A Night Divided



Gerta went to bed Saturday night, but woke up the next morning with a grim sight outside her window. A barbed wire wall divided her city in half. The realization stunned her as she remembered her father and brother were on the other side of the wall. How would they come home to Gerta, her mom and brother? Why would anyone want to build a wall in the middle of her beloved city? What was going to happen to her family?


The Berlin Wall is the topic of Jennifer Nielsen’s new middle grade historical fiction book, A Night Divided. The story is set in 1961 when the city of Berlin was separated in half by a wall that would last for the next 28 years. This concrete wall is considered by many to be the symbol of the Cold stemming the mass defection of citizens from communist East Germany to the west.


The book is well researched and brought back memories of one of the most frightening days of my life.  I was 18 years old and an American Field Service exchange student visiting Berlin with other members in my group. West Berlin was a vibrant city with museums, shopping and discos. Bright neon lights lit the downtown at night. We didn’t have a bored moment as we tried to experience all that West Berlin offered. This video shows what life was like in West Berlin at that time.

The organizers of our trip also wanted us to experience the other side of Berlin behind the huge wall that divided the city. Being the naïve and self-absorbed teenagers we were, few of us realized the history lesson we were about to learn.


We crossed at Checkpoint Charlie, the main crossing area for westerners. It was a particularly intimidating experience as we had to give up our passports, sit in a room and then wait for our number to be called. These were the days before modern airport security checks, so being so screened with such severity was frightening to us. The freedom I took for granted as an American suddenly had new meaning.


Entering East Berlin was like stepping back 30 years into postwar Germany. I’ll never forget the images of gray that permeated the city. Gray concrete buildings. Gray streets. Gray cars. Drab clothing on people who seemed to carry defeat on their shoulders. It was common to see World War II bombed buildings still empty and never re-built. It was like going from technicolor to black and white.

Courtesy Britannica Images

Courtesy Britannica Images

All of us had the opportunity to have lunch with an East German family. Mine shared how their family had been divided by the wall and they had no idea when they would see their loved ones again. After being nearly hit by a car who tried to hit me and a friend as we walked on the sidewalk, I wanted out…..now! It took some convincing, but we postponed our return a couple hours and went to an East German play. I appreciated seeing communism hadn’t completely squelched the arts. Still, like the rest of the group, I couldn’t leave fast enough. We made it back before the midnight deadline and embraced the freedom afforded to us because we were American.

A Night Divided brought back all of these memories. After hearing Jennifer Nielsen talk her process in bringing this part of history to life, I felt compelled to make a trailer for her book. The images and words were bubbling inside me needing to be released. In the weeks since, my students and I have had many lively conversations about the wall and this part of history few westerners talk about anymore. Usually historical fiction is not the genre students clamor to read. Yet the 20 hold slips of students who want to check out this book from our library tell me that Jennifer got it right. Find A Night Divided at your local library or favorite bookstore. Recommended for ages 9+ Visit Jennifer Nielsen’s website and find out more about this and other books she has written.


A Boy and his Dog

How much do you love your dog?

Are you brave enough to give him away?

duke picm

Duke, by award winning author Kirby Larson, is set in Seattle during World War II. Hobie’s father has been sent to Europe to fight in the war. Everyone is doing their part to support the war movement and Hobie hopes if he helps too, his dad will come home faster. When he finds out there’s a program where he can “lend” Duke, his German shepherd, to Dogs for Defense he is torn.



The poster in his classroom seems to be screaming at him. Are YOU doing all you can?  Hobie struggles inside. Is he really doing everything he can to help his dad? He’s saving all his dimes to buy war stamps. He’s helping his Uncle Tryg and trying to be the man of the house for his mom.



Is it enough? Hobie has spent hours training Duke and the military could use him to sniff out mines or help patrol borders. It is important work and Duke would be a great defense dog.

From the moment Hobie says yes, and watches Duke leave, he regrets his decision. What if Duke doesn’t come home? What if his Dad doesn’t come home? Does Hobie have what is takes to be this brave? You will have to read Duke and find out!

Duke launch collage

Kirby had a book launch party at Third Place Books recently. She talked about her love of history, the research about Dogs for Defense and the backstory she used from her own family that developed into the book. You can also watch an interview with Kirby talking about her book.

Kirby is a serious dog lover and a portion of the proceeds went to Reading with Rover, a local reading organization where children read to dogs and practice their reading in a fun and non-stressful way. Along with some other Reading with Rover teams, Reese and I had the opportunity to attend the launch of Duke at Third Place Books.

IMG_2028cAll the copies sold out and I think Kirby found some new fans for her books! Kirby also signed copy for our library! Thank you! Check out Duke at your local library or buy a copy at your favorite bookstore. If you would like to learn more, visit Kirby Larson’s website and find out about other books she has written.


