sent to prison camps, their families didn’t receive any news of them.  By the time the war was over, and the nurses were able to go home, many of them were changed for life.  Although we didn’t have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) identified yet, many of these nurses suffered from it.  It was very difficult for them to adjust to life back home, and to make matters worse, the Veterans Administration denied benefits to them.  By the time they were formally honored for their work in 1983, many of them had already died.

Historically significant black-and-white photographs, along with maps, a dual-column text layout, glossary, list of nurses, select timeline, endnotes, bibliography, and websites for more information, complete the book.


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Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World by Ann Downer

image from amazon.com

Downer, Ann. Wild Animal Neighbors:  Sharing Our Urban World
Nonfiction. Twenty-First Century Books, 2014. 64 p. $33.27, ISBN 978-0-7613-9021-3. Outstanding. Grades 5-8.

Imagine seeing a wild coyote in your local urban sandwich shop.  That would be frightening!  That actually happened in a Quiznos Sandwich shop in Chicago, Illinois in April, 2007.  This story, along with seven other wild animals in urban settings, is told in the pages of this book.

The front cover immediately grabs our attention as a coyote is looking at us from behind the front of a car.  The rest of the book is as attention-grabbing.  Each of the eight wild animal in urban areas stories has at least a four page spread.  Each story has a sidebar with facts about that animal.  Well chosen photographs convey the severity of the story, along with well written text.

Each story not only discusses the animals in urban areas, but offers solutions about how humans can help wild animals live in our urban areas.  For example, in Montana, wildlife overpasses are being built so that animals won’t try to cross busy highways.

In addition to the eight wild animal stories, there are additional features that help make this book so fascinating. There is a map of how wild animals are affected in a city such as New York, and also a map of what wild animals are being seen in urban areas around the world.  Back matter such as source notes, an extensive selected bibliography, books and websites for further reading, an index, and photo acknowledgements help round out this outstanding addition to any public or school library.

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Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster by Connie Goldsmith

Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over Bikini:  The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. ill. Nonfiction. Twenty-First Century 2014. 88 p. $34.60, 978-1-4677-1612-3. Outstanding. Grades 7-12.

With the Cold War arms race in full force, between 1946-1954 the United States tested sixty-seven nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands, a set of islands in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia.  The major problem, besides the damage done to the environment, was that these islands were inhabited by people.  The people of the Bikini Atoll (an atoll is a group of islands formed by coral growth on a volcano that later sank into the sea) agreed to temporarily leave their home while the nuclear tests were being done.  People on the Rongelap Atoll weren’t evacuated because the U.S. government thought they were far enough away. Neither of these groups ended up being safe.

 The total radiation from all the testing in the Marshall Islands was equivalent to 7,200 Hiroshima bombs.  Many of the island natives distrust the U.S. as a result of the testing and the years of unanswered questions. The islanders have won settlements with the U.S. government, but only a paltry portion has been paid to them.

This disturbing and gripping book is a must-read.  The layout of the book is visually appealing and the photos and text boxes complement the text.  As with any good non-fiction, there are source notes, bibliography, glossary, and a further reading section. The only aspect of the book that is really problematic is the subtitle The World’s First Nuclear Disaster because if this was the first nuclear disaster, then what was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  The subtitle is almost a deal-breaker, but the author has an explanation on amazon.com. While I don’t agree with her explanation, at least she has given one.  Subtitle aside, this is a must-read.

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Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality

Book cover image of The Girl With the Great Personality

Book cover image from goodreads.com

Eulberg, Elizabeth. Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality. 265 p. Point/Scholastic. 2013. $17.99 ISBN 978-0-545-47699-7.

It’s no fun being known as the “girl with the great personality.”  But that’s what 16-year-old Lexi is known as.  To make matters worse, her seven-year-old sister spends every weekend competing in beauty pageant’s.  Lexi’s divorced mother is obsessed with the pageants and insists that Lexi attend each one to help out.  The bright side of attending the beauty pageants is that Lexi’s crush attends them since his girlfriend also is a competitor.  Starting with a bet from Bennie, her best friend, Lexi decides to stop throwing her hair in a messy ponytail and wearing old ragged clothes.

