YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION: A Thousand Sisters by Elizabeth Wein & A Light in the Darkness by Albert Marrin


ABOUT THE BOOK

The true story of the only women to fly in combat in World War II

In the early years of World War II, Josef Stalin issued an order that made the Soviet Union the first country in the world to allow female pilots to fly in combat. Led by Marina Raskova, these three regiments, including the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—nicknamed the “night witches”—faced intense pressure and obstacles both in the sky and on the ground. Some of these young women perished in flames. Many of them were in their teens when they went to war.

This is the story of Raskova’s three regiments, women who enlisted and were deployed on the front lines of battle as navigators, pilots, and mechanics. It is the story of a thousand young women who wanted to take flight to defend their country, and the woman who brought them together in the sky.


REVIEW

This well-written account of the women who flew in combat for the Soviet Union during World War II was fascinating to me.  The amount of detail that Wein includes is astounding.  She traces the general history of the three female units created by Marina Raskova and the Soviet military, but she also includes specific experiences and histories of some of the different women who were part of the experiment.  Wein does a remarkable job pulling together a lot of disparate parts of the story.  The different units, their responsibilities, training, and missions are all presented in a very readable way.  For such a text-heavy, lengthy book, I found it to be a compelling, interesting story.  A book like this could be very dry, but it isn't, and I moved through it rather quickly.  The personal stories interspersed through the book were especially compelling.  It's clear that the research that went into the book was immense.  The photographs were excellent and a nice complement to the text.  The documentation of the book is thorough, with notes on each chapter, a bibliography, and an index.  A great book that takes a look at an aspect of World War II that isn't well known.


ABOUT THE BOOK

The story of Janusz Korczak, the heroic Polish Jewish doctor who devoted his life to children, perishing with them in the Holocaust.

Janusz Korczak was more than a good doctor. He was a hero. The Dr. Spock of his day, he established orphanages run on his principle of honoring children and shared his ideas with the public in books and on the radio. He famously said that "children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today." Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Korczak was also a Polish Jew on the eve of World War II. He turned down multiple opportunities for escape, standing by the children in his orphanage as they became confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Dressing them in their Sabbath finest, he led their march to the trains and ultimately perished with his children in Treblinka.

Albert Marrin examines not just Janusz Korczak's life but his ideology of children: that children are valuable in and of themselves, as individuals. He contrasts this with Adolf Hitler's life and his ideology of children: that children are nothing more than tools of the state.

And throughout, Marrin draws readers into the Warsaw Ghetto. What it was like. How it was run. How Jews within and Poles without responded. Who worked to save lives and who tried to enrich themselves on other people's suffering. And how one man came to represent the conscience and the soul of humanity.


REVIEW

Albert Marrin's A Light in the Darkness tells the powerful story of Janusz Korczak, the doctor who gave up his lucrative career to run an orphanage.  But the narrative goes far beyond that.  Marrin shares what little is known about Korczak, his background, and life, but he also shares the ideals that drove Korczak to do the things he did.  In stark contrast to those ideas, Marrin also shares a brief biography of Hitler and his beliefs.  The contrast between the two men is rather extreme.  I was very touched while reading the parts about Korczak and what he sacrificed for the children in his care.  I was sickened reading about Hitler and his followers and the beliefs that led to the horrible things they did.  Marrin has written a book that nobody could read without getting emotional.  I just don't think you could read this book and not be effected in some way.  The stark contrast between Korczak and Hitler is just so striking.  This comparison makes Korczak's goodness all the more apparent.  This is a powerful book that I highly recommend.  However, I wouldn't give it to just any reader.  Especially sensitive readers may struggle reading about Hitler and his followers and the horrible things they did.  I had to stop reading a time or two in order to think things through.  An important and powerful book for those looking to learn more about the Holocaust. 

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