Could you give up your dog or other pet for a good cause?

How can students help other people?





Favorite Books of 2012

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t forget?

Did it make you laugh? Cry? Shout?

 Today’s post is about my favorite books from 2012. These are the standout books from a year of reading.  Even though I may have read them months ago, I still think about them and consider them book friends. When I see the cover, or think of a passage from the book, I get a smile on my face. Not all of these books were written in 2012, although most of them were. I am in the process of reading all the Newbery Medal winners, so one book was published years ago. All, except the young adult books are available in our library. I hope you will stop in and check them out!

Tomorrow the American Library Association will announce all of the Youth Media Awards at their Mid-Winter Conference here in Seattle. I will be at the press conference for the very first time!  I can’t wait to see what books won medal and honor awards. Above any other books, I have my fingers crossed for The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Wonder by RJ Palacio.

Here are my standouts from a year of reading!

Categories: Favorite Graphic Novels, Favorite Picture Books, Favorite Non-Fiction Picture Books,Favorite Middle Grade Novels, Favorite Young Adult Novels, Favorite Audio Books

So there you are…my favorites. Not all will win awards tomorrow at the ALA conference. However, they have already won a special award in my heart because each of these books has touched me in a very personal way. I’m looking forward to lots of reading in 2013 and seeing where my reading travels take me!


Were any of these books favorites for you this year?

Is there a book I should have included?

Leave us a comment and let us know!

Our Library Research Unit

Photo by TinaLouise- Creative Commons permission

Photo by TinaLouise- Creative Commons permission

Every September, the Puyallup Fairgrounds south of Seattle hosts a huge country fair with rides, snacks, animals and 4-H competitions. 

Many people do not realize that these fairgrounds, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, were also the site of a place called Camp Harmony.  It was here that thousands of Japanese-American citizens from the Seattle area were housed before being shipped to the Minidoka Incarceration Center in Idaho.

Photo property of Museum of History

Photo property of Museum of History

After reading Kirby Larson’s new book, The Fences Between Us, I decided tying together the Big 6 research process with this part of Seattle’s history would be one way for our 5th and 6th grade students to find out a little fencesmore about this topic.

It also turned out to be timely. Just last week, as the Japanese American community marked their Day of Remembrance, Seattle University announced that they would award honorary degrees to the 15 Japanese-Americans whose educations were disrupted and were incarcerated during World War II. For most, relatives will accept the degree as all but one of the former students have since passed away.

Using some of the project suggeted by Kirby Larson in her book, students had to decide upon a topic: The bombing of Pearl Harbor, Camp Harmony, Minidoka Incarceration Center, The Densho Project, The Civil Liberties Act, the 442 Regiment, or Seattle’s former Japantown. Then teams of students  had to use books and the internet to research 10 facts about their topic and create a poster, displaying their facts and related photos.

Here are their projects in a Photopeach presentation.




What did you learn about this topic?

What topic have you done for a research project?

Leave us a comment and let us know!


February Student Book Reviews

February Book Reviews on PhotoPeach


Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda – Review by Julius

This is a magical and mysterious book about wizards and sorcerers. There are two boys that are best friends and one happens to be the king of all the land. The king’s best friend, Jarred is accused of trying to kill the king. He is banished from the palace and has to survive in the poor town of Del.

            Suddenly he finds out that there has been a great darkness that has been attacking Del for a long time. His son and his partner in crime have to set out and find the stones that complete the belt of light and defeat the shadow lord. CAN THEY SURVIVE?

            There are many reasons why I liked this book. Here are a few; this book has a lot of adventure and fantasy, and I love adventure and fantasy. Also, this book reminded me of Harry Potter because it has that whole wizards and wands defeating the darkness effect.

Another reason why I love this book is that it was very suspenseful. Throughout the book, I was so scared to turn the page because you didn`t want something horrid to happen to the characters, but yet you didn`t want to stop because you were also dying to know what happens next.   

  This is a quite easy read and is fairly short. I really recommend this book to any age, although you have to be a fantasy and adventure lover because this book contains a lot of it.  Even so, you should still give this book a go because I am betting you will like it.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow -Review by Blake

 This is a great, fun filled book about Winston, but please calls him Marcus. He is only 17 years old, but he has figured out how the system works and he works the system; a smart, fast and wise, networked world.  He has no trouble outwitting his high school surveillance systems.  His whole world changes when he and his friends skip school and get caught in the after math of a terrorist attack in downtown San Francisco.  He is captured by the Dept. of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret asylum.  Read the book to find out the rest!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney – Review by Elliott

This is about a kid named Greg who is having a hard time in middle school. He is trying to fit in with all the so called popular kids. He also just lost his best friend, but deep inside they still want to be friends. They are both trying to find new friends, but keep ending up together somehow. You will be taken on a long and funny ride with Greg as you experience his life and his friends. Be sure to read the other books first, as this is number 5 in the series. If you like really funny books, this one is for you!

Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman  by Dave Pilkey- Review by Mark

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes action because it is funny and it has a lot of fighting in it.  It is really interesting because the teacher turned into a villain and had hands coming out of her hair!!  The author gives a lot of details in the story; for example when they were about to go to sleep and they heard something in the bushes and it turned out to be the Wedgie Woman! She took them and made a portrait of George and Harold so the other children would not notice that they are not there.  The author makes the story interesting and you do not want to do anything until you finish it.

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis – Review by Devon

      Have you ever felt so lonely, that you want to rip the despicable out of everybody you never met? Well I could tell you, not the best idea…. But don’t try to explain this to Buddy….. I MEAN BUD!

 Bud is not too bright, which means that his imagination can lead to some drastic things, but cause some great adventures… Would you try to escape from a foster family with a boy who sticks pencils up your nose and makes your nose drip in the puddles of blood, when they lock you outside the house in a scary dark shed?  I guess not, but Bud can’t stop himself.   He’s pretty smart which greatly adds to the adventures of Bud Cosweld on the lam!

 This book is amazing… a perfect book for anybody who wants to read an amazing story they can’t put down.  This book is my favorite!

Eldest by Christopher Paolini–Review by Moses

 Eldest, the second book of the Inheritance series is a timeless fantasy! After the death of Durza (Gallbatorix’s right hand man) and the victory for the Varden, Eragon suffers from a fatal scar from the duel with Durza in the first book. Too make matters worse Adjaid, king of the Varden and Murtagh dies, Eragon mourns for them. Meanwhile Gallbatorix is planning something to avenge his defeat. I recommend Eldest for older readers because of violence. I really enjoy this book, Check it out today!

Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan -Review by Jack

           “Look, I don’t want to be a half blood.” This is what Percy Jackson said before he started his long journey. He did not know the gods were tangling him in a mystery of the stolen lightning bolt. One that no simple person would have imagined. He could see what no normal person could see. Percy never wanted to be a half-blood. He just was.  

This book is about his big adventure to unlock the mystery of Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt. Only Percy and his two friends are on the journey. All the Greek gods think he stole it, except his father. Percy was set to have an adventure he never asked for. One a half blood had to face, even though Percy never asked to be a half blood, or have a marvelous adventure. It was hard enough with the mystery of his father’s disappearance and his mom’s terrifying boyfriend.   

If you like the Greek gods, or want to read about a half blood’s exclusive adventure, this is the book for you. I recommend this book to everyone.

Bella The Bunny Fairy by Daisy Meadows- Review by Diana

Bella is a fairy that had a bunny until Jack Frost took the magical bunny. Rachel and Kristy are both best friends they also are friends to the fairies. The setting is in Rachel’s cousins house at Easter.  The pets found a hole in the castle wall, so they escaped to the human world. Will the friends rescue the bunny or will the goblins take the bunny back to the castle?  Read this book to find out.

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: Diary of Patsy a Freed Slave Student Review by Devon


 “Dear America” is a historic series that shows-off  the important events that took place over a long period of time. Although it’s probably a fact that Patsy (the main character) was not an actual person, I sometimes wonder if this book is based on a true story.  I put my opinion into this book review and I will try my best to get you all to read it, because in my thoughts, it breaks through the barriers of fact, and sprinkles a bucket of fiction throughout the rich pages! This book is historically adventurous!

 Of course you have already guessed, that Patsy is the main character, and of course, a character has a cause, and for Patsy, that cause is slavery. Patsy is a slave, and she tries her hardest to work for the mistress, and she kind of enjoys it, well, as much as she can the task of dusting the library. But why would a slave enjoy dusting an old library? Well, to tell you, she is different from most slaves, but how? She can read!

 A fact in this story is that most slaves cannot read or write, yet little old Patsy has her special features, behind the Master and Mistresses back, Patsy practices reading and writing. Patsy the slave, can read and write, and so she writes in her diary. She writes about her adventures of the day.  She goes about her day’s events such as cooking and cleaning the manor, but one grateful day, the Yankees arrive and claim the slaves are… FREE!  After this statement was made, the whole manor fell apart!  One after another, the freed men and women left to search for their families.  But in the mean time, everyone else must claim his or her last name! Everyone is joined in the commotion and still, Patsy still has not decided what her last name should be!

     I’m not going to spoil such outstanding and thrilling historic events, so I strongly recommend this book to any adventure seekers and all the history admirers!  “I thought my soul would rise and fly” when I read this!