She begins wearing makeup, styling her hair, and dressing nicely.  Sure enough, she gets asked out for the first time in her life.  The new attention is nice, but there are still many unresolved issues with her family that need to be worked out.  Her “statement” at a pageant was over-the-top and may make readers cringe, but it does not detract from this age-appropriate, clean romance that a lot of tweens and younger teens will really enjoy.

Tags: friends, beauty, family, relationships, divorce

Series: This book is not part of a series.

Interest level: Grades 7-10

Rating:  4/5 stars

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  This book will be added to the HP Library.

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Catch Rider by Jennifer H. Lyne

Book cover image of Catch Rider

book cover image from goodreads.com

Lyne, Jennifer H. Catch Rider. 288 p. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin.  2013.  $16.99, ISBN 978-0-547-86871-4.

 Tags: horses, family, animals, book review

Series: This book is not part of a series.

Interest level: Grades 5-8

Rating:  4/5 stars

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  This book will be published June 4, 2013 and will be added to HP’s catalog then.

Sidney Criser, almost 15, comes from a poor, troubled, and broken family that lives in a Virginia mill town.  But she knows horses.  Her dream is to become a catch rider, a person who is such a talented rider that they can ride any horse in a competition, even if the horse and rider have never seen each other before.  Sidney has a short temper and rightfully so.  Her sweet dad Jimmy died in a car accident, and she lives with her emotionally unavailable mom and her Mom’s jerk-of-a-boyfriend.  If it wasn’t for her time spent with her Uncle Wayne and horses, she might end up just like her mother.  The horse part of the story is very authentic as is Sidney’s character.  This is the author’s debut novel, and the transitions between some sentences are not as smooth as they could be and there are some developmental gaps in the story.  For example, Sidney goes to visit a person in the woods, but it’s not clear what his role is in the plot and why she’s visiting him. These flaws aside, it is a fast, interesting, and inspiring story.  Review based on an ARC (Advance Reader Copy).

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Just a Dog

Just a Dog book cover image

book cover image from goodreads.com

Bauer, Michael Gerard. Just A Dog. 135 p. Henry Holt Publishers. 2010. (First American edition 12-2012). $16.99 ISBN 978-0-8050-9516-6.

Tags: dogs, family, animals, death, book review

Series: This book is not part of a series.

Interest level: Grades 4-7

Rating:  5/5 stars

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Just a Dog

Nine-year-old Corey, the narrator, lives in Australia with his family and dog.  In Just a Dog, Corey shares many stories about the family dog, Mister Mosely, a mix between a Great Dane and a Dalmation.  Often really funny, sometimes really sad, this book is not “just a dog book.” It’s a book about a family struggling to hold their life together during stressful financial times, and how the dog is the one family member that everyone turns to for comfort.  Mister Mosely is very loyal and perceptive, adding to the already beautiful story.  Originally published in Australia in 2010.  Highly recommend.

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Book cover image of Pulse by Patrick Carman

Book cover image from goodreads.com

Carman, Patrick. Pulse
Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, 2013. 371 p. $17.99, 978-0-06-208576-4
Grades 7-10, 4/5 stars

Harvest Park Library will buy this book.

Faith Daniels is a mysterious and beautiful  teenager living in the year 2051.  She lives in an area between the recently formed Eastern and Western States, an area that barely has any people left.  Each school that she attends closes because the population keeps dwindling, until she is left in a school with only a handful of students.  Most families end up choosing to go to one of the two states because life is supposedly better there.  One night, Faith chooses a date with a not-so-nice boy over her best friend, and she soon regrets that.  Faith discovers that she has the “pulse,” the ability to move objects with her mind.  This comes in really handy as things get heated up when good is forced to confront evil.  Fans of Patrick Carman won’t be disappointed, and he’ll probably even gain more fans after this suspenseful first book in a planned trilogy.

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