Salt to the Sea

Most of my personal reading is unplanned and driven by my mood. Over the last several years my reading tastes and preferences have expanded and grown for which I am thankful. Naturally a great deal of my reading time is spent with selections from the Children’s and Young Adult areas. What I have found surprising is that I am constantly reading books that share about people and events during World War II. It is most definitely unplanned yet I find myself captured by these stories.

During a recent library visit, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys caught my eye.  Between Shades of Gray by this same author had been on my to read list but I had to return it before I reached it in my pile. I grabbed Salt to the Sea and determined that I would bump it to the top of my stack.

With Salt to the Sea, we journey with four young people to one of the greatest maritime tragedies but a tragedy that is not known by most. Four refugees, all carrying heavy, heartbreaking secrets and burdens, are all traveling to gain passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff. At one time the Wilhelm has been a luxury ship but now it would serve as the means of safety and hope for thousands..

Florian, Joana, Emilia, and Alfred. Four young people who will capture your interest and some your heart. Each person is telling their story; the book switching from character to character. This not only allows you to see the character from their own perspective, but also gain the insight of how they are viewed by those around them. It allows for great depth in the characters. The secrets and the burdens they are carrying are slowly peeled back layer by layer. This can be quite gut wrenching for the reader. So quickly I came to love some of these characters.

Salt to the Sea is set during a tragic, horrific time in our history. So much pain, death, suffering, loss. As you read the stories of these four young people, there will be pain, sadness, despair, and loss. But there is also beautiful hope. Clearly you see forgiveness, strength, determination, friendship, sacrifice, and love. This time period seems to highlight man’s evilness and depravity. However, it is countered with such love and goodness.

Salt to the Sea reminded me much of my reading experience with All the Light We Cannot See and Code Name: Verity. Powerful, powerful stories that reveal so much about us as people and our capabilities of hate and love. And in the end…hope. Always hope.

I quickly passed this along to my 17 and 15 year old daughters. I will wait a bit before allowing my twelve year old to read it. I do highly recommend this for mature teens and adults. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read Salt to the Sea!

The Climbing Knights – A Review

The king has issued a tournament. Knights have gathered to accept the challenge. Who will be the first knight to reach the top of the castle? Ah, do not be mislead, my fellow knight. Speed will not give you victory. Skill and strategy will decide the winner as castle guards lurk around each corner and will send you down the castle wall.

The Climbing Knights from SimplyFun has brought together the excitement of knights and castles in this game of skill and strategy. Designed for ages 8 and up, The Climbing Knights offers a fun, exciting, and engaging opportunity for children to visualize a plan of action, to not accept defeat, implement a strategy, and claim victory.

I’m reviewing The Climbing Knights; one of the four of SimplyFun new releases.

The Climbing Knights is quick and easy to set up and begin playing. As soon as our game arrived, the kiddos wanted to play immediately. I quickly read through the simple, straightforward rules and the challenge began. The game includes a base to hold the castle securely, a three tiered castles (magnetic), 4 Knights (magnetic), 8 Coat of Arms (2 for each knight), 2 Guards, and three dice.

The goal of the game is to get your knight to the top of the castle without being seen by the guards. If a guard catches you scaling the wall, you are sent down a tier or level of the castle. If your knight is the first to reach the top of the castle twice and retrieve both of your coat of arms, you are named the winner! But you must play smart.

The three dice control the guards and how many moves you can make on a turn. A good roll of the dice will cause your guards to take a snooze! Perfect time to be out in the open. The castle wall provides window ledges that hide you from the guards’ patrol which can offer much needed protection for your knight. The slow, stealthy ascent may perhaps be wiser that speed.

Our Thoughts on Climbing Knights

It can be challenging to find games for younger children that present the opportunity to build skills while also being entertaining and engaging. They most definitely are working their strategy skills with The Climbing Knights. I have yet to win!

“I really liked it. I love anything with knights and castles.  I liked how the guards circled the castle. It was nice that the castle was standing up and big. I like that you can actually move the knights up a standing castle. The yellow knight is my favorite. It is really fun to play.” Hannah, 10

While this game is geared for ages 8 and up, depending on your child, children younger than 8 can most definitely play. My son, Sam, is 6 and he had no problems at all understanding the concept of the game and doing well moving his knight up the castle wall.

“It has knights. I just like it. It was a fun, fun game. Are we keeping it? Don’t put it in the trash.” Sam – 6

The Climbing Knights would work beautifully as a fun resource if you are studying the medieval period or are doing  a unit study on knights and castles. For us, it has found a home in our game closet and has been played frequently by my kiddos. Game play only take about 30 minutes or so. We can quickly set it up and play a game before dinner, right before bed, on a rainy afternoon, or those days when we just have to ditch school for an hour or so.

“I loved it. It was great! I like moving up with the knights. The guards were fun, too. We took turns and had different winners. It is a fun game.” Sarah – 8

If you are a game playing family or want to add a bit of fun learning to your day, take a look at SimplyFun. They have a wide variety of games available from preschool to whole family fun. Make sure to see what other Review Crew members are saying!

SimplyFun Review
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A Master Plan for Rescue

A significant amount of my reading time is spent in children’s literature. With nine children in the house and all of them eager for a steady stream of books, it can keep me quite busy. However, this summer I took a moment to take a peek at the new adult fiction shelf. A Master Plan for Rescue (Janis Cooke Newman) caught my eye and found its way into my book bag.

It’s 1942 and we travel to New York and meet a young boy. His simple life with two loving parents begins unraveling with the unexpected death of his father and his mother’s overwhelming grief. In Berlin, a young man falls in love with a beautiful woman who is dying. His time with her is a long goodbye.

The lives of the young boy and the young man meet and find that their grief draws them together in a unique way. Both want to make a difference in the world for those that they have lost. Deep in their hearts, they both believe that in helping someone else, they will somehow bring those they have lost close to them again.

Set during World War II, A Master Plan for Rescue definitely weaves in historical aspects of this time period. However, the strong pull of this book is in the relationships. Beautiful, deep, bittersweet relationships. My heart broke for Jack when he lost his father. A boy who loved his father so deeply can not bring himself to accept that his father is gone. He imagines how his father escaped the accident. Jack decides that he will help find Nazis and then his father will come back home. His heart refuses to let his dad go.

Jakob, a Jewish young man, has fallen in love with a beautiful woman. And she is dying. Jakob knows that as a Jew he needs to leave Berlin. However, his beloved will not go as she is dying. Jakob continually fights for her to come with him. Ultimately she forces him to leave without her before it is too late.

Jakob’s and Jack’s lives meet and have before them a heroic deed…..the love for those they have lost drive them to do the impossible.

A Master Plan for Rescue has been one of the best adult fiction books I have read in some time. The stories of Jack and Jakob were gripping and I was compelled to finish the book as quickly as possible. Janis Cook Newman wove together such a beautiful story. I think she captured the thoughts and heart of a young boy like Jack so well.

While grief is one of the forces pushing the characters forward, there is more to the book than just sadness. There is joy and laughter. Friendships. Love. Beauty.

We can easily view history as a broad brush stroke across a canvas. A Master Plan for Rescue shows us that history is not this broad stroke of a brush. History is a young boy and a young man driven by love to become heroes.