May Book Buzz Picks, "Put on a Brave Face" - The Missourian: Book Buzz News

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May Book Buzz Picks, "Put on a Brave Face"

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Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 6:02 pm | Updated: 6:32 pm, Mon May 6, 2013.

Bears, badgers and birds — let any of those buzzy predators happen by the hive and Newsbee’s wings fold fast in fear. That’s when I have to remind myself that being scared shouldn’t stop me. We just have to “Put on a Brave Face” and hit the high road.

You’ll meet some characters this month that face their fears and forge ahead under the most frightening of circumstances. “Page On!”

The unknown lives at the bottom of the creaky stairs in a boy’s basement, a room with no light and imagined horrors galore. You’ll feel little Laszlo’s goosebumps and admire his pluck in “The Dark,” a picture book by Lemony Snicket that will light up your life.

Like so many kids, and adults, Laszlo is scared of the dark. It scatters itself during the day, disappearing like fog in the sunshine, but at night it cascades down the wooden stairs and curls in the shadows with the stealth of a black cat. One night, the dark beckons to Laszlo in a “voice as creaky as the roof of the house and as smooth and cold as the windows … I want to show you something the dark says.”

Trembling, Laszlo puts one foot in front of the other, not letting his fear get the best of him; he’s rewarded in the most unique of ways. Spare illustrations by Jon Klassen are as spot-on, as always, in this creative book that’s sure to nab best-book awards.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Sometimes, others fear you for your beliefs and opinions, skin color or nationality. At the beginning of World War II, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, there was concern that Japanese-Americans weren’t to be trusted — the U.S. government and its citizens believed they might be spies.

“Barbed Wire Baseball,” by Marissa Moss, is the inspiring story of Zeni, a Japanese American man, an accomplished baseball player who wouldn’t let his dreams blow away in the dust.

As a boy Zeni was known as “a teeny tiny one,” way too small to ever be good at the sport he loved. Zeni knocked that puny prediction out of the park. Though he only grew to be 5 feet tall, and weighed a mere 100 pounds, Zeni played with the New York Yankees. His future looked bright, but then the war broke out and he and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans were forced to live in internment camps surrounded by barbed-wire fences.

Though others distrusted Zeni and others like him, the small man didn’t let his fear of never playing baseball again materialize. Zeni used all of his resources to score big. Illustrator Yuko Shimizu brings Zeni’s amazing story to life.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Fear doesn’t stop Paolo Crivelli. The 13-year-old Italian boy shows tremendous courage when the Nazis invade Florence in World War II. “Hero on a Bicycle,” by Shirley Hughes, is riveting.

This historical novel set in 1944 focuses on Paolo, his older sister Constanza and English-born mother Rosemary. The children’s father is away assisting the Partisans, groups of Italians who resist the German invasion and work to aid the Allied forces.

For Paolo the days run together in monotony. The people of Florence are prisoners in their city — curfews keep them off the streets and often there isn’t enough food to eat. But Paolo doesn’t adhere to the Nazi rules. Each evening he takes off on “secret rides into Florence … a dark, closely shuttered wartime city.”

On one of his rides, he learns a secret about his mother from a stranger. Paolo is shocked to learn that his mother is working with the resistance, just like his father. With Germans breathing down their necks, Paolo, Constanza and Rosemary set their own fear aside, offering refuge to English and Canadian prisoners of war in the Crivelli home — an act that could get them killed.

With one exciting page following another, “Hero on a Bicycle” is the story of people who made a real difference in the war effort. This book is based on a real-life Florence family that author Shirley Hughes met right after the war.

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