Friday, July 19, 2013

Spotlight on Young Adult Books

Shadow on the Mountain
by Margi Preus

Within two weeks of the German invasion of Norway in 1940, Norway’s military had disbanded and the king and other government leaders had fled to England.  Germany’s military controlled Norway with ruthless tactics and a strong presence -- one German soldier for every eight Norwegian citizens.  Still, many Norwegians resisted the occupation and formed underground groups to fight the Nazis.
This is a fictional account of teenagers involved in that Resistance.

Fourteen-year-old Espen first works delivering underground newspapers, then acts as a courier, and eventually takes on more dangerous assignments and more responsibility.  While this is certainly a spy story, filled with adventure, it is also a story of friendship and trust as Espen and his best friend, each in an attempt to “put the world right” choose opposite sides.

Many of Espen’s experiences are based on the real-life experiences of Erling Storrusten.  Photographs and details about Storrusten are included in the back of the book.

My favorite book from last year was Bomb by Steve Sheinkin which tells of the sabotage of the heavy water plant in Norway.  Shadow on the Mountain dovetails with that story and makes a great companion book.

The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure
by Martin Sandler

In September of 1897, nine ships were whaling near Point Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost point of the United States) when temperatures suddenly plummeted and heavy ice swept in from the sea, forcing the ships to drop anchor.  One of the ships (the Alexander) was able to break free of the ice and head for home, but four ships remained ice locked and four other sips were unaccounted for.  The captain of the Alexander sped to his home port (San Francisco) and spread the news: there were eight ships and 256 men trapped in the Arctic where the weather was brutal, conditions were treacherous, and the food would not last through the winter.

The news traveled up the coast.  Newspapers in San Francisco and Seattle reported the story.  The San Francisco Whaling Company and family member sent telegrams to President McKinley pleading with him to send a rescue party no matter how unlikely its success seemed.

President McKinley ordered that a rescue be attempted.  First a United States Revenue Cutter Service ship (the Bear) would travel as far north as possible.  From there, three men would go ashore and travel by dog sled overland more than 1500 miles.  In the dead of winter.  With temperatures 40E below zero.  Without accurate maps.  Along the way, they were to convince two men to give up their reindeer herds and then persuade them to drive the two reindeer herds (more than 400 deer) to Point Barrow, so the stranded men would have food.  They would then wait for the Bear to rescue them as soon as conditions were safe -- hopefully in July.

The rescue seemed impossible, and yet the men volunteered to make the attempt.  This is their story.  Journal excerpts tell the story in the men’s own words.  Photographs from the expedition are included.  This is an exciting adventure of men fighting against all odds that is even better because it is true.

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