Saturday, November 12, 2011

Non-fiction reading: the Hitler Youth and tenements of NYC

It's Saturday, and weekends around here mean ... book reviews!

We're reading non-fiction in children's lit right now and the books I read were Shutting out the Sky Deborah Hopkinson and Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

I'm finished with Shutting out the Sky, which is the one I was assigned and I'm still working on Hitler Youth. I don't have to read two, I just really wanted to read the second one because I like books about WWII. (Well, not exactly like per se, just ... just extremely interested. I know I'm not alone.)

Shutting out the Sky is about the immigrants moving to America from eastern and southern Europe during the turn of the 19th century between 1880 and 1919. Historians think that about 23 million people came to America during this time and about 17 million entered through the port in New York.

The voices in this book were Rose Gollup Cohen, born in Belarus and came to America at age 12. Leonard Covello, from Italy, age 9. Maurice Kindus, from Belarus, age 14. Pauline Newman, born in Lithuania, approximately age 13. Marcus Eli Ravage, from Romania, age 16.

It was really interesting to read about the tenements in New York City during this time period. The living conditions were terrible and it's hard not to feel so sad for these people that came to America with such high hopes and were shown instead such hardship. The apartments in NYC were housing called tenements that usually had four apartments on each floor and each apartment housed a family and sometimes several boarders that the family charged to stay there.

The tenement housing was quickly, and very poorly built. As immigrants moved into New York City builders rushed to construct housing quickly and cheaply. It was most cost effective to put many families in the same building. The law defined a tenement as any house that was occupied by three or more families living independently and doing their cooking on premises.

The conditions were bleak, and most did not have clean water. Regulations on the housing were poorly enforced and most of the efforts to provide decent housing failed miserably. Landlords were not willing to give up their profits, but they weren't willing to spend the money on improving the conditions either.

It was interesting to see the history of the high cost of living in New York City! I would definitely recommend this book if you're studying genealogy in the classroom. Who didn't have to make a family tree while in elementary? I know I did! After reading this book you will definitely be interested in learning about where your family came from and if they ever lived in New York City during this time period.

We all know about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, right? If you haven't read that book, or seen the movie I definitely recommend it. It is not accurate, but it's moving and (in my opinion) very well done for students or adults that are not that interested in history and need the fictional story to go along with it.

Where am I going with that? Just wait...

This book made me think of Bruno. I assume he would have been a part of the Hitler Youth, considering his father was a Nazi commander of a concentration camp (assumed to be Auschwitz).

Reading the biographies of these children that are so brainwashed by one of the most horrible political minds in our world's history is disturbing and completely disgusting.

As I said, I am not done with this yet, but it is absolutely worth mentioning because it's a true account of what the children in Germany did during the war. Many classrooms show The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which I think is great, but some non-fiction like this is definitely worth adding in to the curriculum while studying the Holocaust.

Both of these books were wonderful pieces of non-fiction that I'm really glad I read (and am reading). Sometimes I would rather study history through children's books like these, they're more interesting and easier to follow then the dense, boring text in history textbooks.

Definitely pick these up if you are interested in either subject! They read pretty fast and are extremely interesting!


Shoshanah said...

Growing up I pretty much read every YA-type book on the Holocaust I could find. And I know what you mean, I don't want to say I like that time, but more it's something that almost morbidly fascinates me.

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Both of those books look interesting. I do like books about WWII too! It's nice to learn about all the different aspects of the war.

Did you read The Book Thief yet? It was interesting as well.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I love WWII books. That is one of my favorite genres. This book sounds interesting. We read the boy in the stripes pajamas for work a couple of years ago. I thought it was a great book!!

When I was in NYC in 2009 I wanted to go to the tenement museum but ran out of time. Hopefully on my next trip.

We should read the book thief!!