Friday, March 12, 2010

Ashes by Kathryn Lasky, reviewed by Miss Ami

I 'discovered' historical fiction in college, and have been a voracious reader of it ever since. As a result, it is hard to find a part of history I haven't read several novels about already. When I saw this one advertised, I thought "Oh great, yet another WWII book." Being authored by Lasky, however, automatically puts it on my order list.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lasky does in fact manage to address a period we don't normally see in children's books, and does a fantastic job of it. Ashes describes Hitler's rise to power through the eyes of a young German girl, Gabriella. The political maneuverings and citizens' varying reactions to propaganda are relayed through radio and newspaper announcements and changes at Gabriella's school, as well as conversations with her older sister, her parents, and their friend and neighbor, Albert Einstein, making it completely age appropriate and easy for any reader to understand. (Let me add that I adore Einstein, and any book that gives kids a glimpse into his personality and spirit automatically gains ten points in my esteem).

All of the characters are well drawn, whether based on real people or completely fictional. Gabriella learns some hard lessons when people she idolizes are not who she had built them up to be, and when she herself does things she is immediately ashamed of. The book does not end exactly as you might want it to for all of the characters, which I am grateful for - a book leading up to WWII with a happy ending would be the height of ridiculous.

Great addition to any middle or high school library, and a strong possibility for a class reading assignment. Review copy pulled from our library shelf and read during lunch hours:)

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