Friday, June 13, 2008

Lesia's Dream by Laura Langston

This was a wonderful quick read. Langston manages to teach the reader about a historical period in Canada in a riveting way that combines history, suspense and romance. Lesia is a 16 year old Ukrainian who comes with her family to Canada, "the land of milk and honey" to find happiness and become rich. Instead she finds the people unwelcoming, hostile, the land poor and conditions as hard as they were in the Ukraine. When Canada enters World War I, her father and brother are declared "enemy aliens" and are sent to an internment camp. The book describes Lesia and her family's struggles to survive during these difficult years. If not for the help and kindness of Andrew who has been here 13 years, Lesia and her family would not have succeeded.
Although the book begins with Lesia in 2003 writing as a great-grandmother and then remembering the past, this is really only a small part of the book. I was unaware of internment camps for Ukrainians in Canada so I feel I learned something of what Lesia must have faced. My mother's family endured this kind of bigotry during World War II as Canadians of Italian heritage were also sent to internment camps. My uncle was imprisoned during the war, but went on to become the first Italian-Canadian elected to the House of Commons during the Diefenbaker years. My aunts have often spoken of changing their names and dyeing their hair to get work during the Second World War.
This is a well written book that holds the reader's interest without being too heavy handed. Highly recommended.

Book details:

Lesia's Dream
by Laura Langton
published by HarperTrophy Canada, 2003

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Book Review: The Last Girls of Pompeii

I anticipated a great juvenile fiction read when I signed this book out of my library. The story line was interesting: it follows two young Pompeiian girls, Julia and her slave Sura just prior to the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Filled with lots of detail about the customs of Roman society and specifically the city of Pompeii, it was fascinating to read.
The reader knows that the eruption will be part of the book, but the ending was exciting and yet sad simultaneously.
I have one very strong criticism of this book which is marketed for ages 9 to 12 years. There were a number of scenes with strong sexual overtones and innuendo in the first half of the book which I felt were completely unnecessary. I was left wondering WHY the author incorporated this into what otherwise was a really great story.
Because of this, I cannot recommend this book for this age group. Unfortunately, older teens my not find the book will hold their interest.