Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Favorite War Books

While I was thinking about what to choose this week, I had a few decisions to make.  Did I want to pick a book about a real war or a fake one (Because, if I had gone with fake, Westerfeld's Succession is amazing.)  I could also be kind of glib about it (part of me really wanted to put down The Chocolate War.)

I decided against all of that, however.  I decided to give you a war book that actually spans two wars and is very much real.

If you've ever read (or seen) Schindler's List, you know the hype behind the little girl in the red coat.  The red coat is the ONLY splash of color in the entire movie.  And even in the book, she kind of makes an appearance in a big way (she's lingering behind the line, being moved gently along by a Nazi soldier, and before she turns the corner, this five year old girl watches a man be dragged out into the street and shot.)

What you may not of known is that this little girl actually existed, and did not die (like the movie suggests.)  Not only did she live, she wrote a memoir about her life.  She was very young during the Holocaust, and even at that young age remembered the dangers she was in.  She remembered moving from house to house and the people who took them in, risked their lives for her and her mother during those years of Nazi occupation in Poland.

What's even more heartbreaking is that when the war finally ended, and Poland was liberated, she was still trapped.  Everyone was so hopeful when the Russians were around.  They thought it was going to be the dawn of a new age.  They thought that things were finally going to get better.  But, as we all know, they didn't.  Things were horrific during those Cold War years.

And Ligocka was a teen during those years.  A moody, rebellious teen, just like all teens seem to be.  The book is moving and sad and hopeful and... really, just beautiful.  She tells a wonderful story that you just can't put down.

Out of all the wars in the world (even excluding fictional ones) Cassy and I managed to pick two books from the same war, and specifically, about the Holocaust.

I love Art Spiegelman's Maus I & II. They are graphic novels about his father's experiences in World War II. He sat down with his father and interviewed him about what it was like to be a Polish Jew during the Holocaust.

In the illustrations, each animal represents a different group: mice are Jews, cats are Nazis, pigs are non-Jewish Poles, dogs are Americans.

The first volume was the first graphic novel ever to win a Pulitzer prize, in 1992. Maus was originally serial, published in Raw.

One of my favorite things about these books is that,  by using the interview with his father as a story-telling framework, Spiegelman combined the as-it's-happening account of the war with the many-years-later perspective, blending the two very well.


  1. I loved Cassy's selection. It was such a great book. I don't remember reading Maus, but I feel like I must have at least flipped through it, because those different animals keep popping up in my head. I don't know if I really like books about war, but I feel like I've read several where various wars were the backdrop. Unsurprisingly, growing up a Jewish girl, most of the war books I have read have been about WWII and the Holocaust specifically. I was having the conversation with Travis the other day about when most people learn about it in school. I feel like its a subject I have always known about. I think Number the Stars was the first novel I read about it, back in 5th grade or something like that.

    1. Number the Stars was the first one I read too, I think (Funny story. The part where the dogs sniff the handkerchief and lose their sense of smell so that the Jews could hide? Well, my 5th grade teacher was trying to get us to guess what happened and everyone kept getting it wrong, so I read ahead in the book and then told her the answer. XD)

      I've read a LOT of holocaust books. Mainly because, if you think about it, most of the books out there are about the Holocaust. When going through my "Read" list, trying to decide what book I wanted to read, only one of them was about a war other than WWII (The Things They Carried. I HIGHLY recommend it. It's Vietnam, I think.)

      I'm glad you've read my book, though! I try to get as many people as humanly possible to read that book.